My daughters brought up dinner to my husband and I, who were enjoying a few minutes of free time. Dinner was actually left-overs, so all the girls had to do was warm up a couple of bowls of chili. Our dinner was delivered with a playful comment, “This is not the proper use of children.”
Kids say weird things all the time, but sometimes those words are wisdom in disguise. What is the proper use of children? We joke that our kids are our retirement plan. We joke that our kids are good for slave-labor and live-in babysitters. There is never a dull moment when kids are involved, so they are also free entertainment (although not always Prime Time).
What do children imagine themselves useful for?
I imagine my daughter with a stop watch, timing the youngest two boys as they destroy the living room. “Great job, guys! You beat your highest score by .3 seconds… Mom is going to be so proud!” Well, those couch cushions aren’t going to throw themselves on the ground.
My eldest son might be in the kitchen talking to Numbers 3, 4, and 5: Are you sure your teachers are texting mom and complaining that you have missing assignments? You know mom isn’t happy unless she’s spending 2 hours digging through backpacks for blank worksheets. What do you mean you have straight-A’s, Number 5?!? What is dad supposed to do with his time if he’s not lecturing you on grades?
Maybe they have secret meetings: Psst… I heard mom and dad played video games last night. That makes twice this month. This is getting out of hand! Who’s turn is it to flood the bathroom?
Do kids have a proper use?
It is not uncommon that I grow frustrated with the lack of cooperation my kids give me. Sometimes I can only shake my head and call my kids, “Useless, Uselesser, and Uselesser Grant”. I’m not above grumbling “This is why people don’t want kids”, as I try to separate two boys from the supermarket floor, while the four-year-old chants “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!” from his seat in the shopping cart (wait, those weren’t my kids). Sometimes I find myself talking to the kids like I’m Mrs. Trunchbull in the Matilda movie: “You’re the kid; It’s your job to do what I say. I’m the parent; It’s my job to tell you what to do, and to feed you periodically.”
If teaching patience could be defined as “useful”, then there might be an argument for children being useful; but then without kids, I wouldn’t need so much patience…
Nope, Kids don’t have a Proper Use. But that’s ok, because they are NOT Objects.
Children are many things, but they aren’t objects to be used by their parents. They aren’t trophies to show-off one’s prestige or reputation, but they can teach us what is most important in life. Babies aren’t meant for replacing “love” in broken women; they need us to learn to love unselfishly. Children aren’t “things” that should be made to serve our own arrogance and pride, but they can be what we are most proud of. Kids really aren’t for slave labor or retirement plans, but they can be live-in babysitters… that’s a thing.
On my good days, I tell my kids that whatever they want to be or do in their future, they have to start working toward it now. We can’t always make huge strides to our goals, and we certainly don’t wake up one day and find that we have “arrived”. Right now, their job is to be a kid. Little by little, they are preparing to be adults. Good grades open doors; everyday that they do their best on their school work, they are working toward the goal of creating opportunities. The same idea goes for being a good person, or having a strong faith foundation. Sometimes, that’s all the “proper use” children need to have.