This past Sunday our family went out for our weekly Sunday dinner. Sundays are always really hectic so we eat out Sunday nights. Well after dinner we decided to take the kids to get some ice cream. On the way #2 decides to complain because she wants yogurt. I warned her to knock it off but she persisted. So I told her that she would not get any ice cream.
She did her usual humorous apology but this time I told her that she is not getting any ice cream. #1 tried to plead on her behalf for me to forgive and let #2 partake in our ice cream adventure. I said no. #1 said that if #2 wasn’t gonna be allowed to eat ice cream, then she wouldn’t get any either. I was totally blown away. I couldn’t believe that an eight year old kid had that kind of selflessness especially when it came to ice cream.
As an older brother I know I would have never done that. In fact, I would have rubbed it in doing my Eddie Murphy impression in Delirious saying, “I got my ice cream. You didn’t get none.” If you have no idea what I am talking about check it out here….
I was amazed that #1 would rather suffer the same punishment as #2 even though she did nothing because she felt wrong eating ice cream knowing her younger sister wasn’t gonna get any.
So what’s my point? This kind of stuff makes me wonder as a parent whether this act was nature or nurture. Was #1 just born with a freakish maturity that never ceases to amaze us? Or did my wife raise her in such a way that produced this character? Is it both? The reason why I wonder this is that if we are instilling this kind of character I would like to know what we did so that we can repeat it. If it is just natural born maturity, I don’t want to over-parent.
The nature or nurture question also comes up when our kids do bad things too. If it is nature then my wife and I don’t want to take too much credit or blame for things that happen. If it is nurture then we want to discern ways to cultivate good character versus bad character.
Just typing this blog is giving me a headache. Parenting is so hard especially as our kids get older and we more readily and clearly see the fruit of their character and personalities. One of my favorite prayers to read and pray is the Prayer of Serenity by Reinhold Niebuhr. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful prayers ever written. This is what it says…
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
As parents, this is our hope and prayer. May the force be with us.