Monday, August 13, 2007

Postmodern parenting

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood words of our day is "postmodern." There are plenty of explanations of this term, and you can google it to your heart's content and find all kinds of different ideas.

But at the surface, break it down. "Post" as a prefix means "after."

The "modern" era was the machine age, an age of rationalism, when people basically believed that our knowlege and powers of rational thought would take us to, as that icon of modernity, Buzz Lightyear, proclaimed, "to infinity and beyond."

So postmodern means "after the modern era." Well, and a whole lot more.

Many conservative people tend to wring their hands a lot about postmodernism, as if it were a religion people sign up for, or a force of evil, like terrorism or oh, say, legalism.

Anyway, the fact is, because we live in the 21st Century, we live in the postmodern era. It is simply an observation about where we find ourselves on the timeline of human history. We live after the modern era, so it is now the post-modern era. Now, the term also encompasses the prevailing thinking of our day. And we can agree or disagree with some of the tenets of post-modernism, or not.

All to say, we have to live in this culture, where people around us often unwittingly ascribe to postmodern ideas. It is still very fluid and changing, which is indeed part of post-modernism--our desire to define things before they have even fully happened.

If we don't want our kids to simply absorb post-modern values by osmosis, we need to understand what those ideas are, and even to discuss them. To be informed and intentional as parents and as people.

As a parent, I want to be relevant and authentic. Writer Mary Demuth has provided a guide to help me achieve both with her new book Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture. I'm honored to be a part of her blog tour this week.

Welcome to Deep Breathing for the Soul, Mary. Let's start with an important question: How would you define the term "postmodern"?

Postmodernism is the waiting room between what used to be a modern worldview and what will be. According to several postmodern scholars, we’re in a shift right now, leaving modern ideas behind, but what we are shifting to is not yet fully defined. Postmoderns believe that rationalism and/or more education doesn’t necessarily create a better society. They typically don’t embrace the notion of absolute truth, though they reach for the transcendent. They are skeptical, and often question whether science is something to be embraced or feared.

Okay, how does this intersect with my parenting?

The question for parents is how will we mine the current worldview, even as it shifts? What in it can we embrace as biblical? What is not biblical? What I’ve seen in the church is a fearful adherence to what is familiar. So we cling to modern ideas, even though they may not be biblical and shun postmodern ideas even when they might be biblical. Our children will meet this shifting worldview no matter what our opinion of it is.

So as a mom, what can I do to help my kids?

Become a conversational parent. Talk to your kids. Listen. Share your story.Dare to believe that God has much to teach you through your kids. Be humble enough to learn from them.Create a haven for your kids, an oasis in your home that protects, supports, and gives kids space to be themselves. Take seriously the mandate that you are responsible for the soul-nurturing of your children.Teach your children to joyfully engage their world, while holding tightly to Jesus’ hand. Teaching this comes primarily from modeling it in your own life. Do you engage your neighbors? Are you more interested in God’s kingdom than your own? Admit your failures openly with your children, showing how much you need Jesus to live your daily life. You are the first to admit that being authentic might require a parent to apologize after an angry outburst.

So, authentic parents are real--they don’t always have it all together? We're allowed to make mistakes?

Yep! We are all frail, needy humans. If we present ourselves as perfect parents, never failing, always doing this correctly, we show our children we have no need of Jesus. We also set up a standard of perfection—that to be a Christian, one has to be perfect. This can lead to our children creating elaborate facades or hiding behind masks. I’d rather have my children see that even mommies make mistakes, and we all need Jesus every single day.You talk about the twin values of engagement and purity.

Well, that makes me feel good because my kids are highly aware that their mom is anything but perfect! But tell me more about these ideas of engagement and purity.

Many parents subconsciously believe that true parenting means protection at any cost. when we lived in France, we received a lot of flak for putting our children in French schools because the atmosphere there wasn’t exactly nurturing. Believe me, the decision was excruciating. But through it all, I realized that Jesus calls us all to be engaged in the culture we live in, yet not to be stained by it. That’s the beauty of engagement and purity. Abraham understood this. After God told him to leave everything and venture to a new place, he obeyed: “From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:8). Oswald Chambers elaborates: “Bethel is the symbol of communion with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abraham pitched his tent between the two.” As parents journeying alongside our children through a postmodern world, this concept of pitching our tent between communion with God and engagement in the world should encourage us.

The book we've been discussing, Authentic Parenting in a Post-Modern Culture, by Mary DeMuth is available now. You can purchase your autographed copy directly from Mary at the link above. I highly recommend that you order it today!

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