Rite of passage parenting: They don’t make them like they used to
Two weeks ago, I walked into our office, only to discover a sloshing noise under my feet. The carpet was soaking wet.
I begin to investigate the cause of the problem. At first I thought the toilet was leaking because the bathroom floor was soggy, but more investigation revealed the hot water heater had gone out.
I called a plumber. As he opened the water heater door, he let out a yell.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“In all the years I’ve been a plumber, I’ve never seen a hot water heater like this one,” he replied.
We wrestled it out of its hole. The plumber turned the heater around to find the date of instillation: 1968. It was 45 years old.
Joking, I said, “It only lasted 45 years; shouldn’t it have gone at least 50?”
He shook his head and said, “They don’t make them like they used to.” It took the rest of the day to install the new one (which only has a six-year guarantee), and we spent two days drying out the carpet.
A while back, our freezer went out. We had this old, Sears deep-freeze for about 30 years. It was a good one and lasted a long time without giving us any trouble. We went to Sears and bought a new one, but it won’t last as long as the one it replaced. The salesman said, “They just don’t make them like they used to.”
As I replace appliances I’ve had for years with new ones, I keep getting that same line: “They just don’t make them like they used to.”
But we could say the same thing about families. We’ve lost something in producing capable, responsible, self-reliant children. Because of the switch from being predominately an agricultural society to an industrial one, we’ve stopped giving our kids four essential experiences.
First, we no longer close down childhood. Living in an agricultural society, you take on adult responsibilities at an early age. People know you’re an adult because you perform adult tasks. Today’s kids don’t know when they become adults because we’ve lost the rite of passage, a definite step between childhood and adulthood.
Second, we no longer give our children logical consequences. If a child makes a bad grade, it’s the teacher’s fault. If the student doesn’t do well in a sport, it’s the coach’s fault. Experiencing logical consequences is the basis of teaching values. If you don’t work, you don’t eat. That’s a logical consequence. But today, if children don’t work, Mom and Dad often do the job for them.
We’ve also lost the concept of giving our children significant tasks, which give a child worth and value within a family. When they don’t perform the task, the family suffers. What happened if John-Boy of the TV show “The Waltons” didn’t plant the crops? The family suffered by not having food. Each child in an agriculture society has a significant task. Of course, we didn’t call them that when I was growing up. Most of the time, we called them chores.
But the greatest experience this generation is missing is grace. By God’s design, Mom and Dad are law, but grandparents (who used to live in the family home or nearby) were the grace-givers. I was fortunate to have grandparents who reminded me of my worth and value. They helped me understand my potential, but more than anything else, they gave me a love that reflected our heavenly Father.
With the shift in our society, these four experiences went by the wayside, and we didn’t realize it until years later. What affects families affects the church. I just came back from taking a group of students to the mission field. We didn’t go to pet dogs or paint a building. There’s nothing wrong with these activities, but this generation is looking for more.
I took the group into a jungle village that had no Gospel presence. We engaged with the tribe by going fishing with them and helping to roll a log about the size of a Volkswagen, but in the end, the students shared Christ. Thirteen and 14-year-olds prayed for ways to talk to each hut about the things of God. These students knew if they didn’t share Christ, it might be a long time before anyone else would come to this part of the jungle to share the Gospel. Before we left the village, a number of the tribe were saved, and a weekly Bible study had been started.
I don’t know anything that gives a child what they are missing more than a mission trip designed as a rite of passage. And that’s why I founded Awe Star Ministries nearly 20 years ago.
We don’t make them like they used to. We make them better.