Who is Watching Whom?

When we were young, my siblings and I felt that a “Kids’ Day” was missing from the holiday calendar. After all, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were officially recognized, so it made sense to us that children should be celebrated too.

My mother’s droll comeback always was, “Every day is Kids’ Day.”

She meant, of course, that mothers and fathers sacrifice, love, and care for children often at the expense of their own pleasures, plans, and priorities.  Most kids are clueless.  I certainly was.

As my husband and I raised our own children, we noticed that “Kids’ Days” were becoming very serious business.  Remembering our own bike-riding, tree climbing, and butterfly catching childhoods, we were surprised by the intensity and purposeful scheduling of the average kid’s day.

I couldn’t help but compare the activity and accomplishment of my children with that of others.  Were we offering our children enough opportunity?  Parenting  books, advice, and even Bible studies, while genuinely helpful, produced the unintended consequence of increasing my anxiety over the adequacy or inadequacy of my “parenting.”

We weren’t the only ones who noticed this trend.  Books and articles on the phenomena of “hurried children,” “hyper-parenting,” and “helicopter parenting” began to make a case for some balance.

Confused, I searched the Bible for some guidance.  I learned most from what I did not find.  (See What the Bible Does NOT Say about Parenting for a related lesson learned from what I did not find in the Bible.)

I read through Proverbs 31 with an eye toward the famous Proverbs 31 woman’s relationship with her children.  After all, her children called her blessed.  She must have done something right!  (I realize that many scholars believe this passage does not describe a real woman, but a model of wisdom.  The following observations apply in either case.)

I found…nothing.  The very concept of “parenting” would probably have been laughable to this woman.

Notably absent from the description of the Proverbs 31 woman’s life are the 1000 B.C. equivalents of car pools, soccer games, ballet lessons and other child-centered activity. 

Of course, children need help with homework and opportunities to develop skills, learn teamwork and grow in confidence, and wise parents provide those things.

I just have one question.

Do children have as much opportunity to observe their parents live godly, productive, generous lives as their parents spend watching their performances? 

In other words, who’s watching whom?

The Proverbs 31 woman loved her family, cared for them and provided for them with all the wisdom and skill she possessed, and they knew it.  She was respected and generous in her relationships; she was active in the economy of her community and of her household; she spoke words of wisdom and faithfulness; she was honest, hard-working and humble. Her life was characterized by love, discipline, diligence and the fear of the Lord.

Her children observed all of her noble qualities and they said, effectively, “I want to be just like you some day!”

“Her children arise and call her blessed…”  Proverbs 31:28

I’m curious about current trends. If you have school age children, is it a challenge to balance unstructured and scheduled sports, lessons, etc.?  What is your philosophy toward free play time and organized activity for children?

If you’re interested in other things the Bible does NOT say, check out these links.

What the Bible does NOT Say about Marriage.

What the Bible does NOT Say about Self-Esteem

15 thoughts on “Who is Watching Whom?

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  1. Great post! Balancing free play, organized activities, school work, spiritual practice, peer time, and family time is sometimes difficult, but can be done. Having this balance is so important for the development of the child. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thank you Kristin. Yes – balance is the challenge, not only in raising children, but in all aspects of life. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi Cara,
    I agree with your observation that families are under great pressure these days. Maybe some of it is self imposed, but it’s pressure nonetheless. When our daughter was born, I went back to work part time. It was a blessing to have that option, for my goal was to make sure my husband and I spent more time with our children than anyone else. At the time I did not really understood why, but somehow I knew it was important for our family. You must have been a great blessing to the family you served.
    Blessings back!

  3. This is very thought provoking, Judy.

    As you may know, I have no children of my own, but spent the majority of my time working with children for 10 years as a nanny. What you say is true . . . While there were many times the children and I were content to “be” and they could observe me, unfortunately I am not the parent. The parents were at work. And when they weren’t, they were usually coming home from work, tired, stressed, or in a hurry to get their child to a late activity. I don’t think this growing trend is completely at the fault of parents, but a society that expects so much more of families. You are expected to be able to do it all. These expectations are so high, no one could ever meet them. Household in which one parents stays home are becoming more and more rare, and this ultimately is at the demise of a child.

