I have become aware of a shift in our culture. Somehow, it has changed from “we” to “me.” When I speak to parents, I like to tell a joke that goes like this: “When I was growing up, I always had to wear hand-me-downs-and I had three older sisters!”
I grew up in the hand-me-down era of America. Being the oldest of four boys didn’t keep me from receiving these slightly used but still good clothes from cousins or other kids in our neighborhood. In fact, I even thought it was cool that I wore my older cousins’ clothes.
Clothes weren’t the only thing I had to share when I was growing up. Two of my brothers and I shared a bedroom. We had a twin bed against one wall and a bunk bed on the other, with about five feet separating them. Since I was the oldest, I slept in the top bunk. My brothers and I shared the same dresser, the same toys, the same bathroom . . . and yes, even the same bath water. My parents didn’t empty the tub between each child; it was just . . . “NEXT!”
Our family not only shared with each other, but also with others who had needs. I remember hearing more than once about a plight in our community: a house that burned down, a father who lost a job, a family member who died. When things like this occurred, my family, along with the rest of the community, immediately went into “assist” mode. My mom never failed to deliver some of our fresh garden vegetables or a ham from one of our butchered hogs. None of us thought twice about sacrificing in order to help someone else. I was blessed to be raised in an era of American history that instilled such caring ideals and values.
Somehow, when our kids were growing up, we didn’t want them to experience the same hardships we had. We worked hard, got an education and began to provide them with the better side of life. Every child had his own bedroom-in fact, it was inconceivable that our children share a bedroom. Yes, we wanted our children to have the good life. We gave them each a car instead of requiring them to earn their transportation as we did when we were growing up. Our children would not wear hand-me-downs, so we bought them whatever their peers dictated. We didn’t just want our children to fit in-we wanted them to stand out! They received awards that they didn’t earn. They got grades that they didn’t deserve because the world told them that no one loses and everyone is a winner.
As our kids began to go off to college, we found ourselves shaking our heads. Why should our son live in a room with another person? Of course, mom and dad should provide him with a private room. Why should our daughter have to work for her grades? She never had to do that in high school-the professors should just give her good grades because, of course, she deserves the best. And of course, mom and dad should continue providing for these young “adults” even though they don’t work. Since they grew up with the best of everything, receiving the latest gadgets and fads as soon as they came out, they learned quickly that they are the center of the family. They also learned that our job as parents is to serve . . . them.
I think that this shift has caused us to lose the very things that made us who we are and what we want our children to be. A child has to understand that life is not necessarily easy-that it comes with struggles and sacrifice. Those struggles, and the way we handle those struggles, define our character.
Somehow, we need to get back to teaching our children that life is very seldom about “me.” I don’t work hard for myself but to provide for . . . us. We call this “us” perspective . . . responsibility. As a father, I am responsible to provide for my family. I am to provide food on the table, a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and most of all . . . love.
God the Father didn’t give his child a private room in a luxury hospital. Instead, He orchestrated events so that His Son shared a room with livestock. God the Father never protected His Son from the sufferings of life-but He never withheld his love from Him, either. Maybe we need to rethink what we really owe our kids and even reintroduce them to the better side of life . . . the “we” side!