R&R Parenting I

According to the dictionary, any kind of parenting is deceptively simple; it is supposedly about being or acting like a mother or a father. But as everyone knows, that is not the case at all.

Parenting is a complicated lifelong process that, in practice, varies from culture to ethnic group. It is a complex biological process compounded by multiple abstract factors. R&R parenting at its most basic level, at least conceptually, is about raising children to become both responsible and responsive adults. In other words, parents who engage in R&R parenting raise children who become grown-ups instead of raising children who merely become older.

A responsible grown-up takes responsibility for their own actions and accepts the consequences and outcomes of mistakes and foolish choices. A grown-up also accepts the fact that while life can be downright crappy at times they can choose how to deal with it all.

A responsive grown-up does not live in a vacuum. A responsive grown-up is aware of the interconnectedness of fellow creatures both human and non-human. In short, they live in community. Not merely the idea of community but engaging in the hard work of working together as an act of loving one another.

Unfortunately, in Western individualist society, such grown-ups seem to be an increasingly rare species. There is, however, one sub-group who does one half of R&R parenting well: the Amish. They have a long tradition of knowing what it means to live responsively, to actively practice living in community. Amish children are raised to become autonomous—self-governing—agents as part of a community, separate individuals who operate as one small part of a larger whole.

To illustrate, a recent, tragic accident in a nearby community between an Amish horse-‘n’-buggy and a UPS truck left a young Amish husband without his wife and three of his children without a mother. Along with his wife, his eight-year-old son was killed too. His horse was killed and the buggy he and his family had been riding in was smashed to smithereens.

The last paragraph in the Centre Daily Times article stated that the dead horse and buggy were “removed by the Amish community.” That is just one way that the Amish personify what it means to live responsively. Such actions are definitely living in community.

I have no doubt that the small community in which this accident happened will rally around that young father as he and his three motherless children recuperate from their major injuries. If they take care of their own when it comes to the gruesome act of removing a dead horse and blood-spattered buggy pieces, they will certainly help that young father parent his three young children. Even with both parents alive, few Amish parents attempt to raise their children alone. Instead, they seem to accept the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” as standard practice rather than a quaint, no-longer-relevant colloquialism.

They are great at living responsively.

They are, however, sometimes not so great at living responsibly. Sometimes their insular lifestyle can be a serious handicap. Stay tuned for further discussion . . .


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