I read directions. For many years now, since childhood actually, this has been a reality of my personality that has driven many of my male friends crazy. When my friend Jason and I would bring home a new Nintendo video game to check out, he would immediately throw the game in the system and start playing, but not me. I would go find a corner and read the directions. There is something very helpful and relaxing about knowing what to do simply by reading the black and white text in an instruction manual. It still takes practice to master the game, but I at least knew how to play it correctly.
For those of us with babies, especially moms, we know all too well that babies do not come with an instruction manual taped to their foreheads. We all know that babies are not a computer game; they are not all wired with the same internal components that make them respond exactly the same under a given set of circumstances. The thing about those video games is that when Jason and I were playing in his basement, someone across the country could be playing the same game, utilizing the same controls, and having the same result. The games are designed that way – push the “B” button on the same game, whether you are playing in Colorado or Tennessee, and the same thing will happen.
So, although we all know that babies are not video games, it seems we nevertheless are prone to treat them as such, insofar as we desire to read from a professional or listen to a friend about the right buttons to push or perhaps not push, in order for them to eat better, sleep through the night, stop fussing, get potty trained, etc. Most parents at one time or another have had a strong desire to “plug in” the 4 or 5 steps they have read or heard and expect magical things to happen. And most parents, after doing so, are frustrated, angry, and confused as to why they typically don’t.
Now, Godly advise is a precious thing to cherish. The Bible makes clear that wise guidance is what will keep folks from falling (Proverbs 11:14) and that grace can be given through the edifying words of others (Ephesians 4:29). There is nothing wrong with reading a book about baby sleep patterns that offers multiple steps on how to get your baby to rest on their own. There is nothing wrong with listening to a friend explain how they did something and then subsequently try it out on your baby. There is nothing wrong with reading all those “your baby should be doing this and this by age 2” books. Perhaps there are some helpful tidbits that can be gleaned from these kinds of things. If something helps from what you have read, then wonderful!
The issue of concern arrives when those things become forefront in our thinking as parents over and above Scripture. This is dangerous for two reasons. First, to apply our hearts and minds to these 5-point programs and to evaluate our children based on a list of what “most” children are doing by a certain age is ultimately to deny, or at least forget, the wonder of Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are his masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus. . .” Some translations may say workmanship, others may say craftsmanship. The point is that a masterpiece, or the workmanship of God, does not know redundancy. There are no two snowflakes alike. There are no two fingerprints alike. There is only one Grand Canyon, a work of a master artist. There is only one Mount Everest. As wonderful as those things are, they pale in comparison to the wonder of a human life, in which no two have ever or will ever be the same. We are all masterpieces in Christ Jesus. When we start trying to press a generic, multi-point program into the lives of our babies, we are in effect trying to turn the masterpiece into a paint-by-numbers. Again, some good may come from those things, I want to make that clear. But when we focus our efforts and our parenting based on systems, we deny the wonder of creation and the uniqueness of our babies.
Second, relying too heavily on a particular program can, and will, quickly bring you to the point of coveting. What is the natural question asked by a parent when the system or advice didn’t work for them? “Why doesn’t my baby respond like their baby?” “Why am I not as good of a father as he is?” And so on. Wade in the waters of covetousness as a parent and in only a short time you will be in the deeper waters of anger, contempt, hate, and all those things that chip away at your true identity in Christ Jesus. It must be avoided.
Finally, there are some good ideas out there. Thank God for friends and family who have wisdom and experience with babies. Listen to them and when it seems to fit your baby, try it out. But never forget that your child, that little one who may be crying right now, is a masterpiece of God’s handiwork. There may be no system in the world, except for the love and nurturing of their parents (that’s you!), that will “work” on them. At times, that may be scary. But wow, is it ever worth it.