July 8, 2014

A Tale of Two Parenting Styles

Once upon a time, Angela had a little girl and named her Sally. Sally was tall like her dad but rather stocky like her mom. She was very sweet natured but also very sensitive, prone to tears at the slightest provocation.

As Sally grew into her preschool years, it became clear – despite the fact that Angela had dressed her in olive greens and browns as a baby and did everything she could to avoid stereotypical “girl toys” - that Sally had been naturally wired to enjoy baby dolls, dressing up in frilly outfits, and the color pink. Sally begged Angela to indulge her interests even a little, but Angela refused.

When Sally was three, Angela – who’d always wanted to run competitively despite not really being built for it – decided that Sally would be a runner. She entered Sally in a Kids’ Race, hollering at her to, “Run faster!” for the entire three-block course. Sally pushed herself as hard as she could, but her height and build weren’t conducive to running. So she finished dead last, a fate Angela openly bemoaned on a regular basis in Sally’s presence. Though Angela eventually enrolled Sally in ballet, she complained about it on the way to every practice and continued to insist that Sally keep running, too.

On the other side of town, Maureen had given birth to a little girl named Carrie. Maureen had been a tomboy growing up so, like Angela, she planned to avoid the “girly” stereotype as well. As such, she also eschewed frilly pink clothes for Carrie as a baby and stocked her home with puzzles, toy cars, and Legos.

As Carrie reached the preschool years, she began to express preferences for pink, “girly” outfits. She also asked for a baby doll and relevant accessories, and ignored the toy trucks. When shopping with Maureen, she gravitated to Disney princess puzzles and the Lego sets marketed to girls.

Maureen wrestled mightily within herself. On the one hand, she didn’t understand “girly girls,” and had no interest in pursuing such interests. On the other hand, she could see that Carrie’s preferences had to be wired by God since she’d done nothing to encourage them.

In the end, she chose God over herself. She allowed Carrie to wear pastel-colored dresses and ruffled ankle socks. She bought the baby doll and added other girl-themed toys to her collection. When Carrie was old enough to begin asking for nail polish, Maureen indulged her. And in terms of extracurricular activities, she humbled herself and enthusiastically allowed Carrie to pursue her interest in dance rather than making her participate in Maureen’s preference for softball and long-distance running.

The moral of the story is not that “girly girls” are preferable to tomboys or that dance is better than running. Rather, it is, of course, that we have a responsibility to nurture and celebrate the children God has chosen for us – raising them for Him – instead of aiming to mold them into images of ourselves. If we do that, each of our children will be able to maximize his or her God-given talents and abilities and will be secure in themselves and in those around them. So the question is: Are you choosing yourself or God?

Photo Credit: bejolino


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