Every so often it's brought to my attention that Eddie and I have a different parenting point of view than the mainstream evangelical mindset, particularly among missionaries. It's not something I dwell on, but from time to time, people react in such a way as to remind me that we're different, maybe even radical?
Case in point, for 8 years we were foster parents to teens from Central America. In my view, doing so put our faith into action. Over and over, the Bible talks about caring for the orphan and the widow. It says God places the lonely in families. To me, it's a no-brainer. But Eddie faced a lot of judgement and push-back from the men in our church at the time. They accused us of putting our children at unnecessary risk and even said Eddie wasn't "being a man enough" to protect his family. WHAT!??
While thousands of children suffer rejection, neglect and abuse, "God-fearing" men are literally saying it's more holy to protect your own offspring than caring for those innocent children. The protection they are working so hard to erect is an illusion; like putting your child in a bubble.
Ephesians 6: 12 says "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the... spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
There are not many guarantees in this world, except that pain will come. It might come from strangers, but it usually comes from those we know and allow into our inner circle. We do what we can to keep our kids safe, but ultimately we have to trust them to God.
Another point of difference in our parenting is our choice to put our children in public school, particularly in a developing country. For generations, missionaries who lived abroad would send their children to boarding schools, to ensure they got a "proper" education. This often caused a sense of abandonment and resentment in Missionary Kids. Sure, they were able to return to the Global North and pursue high-level professions, but at what cost to their psyche and faith?
Similarly, there has always been a contingent of Christians who eschew public education and the dangers that lurk there. They either home school or put their kids in private school, not trusting their children to worldly indoctrination. I understand people wanting their values to be instilled in their children at a young age. Isn't that our job as parents?
For me the trouble with sheltering kids is that eventually they will leave the nest. If I am always protecting my kids from battles, they won't have the stamina, strategy or strength to fight them. They need to grow their faith muscles before fighting battles on their own.
Another common viewpoint of public school is the idea that it is a dark and dangerous place that will chew up our kids and spit them out. I've attended and worked in public schools. I know there are bullies, profane language and differences of world view. All of those things live in Christian private schools as well. Public schools also have strong, faithful teachers and administrators and Christian students who are forced to wrestle with their faith in a real way, not just conforming to the prevailing religious culture.
I believe it's my job to equip my child for living a successful life in the world, not just the hereafter. That means teaching them not to run from the battle, but run to God in the midst of the battle.
The Bible describes God as a strong tower, a refuge, a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings. His shelter is the one that can truly protect our kids. The Bible says we are to be lights in the darkness, not to shrink back from darkness. That means modeling faith over fear. It means suiting up in the Armor of God, going out and kicking butt.
The choices we make in parenting our children is a personal one. Each family has its own reasons and convictions for how they parent. What I am drawing attention to is that there isn't only one way to raise a Christian child. Each child has a unique personality and calling; we need to be open to parent each child according to the Spirit, not a prescribed recipe or routine. And not according to fear. If we are diligent to seek God's best for the kids He's entrusted to us, we can be confident in our decisions, even if they look different than those around us.