Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Night and Day

My kids are as different as night and day.

I hear folks say that all the time-- mostly when their kids are in the middle of a scuffle of sharing and self-centered-ness. It really doesn't have to do with one kid being one way and another kid being "different." The natural man prefers himself over his brother from birth. He at least prefers his brother's toys, and in that respect the boys are in fact very much the same.

My sons (age 5 and 3) are in many ways different. They are in as many ways alike. They are both curious, busy and desire to be the hero of whatever scenario in which they find themselves (be it reality or fantasy). However, my first son is very compliant. He rarely needs more than, "Please stop," to actually stop. He usually need not be reminded. He then scatters with a smile. He then feels compelled to correct other children. And if they choose poorly, he carries the guilt of the burden of their trespass.

My second son is, um, yeah. Not so much. He is not mischievous, but Mr. Chievous. (Half of you got that.) He's a different kind of curious. He's contrary, determined and self-confident. He's boisterous, loud, proud and domineering. He knows his boundaries and is always playing a mind game within his own lumpy head of weighing out the desired conquest with the corresponding consequence.

Tony Evans once said, "Love is like a fire. A fire in the fireplace is a good thing. A fire in the curtains is not." Tony used this illustration to talk about the grounds for love and lust within the context of marriage and the danger outside of it. I think that the illustration can be used toward child rearing as well.

The will is given to all boys and girls. Being strong-willed is not an undesirable quality in a child. How many women's stories do we read our daughters as we brush their hair at night before bed? Laura Ingalls Wilder, Corrie Ten Boom, Clara Barton, Nellie Bly, Mother Theresa... And as we tie our sons shoes and hand them their sticks with the battle cry, "Go, fight, win!" how many men of strong will do we hold as champions to our sons because of their unwavering, iron wills? William Wallace, Patrick Henry, Todd Beamer... These heroes are rightfully exalted for their resolute and steadfast course.

The opposite of strong-willed is not compliance but being self-willed. If God calls us to practice self-control, how are we to do that if not by a strong will, fervent on an intent to accomplish His will for His kingdom and our own good? The intensity of the will is one beast: either strong or weak. But the direction of the will is another animal.

Being self-willed is never attractive. It's stingy. It's bratty. It always prefers itself over others. And even though there is a tremendous difference, the line is narrow between breaking a child's tendency toward self-willed behaviour and breaking his or her spirit.

I'm grateful for the variety in disposition among my children. My goal isn't to make them all the same. My goal is to teach them how to see their own strengths as their purpose; recognize their own weaknesses and grow; praise their brother's strengths, and not seethe; never exploit his brother's weakness in vengeance, and above all things, love and serve one another.

Night and day do not have to be opposing, they were created to be complimentary. Who doesn't like a compliment?

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