Disclaimer: The following letter is the result of my own personal experiences growing up, experiences with children with whom I have interacted over the years, and the stories of friends, many of them parents themselves. I am never targeting any single parent that I have ever encountered, but rather am writing to any and all parents who have spent their lives chasing after the American dream, leaving behind their families in their failed attempts at happiness. I know these parents exist- I have witnessed the brokenness of both children and parents as a result of the futile pursuit of the American dream as a means to happiness. I am not looking to anger anyone, and if you find yourself disturbed by my words, I only ask, why does it bother you? Finally, a special note to every parent who sincerely loves their children and is simply working to keep them healthy and happy, my prayers go out to you. I am sorry that the world has kept you from your children. I am sorry that modern society has deprived you of your dream.
Dear modern parents,
I have a bone to pick with some of you, as well as a request to make. Over the past year, I have met many kinds of parents. I have dealt with the overbearing father, as well as the disinterested mother. I have met the disillusioned mother who thinks her darling daughter is an angel, as well as the equally disillusioned father who believes his son is a defiant creature incapable of good behavior. I have met you all, and you have left me frightened of the future that presently lies in your children’s hands.
But it is not their fault. It is yours. And mine. We are the adults who are supposed to be shaping them, giving them love and living as role models from whom they can learn. On behalf of these children, I have something that needs to be said.
You are not supposed to be their best friend. Trust me. If they are young children, they want a mother and a father. If they are teens, they need a mother and a father. They don’t want you to be their friend. Trust me- you will thank me one day, when they are young adults who willingly turn to you for advice and comfort because they realize that they need their parents. Then you can be their friend. My mom is one of my best friends now, but that’s because she has always been and will always be a mother to me first. Don’t be a friend. Be a mother. Be a father. Please.
I spend my days getting to know your children. I learn about their strengths and their weaknesses. They tell me their favorite games to play, and their favorite TV shows to watch. I know who is allergic to peanuts, and who is lactose intolerant. I know who likes answering questions, even when they aren’t sure of the answers, and I know who will only express their thoughts on paper. I know these things because your children tell me. They like to share, and they do so unafraid of what I might think of them. They want to share themselves, even when they reach that age where it’s a struggle to pull anything more than a grunt from them. No one wants to be alone; no one wants to feel unloved.
I know your children, but how well do you know them? Do you know what their favorite food is? Their favorite subject in school? I know that there are plenty of loving, nurturing parents out there, and if you are reading this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything that you do, and your children do too. They might not realize it now, but they will be grateful one day. Some things are only learned in hindsight, when we have matured and left behind our childish ways. So if you know the answers to these questions about your children, thank you for taking the time to learn them. And if you don ‘t know them, find out. I know that there are many reasons why a parent might not know their children as well as they would like. I know that the world can be cruel, and constantly threatens to separate children from their parents. But as parents, you are called to do what you can to overcome these obstacles. No parent is perfect, but every parent should constantly be working to love their children better today than they did yesterday.
As much as I find pleasure in my interactions with your children, I also weep for them. And for you. Why are some of my students left at home with their nanny while their father works and their mother spends her days everywhere but home? Why are some of these children more familiar with their teachers than their own parents? Why are children everywhere taking their first steps and speaking their first words with strangers instead of their own parents? Why are parents no longer raising their own children?
Oftentimes the world can be cruel to parents who want to do right by their children. I know of many parents who desire to spend their days at home with their children, but are forced to work, even forced to raise other people’s children, while their own sons and daughters are left in the hands of daycare center workers and babysitters, if they are not being left alone. I know of parents who are painstakingly trying to balance their home life and their work life as they struggle to make ends meet. I know of parents who have missed their children’s graduations because their jobs were on the line. The world is not kind to children, and it is not kind to parents either. I get that, and it pains me that this is the situation in which you are forced to raise your children. You, and they, deserve more than that.
But I also know of parents who willingly relinquish the raising of their own children in favor of spa days and shopping trips. I know of stay-at-home moms who spend their days anywhere but home while their children stay with the nanny. I know of parents who know next to nothing about their children, not because they can’t learn more, but because they aren’t overly concerned with knowing them. I know you, and I beg you to please look at your children. Get to know them. They won’t be around forever, and neither will you. One day, you will look at them, and you will not recognize the faces staring back at you- and it won’t be because they’ve somehow changed overnight, but because you weren’t there to watch them grow up. Children only take their first steps once. They only graduate high school once. They only grow up once. Don’t miss it because you were more interested in something else.
I know you, parents, but I also know your children. I know that your daughter feels unloved, that your son feels ignored. I know that your children want to hate you for not being there, but can’t bring themselves to do it. Despite your shortcomings, your children still love you, and they would forgive you if you gave them the chance. Give them that chance. They are silently crying out to be held; reach out your arms for them. They just want to be loved, and not by just anyone. They want to be loved by you.
I know you like your fancy cars, expensive clothing, and big houses. I’m not asking you to abandon them. You can have them, but just remember that you will not have them forever. Cars get replaced, clothing tears, and houses get sold. Tragedy strikes, and these things can be lost. But they can be replaced. Children can be lost too; you will not always have them, and they cannot be replaced. So cherish the time that you have with them. Spend time with them and get to know them better. Love them, and let them know that they are loved.
Your children are incredible. They are smart, hopeful, and innocent. They love unconditionally, and are the most forgiving creatures on this earth. Every moment that I get to spend with them is a gift for which I am grateful. I often end my emails to you by thanking you for the gift of your children, and I say this with the utmost sincerity. I am grateful for the opportunity to minister to your children, to teach them about Christ and to help you to mold them into the people that God is calling them to be. Parents, thank you for the gift of your children. There is nothing more precious than the love of a child. Cherish that love; cherish their lives. Show them that you love them. Tell them that you love them. Be parents, and proudly accept the responsibility that you have been given.
I beg you, for the sake of your children, and for the sake of the world that they will create one day, love your children. For the sake of every mother who has to leave her son or daughter in the hands of a stranger in order to work, and for the sake of every father who works three jobs just to put food on the table and keep a roof over his children’s heads, love your children. And for your own sakes, love your children. You only get one chance to raise your children. Don’t abandon that opportunity to chase after that far-away American dream. That dream is a nightmare in disguise. I beg you, do not believe in that phantom promise. It only has the power to break you, to destroy your family, to kill your souls. If you want to believe in dreams, believe in those of your children. Their dreams bring life, not death. They ignite hope, not despair. If you want to believe in something, believe in your children. The American dream can be shattered, but the love of a child can withstand any obstacle. Instead of grasping at wealth and power, embrace your children. Fancy cars, expensive clothing, and big houses will never love you, as much as you might love them. But your children love you. And all they want is for you to love them back. Parents, for heaven’s sake, love your children. Thank you.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!