How to Ruin Your Child’s Life

As I enter this new year, I was muddling over how I could be a better parent, when my teenager said to me, “You’ve ruined my life.”


“How so?” I asked, thinking, Of course I’m ruining your life–I’m your mother!


“My life is too good,” he said. “Nothing that bad has happened, except [my grandmother] dying.”


“I’ll try to whip up some tragedies for you,” I promised him.


And that got me to thinking about Luke Burbank’s podcast “Too Beautiful to Live.” On the day before Thanksgiving, he talked to his producer, Jennifer, and her husband, Jason. Jason’s father is a retired minister, and one Thanksgiving, he had the bright idea that everyone should share a trial, a la James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, brothers and sister, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”


Guess what? No one wanted to share.


This Thanksgiving included about 30 guests, some of whom were homeless people invited that morning. No one wanted to talk about the true trials they had faced the past year. After all, who wants to talk about things like alcoholism, depression, or disease when there is turkey waiting?


The oldest child, Jason’s brother, whipped up a church-worthy story of how his family survived a cold night with no heat.


Whoop de doo.


Those of us who have gone through great trials, do, eventually, consider them pure joy. But I, for one, am not quite ready to share the details over a holiday dinner. It doesn’t always bless people who are doing just fine, thank you. It doesn’t always bless those who are down in the dumps, either.


I know people who came from horrific backgrounds who are not only doing quite well, but are doing above-and-beyond the caliber of normal human beings. And I know people from blessed backgrounds who are shallow, fearful, and downright angry.


A tough childhood does not guarantee a thoughtful adulthood, but neither does a pampered childhood guarantee a safe adulthood. It’s mysterious. There’s that unwieldy thing called grace that gets mixed up in it.


The year is young! There is still time to ruin my kids’ lives before 2012. Perhaps the best thing I can do for them is to go ahead and get on with the ruin so that they will recognize their need for God.


But don’t tell them I said so.


P.S. Please, don’t everyone rush out and download Luke’s podcast and then blame me when you find it profane. But it does have its moments.