I bundled my two-and-a-half year old into the car after playtime this week feeling spent. My child is exhibiting perfectly normal behaviour for a child his age, yet lately this has been small consolation for me. I always thought that I was someone who was pretty relaxed … but becoming a mother has revealed a latent need for order and control. I like to think that I have yielded my son to his Creator, however the truth is that I am always ready to lay my claim upon him. Even before my child came into the world I was praying prayers and composing letters for his benefit, all of it brimming with my own hopes and expectations.
Of course, as a parent I have a huge responsibility to influence my child in the way that he should go. The tension arises when my expectations begin to dominate the foreground—like my hopes that my child will be blessed with giftedness, respectability and nice friends, no doubt since those things will reflect well upon me. It is one thing to raise a child for God’s glory, and another to put a Christian veneer on worldly aspirations. I’m not sure I always know the difference!
Enter Melissa Kruger’s Wherever You Go, I Want You to Know. This is a children’s book, but I think its central message is just as significant for catechising parents as it is for encouraging their children. In a playful and rhyming tone, Kruger straddles one of the many paradoxes of the Christian life: humility and glory. These unlikely fellows, wedded inextricably at the cross and embraced in the life of faith, have a new way of determining our hopes and dreams for our children. After all, how many children’s books can meaningfully equalise job titles as broad ranging as farming, teaching, or flying? How many can promise that life will be filled with both joy and loss without defaulting to trite phrases?
In Kruger’s gospel-shaped retelling of the good life, our children’s vocation is exciting to speculate on, but not definitive. Ups and downs are expected, but not all-encompassing. The climax leads us to dream a far greater dream for our children: to hope that their love is ordered towards their Saviour Jesus Christ. It is simple yet profound, and has the quality of gently rebuking parents by relativising everything else.
It’s only been in the past couple of months that we’ve picked up the Seussian counterpart to Kruger’s book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! I’m not sure if Kruger ever confirmed that she was riffing off of this classic, but the similarities (or rather the differences) are easy to spot. Like Kruger, Seuss attempts to straddle the paradoxical nature of this life, but without the revelation of the gospel, his inspiring message is summed up in the idea that life is just one big balancing act. Hopefully, on balance, things will be good rather than bad, but in the end the one who is responsible for tipping those scales is you.
I’m thankful that I can turn back to Kruger’s book with my son and hold out a far weightier promise to him. More than that, I’m thankful that I can yield myself to my Creator, and entrust my son to him. It is no small thing for a parent to relinquish their child to the unknown of wherever. But if we trust in the risen Jesus and find comfort in his perfect love, we know that the wherever of this life is leading to a very definite somewhere in the next. It doesn’t matter if the world deems our children to be ‘successes’ or ‘failures’ or ‘perfectly ordinary’. What matters is that our children’s hearts are turned towards the Lord Jesus, and that we as parents faithfully expend our energies towards this end. It is a joy for parents and children to be able to encourage one another towards this end in the pages of Kruger’s book.