Dis Vrydagaand en ek sit by die huis. My kar gee probleme en ek kan nie deurry en my kinders gaan haal nie. Ek was lanklaas so moeg en so alleen en so jammer vir myself. 'n Groot deel van my hartseer het te doen met 'n gevoel dat ek op 'n manier my kinders faal. Ek weet, nee, ek hoop dis nie hoe hulle sulke events interpreteer nie.  Ek hoor soms by mense dat kinders maklik "terugbons', maar dat goed hulle inhaal later as volwassenes of as hulle ouers is.

Ek het nie besef hoe intens ek die gevoel beleef dat ek hulle misluk het nie. Maar Sondag in die kerk het ek besef hoe intens daardie "sense" my pervade, toe daar 'n doop was. Soos die ouers daar gestaan het, en hulle beloftes afle, het ek in trane uitgebars en dit het nie ophou vloei nie. Jare terug was dit ons, ek, wat so 'n belofte afgele het. En kyk, kyk net.  Maar die preek het gehelp. Die preek het eintlik vertroos. Ouerskap is nie gegiet in een vorm nie. Daar is verskillende ouers, verskillende style........ Ek gaan probeer om die preek deur Ds Hansie Wolmarans, hier te paste...........hopelik werk dit. En, hopelik is dit vir jou, of jy swaeltjie, mossie-ma of pa is.......ook 'n aanmoediging en 'n reminder dat ons kinders nie ons besittings is nie.........

Sermon: Parents do not have children; children have parents
Hansie Wolmarans
St Columba’s 27 February 2011, Baptism
Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 3:16-28

16Later, two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17One woman said, ‘Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. 18Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. We were together; there was no one else with us in the house, only the two of us were in the house. 19Then this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20She got up in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your servant slept. She laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. 21When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, I saw that he was dead; but when I looked at him closely in the morning, clearly it was not the son I had borne.’22But the other woman said, ‘No, the living son is mine, and the dead son is yours.’ The first said, ‘No, the dead son is yours, and the living son is mine.’ So they argued before the king.

23Then the king said, ‘One says, “This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead”; while the other says, “Not so! Your son is dead, and my son is the living one.” ’ 24So the king said, ‘Bring me a sword’, and they brought a sword before the king. 25The king said, ‘Divide the living boy in two; then give half to one, and half to the other.’ 26But the woman whose son was alive said to the king—because compassion for her son burned within her—‘Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him!’ The other said, ‘It shall be neither mine nor yours; divide it.’ 27Then the king responded: ‘Give the first woman the living boy; do not kill him. She is his mother.’ 28All Israel heard of the judgement that the king had rendered; and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, to execute justice.

Sermon: Parents do not have children; children have parents”

After the Baptism of his baby brother in church, little Johnny sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, “That minister said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you guys.”

How shall we raise our children? How can we best prepare our children to survive the agonies and uncertainties of our times? The story of Solomon’s wisdom reveals two attitudes towards children. The first one is that parents have children; we have to raise them like we own them, like furniture or pets. Both the plaintiff and the defendant scream at each other, “This is MY SON that is alive, and your son is dead.” “Not so! YOUR SON is dead, and MY SON is the living one.” At the end of the story, the perspective has changed. The king says, “She is his mother.” So the second one is that CHILDREN HAVE parents.

Little Lulu is seven years old. She is practicing on the piano to play “Little­­­ White Donkey.” It is late afternoon before dinner is served. Her mother is not satisfied with her progress. She forces the girl to continue practising while the rest of the family is having dinner, well into the night. No water or bathroom breaks, until she could play it right. In general, Lulu is not allowed to watch TV, or play computer games, or go onto Facebook, or have play dates, or sleepovers. She is drilled to practice piano, do spelling and maths for hours on end every single day of her life, weekends and holidays included. She does not receive any praise for any grade lower than an A.

I can see you are shocked. However, the matter is not that simple. The mother is Amy Chua, of Chinese origin. She is a professor of law at Yale University. She describes this episode in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Amy herself recalls how her dad accompanied her to a prize giving ceremony at school. She received the second prize and as they were going home, her father said, “Never disgrace me like that again.”

When parents limit the choices of their children in childhood years, Amy argues, they will have many choices in the adult world. Just look at the way the Chinese economy is growing—ten percent per annum and their banks flush with savings—and you see the success of the “Parents have children” style of upbringing.

  I must confess that my late father had a very similar philosophy of raising children. In summer, 4am, in winter 5am. That was the time the family had to get up. My father then took us for a jog and some exercises; thereafter it was morning prayers; then we had to sit and study while my father did his photography—he photographed weddings for an extra income. Of course we rebelled and complained. From memory today I can still recite his stock answer, a quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“The heights by great men reached and kept,

were not obtained by sudden flight.

