Close the Gate

I have the Microsoft Network as the home page on my computer. It has my email account just one click away at the top and a bunch of other places to click that may be of interest to all kinds of people. 

There are also the stories of the day that scroll across in slide show fashion with the top twenty of the moment of what is going on in the nation. Sometimes there are investing things, often there are celebrity tidbits, way too many crime things and there are also, sprinkled in the mix like confections on Christmas cookies, some feel-good human interest stories.

Something that caught my eye the other day is a story of how a celebrity dad is suing a celebrity mom for custody of their 9-year-old sextuplets because they “fear their mother.” 

Now I have no idea what kind of fear that the dad is claiming in his suit, but all this talk about fear got me to wondering if there is such a thing as “healthy fear” in parenting.

In my opinion, the answer is a resounding yes!

I think back as far as I can, and I am a product of adoring and good-hearted parents. They were kind and loving, but I feared them every day for one very elementary reason: they meant business. 

My parents gave me, as a child, and still give today, all the love and support I could ever wish for, but I guess you could categorize my and my siblings’ upbringing as “old school.” There were few choices when it came to things like meals, daily duties and when it was time for bed. There was no lobbying my way into or out of anything they did not approve of. It was not a democracy and kids did not get to vote on such things.  That’s just the way it was.

You can bet your boots I stated my case with all the proficiency I learned in debate class. Exclamations of “that’s not fair” would get a quick, curt retort from my mother that “the fair comes in August.” 

I was also known to cause a bit of a scene and I was not above the occasional hissy fit. I tested the boundaries all the time, but with every conniption, every tantrum, every bounce off every limit, I faced the consequences of my actions. Every. Time ... Every. Single. Time. How they mustered the energy with three children I will never, to this very day, figure out, but what I do know is that I was afraid to cross the line. Did I do it? You bet I did. Too many times to mention, but I paid the price every time. 

“Afraid” is a strong word and I know it sounds bad. These days we are preached at from all directions to face, get over and even to give our fears the boot. But not all fear is bad. It says right in the Bible that we are to fear the Lord. There exists a diverse, healthy kind of fear. It is the kind of fear that speaks in hushed tones from the inside of your head that maybe you had better think twice about what you are contemplating. The kind of fear that cautions you of danger, that part conscience, part accountability kind of fear. And that was what I felt for my folks — that healthy kind of fear that walks hand in hand with respect. 

Don’t get me wrong. I never once recall being afraid for my physical safety, but I did have a thriving fear of the inevitable one-two combination of going without: without TV, without being able to attend the party I was invited to; without car keys; all combined with ridiculously long talking to’s ... as if the lectures weren’t enough. There wasn’t any spanking or screaming or drama, just calm, consistent consequences for my actions. 

I wish I could say the same about my own parenting. Consistency as a single parent was hard. There was no “wait till your father gets home” to fall back on. I had to be my own good-cop, bad-cop act and it loses something in the translation to teens. I tried but failed miserably most of the time. It was just too exhausting. Thankfully my children turned out just fine regardless. 

I expect appropriate behavior from my day care children. All the parents I have are good but “kids will be kids” is an excuse others all too often use for looking the other way. Well, I agree that kids will be kids but they will one day grow up to be not-so-great adults unless they’re guided appropriately now.   

Healthy fear, when dished out with love, can lead us all in the right direction.

Consistent rules with consistent consequences close the gate with circumspection. 


Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, I’m Nancy Kraayenhof. 


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