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Friend or Parent ? | Theology of the Family Theology of the Family

Friend or Parent ?

         We have lost our way in regards to the structure of the family in the last few generations. In the 1960’s the very concept of masculinity and the role of father was attacked and rejected by the elites of society.  In the 1970‘s and 80’s androgyny and the neutering of gender was fashionable. In the last two decades confusion and a certain inertia over the real distinction between the genders has marked social discourse. One effect of all this social upheaval has been the fear to uphold the uniqueness of parents and in particular fathers.  Consequently, a certain homogenization has occurred between children and parents such that everyone is seen as an equal player with equal rights.  Any sense of hierarchy is rejected as being hopelessly antiquated.

         Is this a sign that modern societies are more enlightened or is it a sign that their belief and actions are based on a fundamentally flaw concept of the human person?  Clearly Scripture shows that all of reality is hierarchical.  God is not an equal player in creation. He is Lord and this sense of hierarchy flows through all of created being.  (This can be understood if we thought of creation as participating in a dance- the Cosmic Dance. Clearly, if everyone led or everyone followed, there would be no dance at all1) Each part of creation has its own nature, its own glory and its own role to play. (See Gen 1:1-31.) True hierarchy gives life because it is never self-serving. Christ, who is Lord, comes to serve, not to be served. Family life is also caught up in this cosmic dance of relationships. Men and women, parents and children relate to each other in highly different ways that allows each to come into fullness of being.

         Society urges parents and children to be friends. But if that is how we are to relate in the family, then there would be no final authority in the home. There would be no appeal to anything beyond the individual and people would end up doing whatever they felt like as individuals. Surely there is an element of friendship between parents and children but it is never the basis of their relationship.  Such friendship is the fruit of many years of formation and appears when the child know his own self and can make a gift of himself.  But to get there, fathers need to be fathers and mothers need to be mothers, both exercising loving, parental authority.  In this way, they serve their children.  To do less is to abdicate their role as parents and to put the emotional and spiritual security of their children at risk. By accepting our role as parents, and all the sacrifices that go with it, we end up giving life to our children and discovering deeper dimensions of our own personalities than we could have ever dream of.

          To dance the dance of life we must hear the music inscribed into our very nature, music that is gloriously hierarchical, infinitely sacrificial, and profoundly life-giving.

Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/8073513@N03/5560591626/”>D.H. Parks</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

One Comment on “Friend or Parent ?

  1. Touche! Mike and I have had people ask us the secret of our parenting successes. You just nailed what we have tried to put into an understandable, nonconfrontational reply. We should never have tried to ease the truth into an acceptable lesson. Rather, we should have just told them outright that we did not believe in being our children’s friends. We had friends our own ages just as the kids did. We were parents to our children.
    The second-to-last statement of this essay is so true. I would add only one thing…that by being the parents we discover deeper dimensions of our own personalities, as well as discovering deeper dimensions of our children’s personalities.
    It is one of my deepest joys today to watch our children become such great parents to their children.
    And, oh yes, my joy today includes friendships with my adult children.

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