Sometimes it seems like parenting is just a series of interlocking roads to and from appointments where our kids learn from specialists how to do different stuff. We take them to school so they can learn from education specialists. We take them to piano lessons so they can learn from music specialists. Research consistently shows, however, that simply attending lessons, simply meeting with specialists is not enough for long-term learning and development; parents must be heavily involved in the process of learning.
My daughter is currently enrolled in a swim class for half-an-hour a week. She has gone weekly for the last three months, and (Surprise!) still doesn’t know how to swim. Swimming is an immersive experience, one that you learn by doing, through consistent and frequent repetition. A far more effective way to teach her to swim, then, would be for me to take her to the pool daily, get into the water with her, and show her the ins-and-outs of aquatic recreation. Not only would this provide the consistent and frequent repetition necessary to learn to swim, but it would bind my daughter and me together in a unique way. Swimming, for her, would forever be associated with a loving relationship. As it is now, I am unfortunately abdicating not only my responsibility to ensure that my daughter knows how to swim, but I am also missing out on the opportunity to bond with her in a lasting way by teaching her to do so myself.
Christian parenting, however, is more than simply teaching my daughter how to swim. Christian parenting also involves spiritual swimming lessons, teaching my daughter to navigate the waters of life, clinging to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, this is another responsibility I all too readily abdicate. And even as I confess this, I grieve the degree to which I have already missed the chance to draw near to her as we draw near to Christ together.
Like swimming, the Christian faith is an immersive experience, one that you learn by doing it. I delude myself into thinking that if I get her to Church once a week and make sure goes to Sunday School that she will learn how to swim. At the end of Luke 24, after His Resurrection, Christ encounters two of his disciples on the road to a town called Emmaus. He walks with them for seven miles, opening the scriptures to them as they open their grief-stricken hearts to Him. Christ didn’t see this road as a means to get His disciples to Church or to an appointment. He saw the road as an end in itself, a living context in which He could both draw near to those He loves and teach them how to swim through their grief.
As parents, we spend a lot of time with our kids on the road, but do we utilize these times to hear their grief, to check in with them? When we pick them up from school do we help them interpret their day in the light of Christ, or do we just try to rush them off to their next appointment? As long as we only take our kids to Sunday School and religious experts once a week, not only will our kids not learn “how to swim,” they also will not associate the Church with a loving relationship. It will be just one more appointment to get through. As parents it is essential that we reclaim our God-given privilege of getting in the water with our kids and showing them the ins-and-outs of the Christian life. It’s time we learn to start parenting on the road.
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the Archdio- cese of America (Y2AM). Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Mar- riage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second M.A. in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix. In his work for Y2AM, he hosts a video podcast “The Trench” which explores how our relationships make us who we are and how we are to engage with others in light of the Orthodox Christian Faith. Watch “The Trench” at www.y2am.org.