Article contributed by Andrew DeYoung. (Meet all our writers here.)
A new job with new questions
I got a new job recently. I already think it will be the hardest, most important, most rewarding job I’ll ever have.
I’m a new dad.
I’m still pretty new to this job. Our daughter was only born a month ago, after all. But what a month! A month of sleepless nights, a month of crying and soothing and rocking to sleep, a month of extreme emotions for my wife and me, and most of all a month of falling in love with this little eat/sleep/poop-machine—falling harder and faster than I ever thought possible!
It’s also been a month of endless questions about our daughter’s development. These questions are often tinged with fear, and a bit of insecurity. Is she healthy? Is she gaining weight fast enough? That sound she sometimes makes in her sleep, is it normal? What should we be doing to help her? And what are we doing wrong?
I know these questions won’t go away as our daughter grows—they’ll only change, old questions replaced by new ones. Questions about her first smile, her first steps, her first words. Questions, someday, about how she’s doing in school, how she relates with her peers, her teachers. (These questions seem far off now, but I know they’ll come much faster than I think!)
Every infant needs a long term spiritual development plan, right?
But what about my daughter’s spiritual development? What about how she’s developing in her faith?
I know, I know: my kid’s just a month old, it may be a little early for me to worry about her faith development. I mean, we’re talking about a baby girl who still smacks herself in the face with her own hands because she can’t control her arms; teaching her about Jesus can probably wait.
But I still think about her faith development all the same, partly because it matters to me, and partly because of another new job I started recently: Director of Product Development for Sparkhouse Family. In this job, I’m going to be helping a team of brilliant, creative people create books, Bibles, and videos that help kids grow in their faith. And I can’t help but think that both of my new jobs have something to do with each other—that the questions about my child’s faith development I ponder in my dad job are ones that will carry over into my work job.
As it turns out, you can Google almost anything.
There are a handful of accepted categories of child development: physical development, motor skill development, emotional and social development, and cognitive development. Answers about these areas of child development are easy to come by. (In fact, there may be too many answers out there, leading to confused and overwhelmed parents—but that’s a subject for another blog post!)
For instance, let’s say I want to know when I’m going to see my daughter’s first real, social smile—you know, the one not caused by baby gas. (This isn’t hypothetical; I woke up with this exact question this morning.) A quick web search brings me to a dozen reputable sources telling me that this milestone could happen as early as 6 weeks, as late as 12. I also quickly learn that seeing that first smile will be a sign of my daughter’s physical development (her eyes can now see and recognize faces) and emotional/cognitive development (she’s figured out that smiling tells the world that she’s happy and make her mommy and daddy happy too!).
But faith development? That’s a little bit tougher. Not everyone will even acknowledge faith or spirituality as relevant categories for child development. And as far as I can tell, there’s no authoritative list of spiritual milestones, no suggestion of when my daughter and I should say our first prayer together, for instance. In the area of faith development, it isn’t just that there aren’t many answers—often, we might not even know if we’re asking the right questions.
But I’ve got questions all the same. Even now, a paltry month into new-dadhood, these are the questions I often ask myself when I look at my daughter.
How do I support her as she grows?
What will she believe about herself? Will she believe what the world tells her, that her self-worth consists in what she wears, who she knows, and how much she owns? Or will she know herself to be a child of God, worthy of love and respect because she bears the image of her Creator?
How will she treat others? Will she be kind? Will she do unto others as she would have them do to her? Will she help the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the suffering? Will she seek to understand those who are different from her? Will she love her neighbor?
Will she experience God? Will she encounter God in the world around her and the people in her life? Will she be able to feel joy, peace, awe, and wonder—even in the midst of struggle?
And, most of all, what should I be doing, right now, to help her?
If you relate, follow along with us.
Maybe you can relate to some of my questions. I wish I could say I have perfect answers to them. But I can’t. What I can say, however, is that I’m committed to wrestling with these questions—both as a new dad and as someone who spends his 9-to-5 dreaming up awesome faith resources for families just like mine.
I can also tell you that everyone at Sparkhouse Family believes, as I do, that spiritual development is just as important to children as all the other categories of development, and that we spend every part of every day trying to answer a single question: how can we support Christian parents who want to guide their children toward vibrant, fulfilling, and meaningful faith lives?
We don’t have perfect answers. We’re still wrestling with these questions ourselves. But we’re all in this together. Helping kids find their way to a life-transforming faith isn’t easy. For most of us, it will be the hardest job we ever have—but the most important and rewarding, too.
Won’t you join us?
Photo Credit: Emmanuel Garcia