Excusing Our Kids To Death

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We’re good at finding someone to blame for the problems in our lives. We’re not so good at finding the right someone to blame.

Consider the following scenario.

Jimmy and his friends decide to skip school. They spend the day smoking weed, watching porn and watching reruns of Blossom. By 10 that morning, Jimmy and his friends are bored so they walk around town in search for something fun. Their journey takes them to a convenience store with a small, old man behind the counter and cold beer in the cooler.

The boys see an opportunity. Two of them grab as much beer as they can while Jimmy distracts the old man behind the counter. Jimmy, not being able to focus on any task for more than 26 seconds, fails at his attempt to distract the clerk. The old man sees Jimmy’s two friends running for the door with 12-packs under each arm and tries to stop them.

As the old man moves toward the door to stop the thieves, Jimmy grabs the man by the shoulder. When the old man tries to pull away, Jimmy tightens his grip. This leads to what Jimmy’s court appointed attorney would later call “a scuffle.” The scuffle escalates and both Jimmy and the old man fall to the ground.

Jimmy notices that the old man is no longer putting up a fight. Later on, Jimmy would learn that the clerk hit his head on a shelf and the floor during the fall. For now, Jimmy just runs away, leaving the old man to die which he did an hour or so later in the back of an ambulance on his way to the hospital.

The story is all over the news. One of the local TV stations interviews Jimmy’s mother and she says the following.

“This doesn’t sound like something my baby would do. He just fell in with the wrong crowd.”

We cringe when we hear those words from a mother who never even considers that perhaps her baby is the wrong crowd.

But in smaller, more socially acceptable ways, many parents do the same thing again and again. After coming face to face with our children’s shortcomings, moral failures, stupidity or all of the above, we cast the blame. It’s what we’re good at.

Another scenario.

Kyle struggles in school. He can’t sit still for more than two or three minutes. He ignores simple commands from his teacher. Last week, he bit another kid on the playground. On his way to the principal’s office, he bit the teacher. In the principal’s office, you guessed it, he bit the principal. The people over at the county detention center have been so kind to fit him with one of those Hannibal Lecter masks.

This time there are no camera’s from the local news in front of the mother. So she tells her story to anyone who will listen. It’s a story about a teacher who didn’t give Kyle the kind of attention he needed, a school that didn’t cater to his learning style, a football coach who never gave him a chance to play quarterback and a principal who should have remembered to give Kyle his anti-biting medicine.

So mom decides that it’s time for Kyle to change schools.

The next move will be Kyle’s fourth change since he began going to school.

Kyle is in kindergarten.

When we constantly make excuses for our children, we are forgetting two things. First, our kids are sinners. I know, that sounds terrible. Especially when they’re so cute. But try putting two cute kids in a room with one cute toy. Scratch that. Put two cute kids in a room full of hundreds of cute toys. Their sin will show up about 20 seconds into their cute little play date.

The second thing we forget is that we are not perfect parents. None of us. Even the lady who tells you in so many words through her Facebook account that she is the perfect parent is not a perfect parent. That’s because she’s a sinner too. Just like her kid. The half-eaten piece of forbidden fruit does not fall far from the tree.

When I remember that my kids and I need the gospel, instead of running to blame everyone else, I’ll do the hard work of pulling the giant plank out of my own eye before addressing the slightly larger plank in my kid’s eye and then whatever, if anything, my kid’s teacher may have in hers. The gospel frees me to do that. It allows me to come to grips with the fact that I’m not a perfect parent and my kid is not a perfect child.

There is no pill or new school that can fix that.

Only grace can redeem our imperfections while at the same time helping us to pursue excellence.

Unless we come to grips with our own sin and God’s grace, we will continue in the cycle of blame. It will always be the wrong crowd, the wrong school or the wrong coach but never my kid’s wrong behavior or my wrong parenting.

Most parents are good at casting blame.

But we need a little work on our aim.

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