    My husband and I have always agreed on one thing: we have a child together, I stay home and raise him or her.


    ~ Cara

  4. Judy ~ I loved this post! I, too, feel the pressure to somehow find the time and money to put my kids in extra classes that will develop their talents and help them reach their full potential in…well…everything!! But honestly, I am thankful for our limitations, because they allow each child to focus on one or two activities, and we still have dinner together most nights and plenty of time together on the weekends. I need the reminder that what we model as parents to our children is also shaping them, and that they are watching us just as much as we are watching them. Thanks!

    1. Hi Becky,
      It sounds like you have established a good balance, Becky. I love your comment that you are “thankful for our limitations.” I admit I do not always have that perspective, even though I know, and have experienced, that God often shows up most powerfully and fruitfully in exactly the areas in which we feel limited. Thank YOU for that reminder today:) I pray God will richly bless your family time and I know that your children are observing valuable modeling in your home. Thanks Becky!

  5. My kids were involved in music, sports, and whatever. Our meals were eaten on the run while homework was finished in the car heading to some event for one of them. I loved every minute of it and so did they.

  6. Judy–thanks, as always, for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I’m coming back for the links because I’m dying to find out what “isn’t” there! (does that make me sound tired? ha ha) God bless you today!

  7. “Notably absent from the description of the Proverbs 31 woman’s life are the 1000 B.C. equivalents of car pools, soccer games, ballet lessons and other child-centered activity.” I’m laughing out loud at this! I can address this, at least in part, from the KIDS’ perspective… Due to a split-custody schedule, our two youngest kids lead two very different lives between their two households… At Dad’s house they have scheduled activities every single night of the week–the sit-down family-dinner doesn’t exist (fast food is the most frequent answer), homework doesn’t get started till late at night, there’s no time for recreational reading, and even the eight-year-old doesn’t get to bed until after ten… Some of the activities the kids enjoy, but others (like cello lessons for my completely tone-deaf son!) only serve to add stress.

    One of the big differences between Dad’s house and ours is MONEY–our annual income is about fifteen thousand, and Dad’s household income is a hundred thousand more than that. But there’s a difference in priorities as well (I won’t try to hide my bias)… Our son wants to raise chickens, so we’re in the middle of drawing up plans for a chicken coop–which he will be in charge of building. The last time we ate OUT was 2010–every meal is home-cooked and sit-down, and our daughter enjoys her role as my husband’s “kitchen apprentice.” Our son wants to work at the hatchery down the road, so we’re setting up a volunteer opportunity for him this summer. He wants to try horseback-riding, so we’re talking to friends who own horses. Saturday morning our 8-year-old daughter contentedly observed that she could read ALL DAY if she wanted to… In three days at our house, she finished two full Harry Potter books. In two WEEKS at Dad’s house, she didn’t get to a single chapter. Our big “entertainment expense” for the summer was the $15 season pass to the State Park by our house–in warm weather we’re there almost every day to swim in the lake, fish for trout, and picnic. We seek out events that don’t have an admission fee–and the kids enjoy “excursions” to the Farmer’s Market and cultural events like an Indian Pow-Wow, Mountain Man Rendezvous, Basque festival, Civil War re-enactment, Art in the Park… Dad can BUY them stuff, but Dad doesn’t have TIME for them.

    I was offered a job this summer and put it to a family vote. Unanimous decision: they prefer having ME to having MONEY. My freelance writing allows me to be home with them all the time, and THAT’s what they want. 🙂

    1. Hi Kana,
      It sounds to me like you and your children are living a very rich life. Being with, really with, you, reading wonderful books, and exploring all that is good, available are the makings of idyllic childhood days. I love it! Thanks for your thoughts, Kana.

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