Once upon a time, I heard a wonderful metaphor for parenting. I don’t know who said it- maybe it was you! If so, thank you! I’ll be sending you a commission on the profits made from this post. (Which would be somewhere in the amount of $0. Ha.) Anyway, this metaphor has really shaped the way I approach parenting. I was sharing it with a friend in an email the other day, and I wanted to revisit it here, too.
It’s a String Theory.
No, not THE String Theory. (Although parenting may be as hard as quantum physics at times!)
No, this string theory deals with the ties that bind us. From the moment our child comes into the world, we have invisible cords that connect us. A whole, big bundle of them, from their heart to ours.
Our job is to keep those strings in good condition. At first, this is easy. Their needs are basic, and we meet them. Food, love, warmth. Those are the easy strings. Snuggles and milk keep strings strong and healthy.
Later, it gets a little tougher. We start sinning against each other- child and parent. The child disobeys and dishonors, and the parent becomes angry and impatient. We snip the strings with hurtful words, with passive aggressive tones, with small actions against each other. There are a million ways we as parents cut these strings– impatience, selfishness, laziness, bullying, provoking, ignoring, belittling– and then the saddest part, we teach our children how to cut the strings, too. They cut them with dishonesty and disobedience and whatever else we’ve demonstrated to them. They learn their own ways to sever the cords, and before we know it, what started out as a bundle of ropes is now just a few feeble, strained threads. We must, MUST, reknit these ties, and teach our children to do it also. When I snap sinfully at my child, a string is severed. We are weakened. A string is broken, and strain is put on those that remain. They are not infinite, these strings. I must guard each one, strengthening and caring for them to last for this whole life. I must see the frayed strings right away, and make it right. Retie them with a soft heart, with an apology, with a hug and kiss. Retie them with a moment of happiness, telling how they make me proud, how I love them. Retie, reconnect, reconcile. Show my child how to do this too, by DOING it.
Do it now, while you can. If you don’t, then you are cutting your child free. It’s these strings that connect them and anchor them. These cords tether them in a world full of perilous winds that are just waiting to blow them away. If you wait too late, they may blow farther than you can pull them back, God forbid.
But when these ties are strong, oh joy! Cheerful obedience, happy hearts! Children who grow up confident in your love will be strong and true. There are no loose strings for them to tie to other things, no vulnerable cords that can be snatched up by the enemy, tugging them away. And how beautiful these knots become over the years– a pattern of intricate braids that show the growth and love between us. If I’ve done a good job, then my child will become a master String Keeper, too, and the tapestry goes on.
So today, examine the ties between you and your child. What state are they in? Need a little knitting? Look for ways to retie them, and you’ll find them. Pick up a string, draw them back, make a nice boyscout knot. Then pick up another. And another. Don’t stop till the job is done, till there are no broken cords. And then? Take care of them. Keep them in good order, strong. Check constantly for wear, for fraying edges. Guard those things with your life. They ARE your life.
Love them, with strings attached.