Yesterday, I took our two oldest children to the Sci-Quest science museum in Huntsville for homeschool science labs. Both of the kids had a lot of fun learning about light, prisms and rainbows.
During their hour-long class, I walked among the exhibits with our two younger boys and met many homeschooling parents. I ran into a few friends who use our cover school, and also met other families who I had never seen before, many from nearby cities like Decatur and Athens.
Not feeling in the least bit shy after encountering so many pleasant homeschooling parents, I approached a father with three young boys. Although it is uncommon to meet a homeschooling dad, it is not unheard of, so I decided to strike-up a conversation.
When asked if he had children attending the homeschool science workshop, he grimaced and quickly retorted an emphatic "No!". He followed with, "Is that what this is?" gesturing at the many parents and children playing and exploring the museum. I told him that all of the school-age kids there that day were probably homeschooled because the public schools had already started. He quickly informed me that he was from Birmingham (as if an excuse was needed for being ill placed). He said his kids started back to school next week, then he added that he couldn't wait for them to go back and he looked forward to the day when school would be year-round.
This miserable parent and his anticipated release seemed to fit a pattern I have long observed.
Ever since our first child was born I have come to realize that there are two distinct groups of parents in the world. Those who genuinely like to spend time with their children and those who tally every minute alone with them like a prisoner in a jail cell. I can recall mothers telling me, when our daughter was only a toddler, that they could never stay home with their kids because they "wanted a life". Come on, give me a break! I have a hard time considering the pursuit of selfish and material gains an equal trade for the rare and priceless opportunities offered fleetingly to a parent.
Can you think of any way that you could ever influence any other human being more than the influence of a parent to a child? Why do so many parents repulsively thwart spending long periods of time with their kids?
Some argue that they need quiet time; time to do grown-up things. But children aren't young forever. Is it too much to sacrifice a little of that "me" time for them? Don't they deserve that much?
You might think that the idea of feeling obligated toward children is what perpetuates the attitude of unhealthy entitlement that so many adolescents seem to exhibit. But I would argue the opposite.
Children model their behavior after their parents and when they see that Mommy and Daddy are constantly preoccupied with a "what's in it for me?" mentality, then of course these children will grow-up asking that same question.
I think that children of selfless parents are less likely to only think of what they have to gain in each situation. Having a parent who gives you respect and values you enough to give you his or her precious time will go much farther to build character than a special preschool and any amount of fancy toys and gadgets.
Be sure, I am not in any remote way suggesting that parents deserve no time for themselves. But, I do think that our society tends to diminish the value of selfless sacrifice, while heralding the rewards of selfish pursuits and the general disregard of others. We only need to turn on the television, open a magazine or read a newspaper to learn of the many ways you can achieve more for yourself, whether you are accumulating fame, power or stuff.
The attitude of "I sure can't wait to get rid of these kids" will only be more and more common until parents realize that they have a lot more to gain by actually giving it all away.