September 7, 2012

Raising PK’s

I want a village to help raise my PK’s (priest's kids) – as long as they’re not defined by their parents’ profession.

I’m sure this is an issue for families of a variety of occupations, but there are some peculiar expectations placed on priest kids. Let’s be honest: it’s complicated when Father Joe is also Daddy. When your foibles and quirky comments make the Sunday sermon. Or when people raise their eyebrows when the kids say their mom is the priest.

We’ve all heard the urban legend about the two kinds of priest kids: the super-devout and the wild child. My husband and I are trying to let our kids find their own way, without superimposing higher standards because of their father’s vocation.

But we need your help.

Please don’t expect priest’s kids to be perfect. They will throw tantrums occasionally (both at age 2 and 13 and maybe 19). They will drop their fish crackers on the floors. They will fling a purse up in the air and watch it land at the altar after their father has coincidentally completed a stewardship sermon, at which point the treasurer will stand up and announce, “That’s what Father Jeff is hoping we’ll all do.” (True story).

And we will try to make them behave, to punish appropriately and to re-direct when necessary. But we won’t make them be more than they are. We won’t require that they sit perfectly still at age 5 without making a sound. We won’t demand that they cross themselves and sing every hymn in tune at age 11. We won’t make them acolyte every Sunday just because they are the kids who are always there.

Because they are kids first. And because we don’t want church to be a place of rigidity and admonishment. This is their church as much as it is ours, and while there are certainly expectations of appropriate behavior, there also must be latitude for laughter and joy and mistakes. We should all be grateful for that kind of grace.

Please don’t expect our children to know every Scripture reference. Some, they’ll know, and some they won’t. But they’ll learn, if you’ll join in taking time to teach them. If they win a Halloween costume contest, please don’t mutter that it’s only because they are the priest’s kids (another true story) because more often than not, they will purposefully not be recognized so that folks don’t think they received preferential treatment.

Please don’t get angry if we let our second grader color a picture during the sermon or play on our (silenced) phone. He’s 8, and 80 minutes in a hard pew is a long time. He’ll get there. Just be as patient with him as you are with other non-priest kids.

I want the village to help raise my kids. If you see them running across the street without looking or being unkind to a child on the playground, please stop and talk to them. Parenting is hard, and we need to have each other’s back.

But remember that it was their father who took vows and promised before God to live to certain standards, not them. The children are still figuring out what that means and what God is calling them to in their own lives.

Give them the space, grace, love and discipline for them to find their way, to be PK's but kids first.