But they, while their companions slept,

were toiling upward in the night.”

Responsibility was also a huge issue in his philosophy of education—connected with stock phrases like, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” and “Bend the tree while it is young” and other Biblical quotes relating to corporal punishment.

Every December we used to go on holiday. We were a family of seven children. The only vehicle large enough for nine people as well as the baggage my mother sought fit to take with (“you’d think we’re moving house” my father used to complain, “not going away for two weeks”), was a Volkswagen Kombi. The trip to the Waterberg district where my mother’s family lived, took us about ten hours. Those first Kombi’s only had a 1200 engine with a top speed of about 80km/h downhill.

Therefore we had to make stops along the road. One incident is still vividly etched into my memory. We stopped for lunch after which my Dad decided to take a nap. A huge blue-gum tree had fallen over, and my brother and I were running up and down the trunk. My younger sister, who is here today, followed the example of her two older brothers. Unfortunately, she fell down and hurt her arm—it wasn’t broken, only fractured. The first thing my Dad did was to give my brother and me a good hiding, there and then. Why? It’s not as if we pushed her; she managed quite well all by herself! Not so in his book. It was because we didn’t exercise our responsibility to look after our sister.

I never realised that this little incident would have life-long repercussions. We had a family weekend two weeks ago, and my sister at breakfast the Saturday morning informed us. “My arm is sore. I am sure it is because of the injury I got when you guys allowed me to fall from the tree 48 years ago!” Who would have thought that an innocent childhood incident would open you up to the risk of life-long emotional blackmail?

Yes. Parents have children. Authority. Do what I tell you to do. A good hiding never did anyone any harm.

When Solomon became king, his first court case was really bizarre. The complainant and the defendant were both women. Their names were withheld from the record, as they both were single mothers (huge shame) as well as sex workers (mother of all disgraces). So poor were they, that they were sharing a house to work and to live. The highest authority in the country, his majesty the king, had to listen to the lowest of the lowest. Everybody expected the case to be thrown out.

There was a gasp in court when the material evidence, Exhibit A and Exhibit B, were put on the table: two babies, one alive, the other one dead. A tragicomedy started to unfold. The complaint was that of baby theft. The plaintiff explained that she and the defendant both got pregnant about the same time. She gave birth first, to a baby son, and three days later, the defendant also had a son.

When she woke up the next morning to nurse her child, she found it was dead. A closer look revealed that it was not her baby, but the defendant’s. Putting two and two together, she realised what had happened. The defendant, being a careless mother, lay on her baby and killed it. Then she secretly exchanged it with the plaintiff’s baby.

Of course the king asked to hear the other side of the story. The defendant just maintained that the living baby was hers. No witnesses. The one’s word against the other’s. Clearly a hopeless case, impossible to decide. Possession is ninety percent of the law. So, the easiest would be to dismiss the case and to rule in favour of the defendant.

Long before DNA testing, the king designed his own psychological test. He asked for a sword and ordered that the living baby be cut in half, and that one half be given to each. The defendant thought it was fair and encouraged the king to execute his ruling.

However, the plaintiff immediately withdrew all charges. “Please my Lord! Give her the living child; only, do not put it to death.” The real mother acted from the perspective of the child’s interest, whilst the fake one continued to treat the baby as a possession. So the wise king Solomon delivered his verdict: “Return the baby to the plaintiff, and do not put it to death: she is his mother.” And he ruled on the basis that parents do not have children, but children have parents.

Centuries later people brought children to Jesus so that Jesus could bless them. And his disciples complained that the children were not important enough for Jesus. But like Solomon of old, who had compassion with the lowly and weak, Jesus picked up these little children and blessed them and said the kingdom of God is filled with people like them: the tax collectors and sinners, the street workers and the outsiders.

So then, to me it seems, that may be there is a second option for raising children. We have to help them unlock their own potential. When they have time for free play, they develop their ability to think laterally—just like King Solomon. When they use the internet or TV in a responsible way, they broaden their awareness of the world. Friendships help them to develop socially. But, of course, children have to learn discipline, acquire the attitude that success comes from hard work, and take responsibility not only for themselves but for others as well. We have to expect the best from them, so that they learn that it is hard work that breeds success.

It is not always easy. My eldest son once managed to wipe out some important information from my computer. I asked him (only slightly agitated) why he did it. Without a moment’s hesitation, he replied, “Dad, I thought about it a long time. It can only be some bad genetic material.” I would like to conclude with something Kahlil Gibran wrote long ago, “On Children.” (from The Prophet):

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.