Posts tagged recreation

The role of dads in an over-mothering culture



What do cannonballs, headstands, and skateboarding have in common?

Just Move StampsThey’re too dangerous for postage stamps.

News came late last week that the cartoon stamps created to promote Michelle Obama’s Just Move campaign for kids will be destroyed because they portray unsafe activities. The issue? The skateboarder didn’t have kneepads, the headstander didn’t have a helmet, and the swimmer was, well, doing a cannonball. The complaint fails to mention the soccer player without shin guards and the baseball player without a batting helmet, but hey, who’s keeping track?

Apparently, some on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition feels the stamps send an unsafe message to kids, and that was enough to nix the stamps.

Thinking back to when I was growing up, I can’t remember a single kid in my neighborhood who had a bike helmet or wore kneepads while skating or skateboarding. That was about the time Sesame Street first debuted, and I remember thinking it was a bit overprotective. Today, boxed DVD sets of those early episodes of the children’s show come with a parental warning label: “For adults only. May not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.” Why? Kids bike without helmets, jump on old box springs, and run through construction sites. Horrors!

Our culture has been on a slow, cautious path down the yellow-brick road to the mythical land of safety nirvana.  Sure, it’s important to teach our kids to be safe. But it seems we’ve reached a point in some corners of our culture where anything that might lead a child to do something that might get them hurt is off limits. Like a New York school district that recently banned the use of all balls, cartwheels, and games of tag during recess. These kind of policies have moved well beyond safety to fear.  They remind us how far we’ve drifted these last few decades.  We’re being smothered by a sort of “over-mommying” of children.

The role of a mother in the life of a child can’t be overestimated. But today, the role of a father too-often is. While a mother offers protection, warmth, and acceptance, there are things a child needs from his or her father that she certainly won’t be getting from our culture.

Dad Tossing Child 3 ViewsThe role of dads in an over-mothering culture.

Most of my seven children are grown. But thinking back to their younger years, I don’t know which they enjoyed more — nestling into mom’s lap for a book, or having dad toss them into the air. Ellie and I have made different contributions to our children’s journey to adulthood. To grow into healthy adults, kids need a balance of comfort and adventure, security and challenge, mom-fun and dad-fun.

It’s not like dads don’t care about safety or moms don’t care about adventure. We just usually find ourselves at different points on the continuum. I remember when our oldest son was about nine, and his sense of accomplishment as he called from 20-feet up in our pecan tree.  His mom told him he was too high and that he needed to come down. My take: “If you grab that branch just above your head you can get to that fork in the tree.” Truthfully, both Ellie AND I were thinking safety. But while she was thinking about the danger of falling, I was thinking of how to make climbing safer —how to direct that innate desire in most boys to climb, jump, and do physical things.

Risk taking and adventure are as natural a part of a man’s makeup as security and nurture are  part of a woman’s. But everyone — male or female — has a balance of both, and children need the perspectives provided by both mom and dad.

As parents, we reflect the nature of God to our children because, in the beginning, God created both man and woman in His image. Neither mom nor dad reflects it perfectly, but Scripture reminds us of the unique ways our individual nature reflects God:

  • God comforts his people like a mother comforts her child (Isaiah 66:13)
  • Like a woman would never forget her nursing child, God will not forget his children (Isaiah 49:15)
  • Jesus longed for the people of Jerusalem, like a mother hen longs to gather her chicks under her wings (Luke 13:34)
  • The Angel of the Lord (Christ) came to a cowering Gideon and told him to form an army to defeat the marauding Midianites (Judges 6-7)
  • He sent an angel to tell Mary that she would leave her childhood behind to be the mother of the Messiah (Luke 1:26-37)
  • God wouldn’t accept any of Moses excuses when He told him to return to Egypt to demand that Pharoah release the Israelites (Exodus 3-4).

We all need the comforting of a God who cares about our needs, as well as the challenge from the same God who sees the bigger vision outside ourselves. In a culture that seems determined to turn the world into a nice comfy lap, we as fathers need to be that balance for our children, challenging them to see the adventure that lies in that big ole scary world, and how to balance it with reasonable safety.

How does this play out in your home? How have you tried to help your children safely reach beyond their boundaries on their way to adulthood?

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