I'm really struggling with the concept of raising older children and younger children these days. It can be a blessing sometimes, but other times it's just disheartening to see the older ones make mistakes and bad decisions, at the same time time that you're trying to train the little ones not to make those same bad decisions. It's like standing out in the yard watching the home you've built for them burn right down to the ground, and knowing that you have to rebuild it with the same tools you used to build the first one.
For a blended family, it's so much harder to train a child. You feel as if you only have about fifty percent control over their environment, their culture, their indoctrination - and even less on bad days. You constantly fight with opposing viewpoints and lack of communication that complicates so many of the already complicated issues of parenting. You spend as much time untraining and retraining as you do training, and if you make any progress, it's usually in spite of yourself. Even if both homes and both parents in both homes agree on the basic morality and trajectory for the child, there's up to four distinct opinions on how to execute that plan.
For a mixed family, it's even harder. There are so many voices in the culture advising your children about their worth, their expectations, their role in society, their limitations, and most of those voices are louder and flashier than yours. Too often love and sincerity and wisdom are drowned out by beats and memes and punchlines. There are so many negative forces attacking your children's perception of themselves, their perceptions of you, their faith. And that's if they have faith, which, despite our best efforts, is not the kind of thing we can mix in with their formula or inject with their scheduled shots. We lead our children to the temple and place them on the altar, but it's up to them, and before them maybe it's up to God, to produce and sustain their faith.
I trust God, and I know the differences between prophecies, proverbs, and promises, and yet I still have a hard time with the Proverbs when they tell us that if we "train up a child in the way he should go" that "even when he is old he will not depart from it." The problem is that it ends up being untrue at least as much as it ends up being true. And in some ways, it's always untrue, because we all depart from it. We all sin, and some of get caught and some of us live in fear of getting caught. The truth about the church is that half of us are like alcoholics that can't hold a job or a spouse or a conversation because the liquor has us so under its spell. The rest of us are just like functional alcoholics who somehow get through the workday and dinner with the family, and keep our drunkenness and addiction hidden enough that all the other alcoholics think that we can give them some advice on how to sober up. We all know the right way, and we all deviate from it; some of us just suffer more as a result. At some point, we're all disappointments to our Father, and we all violate the expectations He set for us.
I'm trying, really hard, to temper my disappointment and frustration with my faith in the redemptive power of Christ. I'm trying to focus on the fact that my Father is somehow always disappointed in me and angry with my ways just like I'm sometimes disappointed and angry with my kids, with the only difference being that He is holy and I'm not. I'm trying to extend the same forgiveness that my Father gives me, like a starving man sharing a meal that he didn't pay for. I'm reminding myself constantly that all of the prayers that I've said and the sacrifices that I've made and the pain that I've endured for my children are nothing compared to the prayers and sacrifices and pain that Christ endured for me. I'm trying, really hard, and sometimes I even succeed.