Do you set out to make bread dough or to make bread? Do you set out to make cake batter or to make a cake? Following this line of thinking, are you raising children, or are you raising adults?
We read The Chronicles of Narnia, not C.S. Lewis’ first drafts of his stories. When I accidentally attached the collar backwards to a blouse I was making, I did not wear it that way: I fixed the collar first. The time I burned the cookies we were making for Christmas gifts, we did not give those away to our friends and neighbors: we baked new ones. What I have before me is not necessarily what my desired end product will be. I am not raising children; I am taking the children that I have, and training them to be adults.
Children should grow up to be adults. I am sickened every time I see adults acting as immature, juvenile, undisciplined adolescents with poor manners and a lack of even basic social graces, making it seem that some people intend to live in a junior high locker room forever. Adults should never forget how to be child-like, but they should never hold onto childishness. It is delightful to embrace the innocence and wonder of childhood, but it is equally important to abandon the self-centeredness and learn to put the needs of others before your own desires. Childhood should enjoy carefree playtime, but we must mix in age-appropriate responsibilities to teach our children what they will need to know for their future roles in life: independent living skills, dedication to a job or career, home and car maintenance, how to be an effective spouse, how to be an effective parent, and how to teach their own children.
As adults, we need to consider ourselves to be the visual aids that children will observe and seek to imitate. Adults are role models to all around them, whether we like it or not. We are being watched by our own children, by others’ children, and by other adults as well. Consider your own behavior and whether you want to see it mirrored back to you by those youngsters who are using you as a pattern for life. Also, consider what behavior you approve of in others, even by your silence. Will you be comfortable hearing a child say, “But he did it (or said it), and people thought it was funny! Why can’t I do it?”
Children will not be children forever. Children should not be children forever. Each of us needs to grow up and take on the responsibilities of adulthood, but no one can tackle that all at once. I tried to view my children as “future adults” as much as possible and teach them, step by step, the things they would need to know and do as adults — from performing household chores to being financially responsible, from making wise decisions to being trustworthy and dependable. We are not just raising children — we are raising adults.