By: Judge Roy Sparkman, (Retired), Author of A Pastor’s Pit*
“Everyone should have kids. They are the greatest joy in the world. But they are also terrorists. You’ll realize this as soon as they’re born, and they start using sleep deprivation to break you.” — Ray Romano, actor and comedian
When our first child was born, I remember standing there watching the nurse clean her up, and after thanking the Lord for a healthy baby, my next thought was: “What have I done?” I was terrified that I had no idea how to be a dad! Absolute joy and sheer terror all in five seconds!
In my book, A Pastor’s Pit, the dad (a/k/a Pastor Preston Curtis) finds himself in the pit of being indicted for the crime of religious hate speech. Virtually overlooked, is the fact that as a consequence of dad being in the pit, his kids are in their own pit – not one of their own making! There can be a number of different kinds of pits that kids find themselves in, including: pits created by the parents (like Pastor Curtis), or the parent voluntary actions (resulting from a very high profile position such as, my mom is school board president; my dad is a judge, etc.); or, the pit may be the result of bad, stupid mistakes; or, finally, another cause may be a situation forced on them like a school situation. One of the current “pits” that scares parents is what is being taught in our schools. When our kids are in that kind of pit, what are our responsibilities as parents and how do we help them? Recently I learned that the Orange County CA Board of Education issued an opinion that “parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, may not excuse their children from this instruction.” As a parent, grandparent and former school board member (in Texas), the curriculum is enough to scare me, but the fact that parents can’t excuse their children from such indoctrination is terrifying!
I want to use a non-traditional passage of scripture to try to draw some analogies that might help parents. It is the story of Jacob dealing with his father-in-law Laban (I call him the “Father-in-law from hell!”). This is found in Genesis 29-31. Laban tricked Jacob from the very beginning – Jacob worked 7 years to marry Rachel and on the morning after the wedding, Jacob found out he was married to older sister Leah! Laban changed Jacob’s wages several times, and “moved the goal posts” to try to harm Jacob but help himself. What principles related to parenting our kids might we learn?
- An old saying “first time shame on you; second time shame on me!” Jacob was caught flatfooted after the wedding, but not again. As parents during Covid, many learned what was being taught – and didn’t like what they saw/heard. Stay plugged in! Many school districts allow monitors; perhaps a group of moms can come together to monitor the classes. Don’t settle for the answer to your question of “how was school?” with a simple “ok.” This may require school board action to allow frequent monitoring. When I was a judge, we had open courts, but I could set some boundaries. We may not be allowed to see the faces of students, but is there not a way I can periodically listen (unannounced) to hear what my child is being taught? Train your child as to what is right in the area of social and spiritual matters. Teaching has now gone far beyond the ABCs – is your child equipped to know what is true? Will they be prepared to talk to you about everything occurring in the classroom?
- Jacob tried to work with Laban to make things better. Talk to your teachers and your principals about the curriculum, the supplemental materials used, identity of topics and identity of outside speakers or materials. The approved list of books that your teacher is using should be available for you to review. Be aggressive if you don’t get satisfactory information or answers. Are the teacher’s lesson plans subject to disclosure under your state’s Freedom of Information statutes or district guidelines?
- Seek God’s guidance. God spoke to Jacob (wouldn’t we love the audible voice!) and told him to leave Laban. God’s word and prayer will give us guidance on the direction we should take.
- Create a plan to better your child’s situation. At various steps Jacob took steps that would help protect himself and his family. Decide what your expectations will be and what actions you can take, and that you are willing to take that are in the best interest of your child.
- Discuss options and decisions as a family. Help them feel part of the decision. Jacob talked to both Rachel and Leah about the next steps and agreement was reached. It may not be possible to always get agreement from our kids, but including them in the discussion can provide positive returns.
- Take action if needed. Jacob finally decided he needed to leave his father-in-law and move to a new country. Your first priority must be protecting your child and obtaining the best education that fits them. Parents have a lot of options today. Home schooling (including some excellent consortium groups), charter school, private school, moving into another district, some states are looking at allowing the public school dollars follow the child to another school, etc.
Psalm 127 teaches us that children are a gift of the Lord! We need to cherish, protect, and guide them!
*Judge Sparkman was also a School Board Member (President for 7+ years) for the Wichita Falls Texas ISD