I have to admit that when I hear the phrase “postmodern culture” especially in conjunction with the “emergent church,” my stomach clenches a bit. But I have loved Mary DeMuth’s perspective on parenting in her books Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (which I reviewed in our first 5 Minutes for Book column), and Building the Christian Family You Never Had, so I knew that I wanted to read her new book Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture.
This book did not disappoint. My interview with Mary DeMuth that follows will hopefully give you more insight into her parenting philosophy as well as the term postmodern. Not everyone has adopted postmodern thinking, but it is something that will affect our children. It’s not (all) bad, just different. The term in itself is not a harmful one. Some of the ideas can be harmful within a Christian worldview, which is why it’s important to know more about it. After reading the book, I realize that my parenting has already embraced some of these changes (which is evidenced in something I recently wrote on my own blog about the role of children in Children Should Be Seen and Heard). I’m sure that if I keep my mind and heart open, I will continue to evolve with the culture in some ways, while remaining steadfast in areas which I know that the Lord would not want me to change or compromise.
JD: What does postmodern mean? And why should it matter to parents?
MD: Postmodernism is the waiting room between what used to be a modern worldview and what will be. According to several postmodern scholars, we’re in a shift right now, leaving modern ideas behind, but what we are shifting to is not yet fully defined. Postmoderns believe that rationalism and/or more education doesn’t necessarily create a better society. They typically don’t embrace the notion of absolute truth, though they reach for the transcendent. They are skeptical, and often question whether science is something to be embraced or feared.
The question for parents is how will we mine the current worldview, even as it shifts? What in it can we embrace as biblical? What is not biblical? What I’ve seen in the church is a fearful adherence to what is familiar. So we cling to modern ideas, even though they may not be biblical and shun postmodern ideas even when they might be biblical. Our children will meet this shifting worldview no matter what our opinion of it is.
JD: Does a cultural shift matter? What happens if we don’t change our perspective on parenting as the world around us has? What happens when we do?
The shift matters because our kids will face that world. The key is preparing them well. How? We have to understand the culture, even if it means going out of our comfort zone to figure it out. But, it’s not so scary. Maybe just think about it as the same-old, same-old generation gap. It will exist. We will view life differently. But we can still engage our children. The most important thing is to love your kids wildly, to provide a safe home where they can fall apart or rejoice, and to be available when they want to process.
If we stubbornly don’t change our perspective, we may see a rift in our relationship with our kids. Some worry if we capitulate to our culture, we’re giving in and becoming weak parents. I’m not talking about abdicating our role as parents and becoming chummy with our kids to be cool. I’m simply advocating parents try their darnedest to walk around in their kids shoes a bit, to understand their world. Maybe it really boils down to empathy.
JD: How can we as parents figure out what works best for us and our own children without worrying about what others think, if we might be going against the norm in our particular group?
MD: Oh that’s a hard one. Go to Jesus. Trust Him for your family. Rest in His direction. And let the naysayers say their naysaying. We got plenty of that when we put our kids directly into French schools. Believe me, it was agonizing. I’m still grieving that time. But it was the direction we felt the Lord leading us to go. We saw miracles. We saw our kids in perhaps the most difficult school situation in the world still learn to thrive. They clung to Jesus. Nothing, nothing, nothing can take that away from them. They learned that Jesus is near even in the most difficult situations.
JD: I love how you often admit to apologizing to your kids when you make a mistake. It’s something that I have to do often as well. Do you remember a change in your parenting theory that allowed you to do this, or was it always a part of your parenting style?
MD: I grew up in a home where nary an apology was uttered. This was crazy-making. I grew up with a terrible sense that I was what was wrong with the world. I determined to not continue that pattern. I want my children to know that I’m human, that they’re not always to blame, that mommies fail too. I also don’t want to show myself as perfect to my kids. Otherwise, why would I need Jesus? I don’t want them to think Christianity is a bunch of dos and don’ts. I want them to fall in love with Jesus. If they think it’s all about personal perfection, they just might miss Him.
The author has donated a copy of this book (for U.S. or Canadian addresses), so if you’d like to win, leave a comment by Friday.
Congrats to the winner of last week’s drawing for Fat Proof Your Family:
Michele at Life in the Old Pueblo