Ravioli Parenting

By Daniel Darling

As a kid, I loved eating ravioli and as an adult I still like eating it. It’s one of my favorite meals. But as a Dad, ravioli has become my enemy. Why? Because it may be the single messiest meal for kids. You are pretty much guaranteed that if you give your sweet little infant a bowl of ravioli, they will end up with an epic sauce and noodle disaster.

So I hate ravioli. My wife, however, doesn’t seem to be so bothered by it. Every once in a while she will say to me, “Dan, should we have ravioli for dinner tonight?” I always look at her funny when she says this, as if she said, “Hey, how about we go ahead and sign ourselves up for an extra hour of dinner cleanup? Wouldn’t that be fun?”

Angela and I often see things like ravioli differently. I choose the path of least resistance. She isnt’ bothered by the potential disaster that is ravioli. I thought of this as I consider the job of parenting. I wonder if the avoid-ravioli approach is our default approach with our kids. We choose the path of least resistance.

Our tendency as parents is to shelter our children. We want to create a safe environment so they don’t mess anything up, so they don’t get hurt. So we work hard to keep all negative influences out of their lives. We avoid the ravioli.

Most of the time this is good, because we as parents should guard our children, we should watch over them, we should filter their influences. But that is not our only job. It is also our task to train them up to live out their faith in a sin-soaked world. I wonder if we often keep our kids from any hint of risk or danger at their detriment. We keep the ravioli from them because we dont’ want to do the hard work of cleaning it up. We fear the influences with our teens, so we so shelter them from any friends at all. We don’t like the youth leader’s music or movie styles so we keep them from youth group. We worry about the media, so we keep any and all media from their consumption.

The problem with this approach is that our children can grow up without being equipped to live in this world and bring light to darkness. I’m not saying we should have no rules or standards. Each home draws the lines a bit differently.

However, I think part of our desire to hang on tight to our children is that we don’t want to see them ever experience hurt. We don’t want them to live with any consequences of risk. In doing so, we rob them of the lessons learned in brokenness. And by choosing the path of least resistance, in sparing ourselves from having to deal with the fallout of their choices, we think tightening things up, hanging on, sheltering will help them avoid the pitfalls of life.

But sometimes our kids need to eat ravioli, to get it all up in their hair and all over the high-chair and on the floor. They need to make a royal mess of themselves, so they can see their own brokenness, their own need for a Savior, and can learn the lesson of failure.