Duct Tape and Jesus: When Not to Speak

Parenting is a weird gig. Just when you think you have figured out one stage in your child’s development, they morph into a more perplexing one. By the time they become teenagers, a once pivotal milestone like potty training seems almost trivial. After all, what’s a little pee on the kitchen floor among family?

As children get older, the mistakes they make can feel a lot harder to clean up. More is at stake, yet our roles as parents require us to say less. While this is warranted in the name of their growing independence, I can’t help but feel like the more freedom they have, the less I do. My expressed opinions, insights, and experiences are sometimes seen as unwelcome intrusions into the lives of my young adult children. I’m in a season of self-censorship where I try to say less in general and, more specifically, not say anything irritating. As you can imagine, this is a losing battle. It turns out that almost everything I have to say is irritating.

I call these the duct tape years of parenting, not because I sometimes feel like binding my beloved children with duct tape to make them listen to me. It’s because I realize I’m the one who needs restraint.   I need to step back so that they can step in and manage their choices and responsibilities. Even though I realize how important this is for both them and me, I still struggle with what I mistakenly consider a God-given right to express myself.

Yet, when you really examine the life of Jesus, it becomes clear that he used few words to teach, minister, and heal. His emphasis was never on self-expression but on selflessness. He didn’t force his beliefs. He didn’t dictate or demand. He merely offered a path. Jesus gave us free will to choose whether we wanted to follow him. Sadly, duct tape is mentioned nowhere in the Bible. Jesus didn’t use his power to force but to empower us to choose for ourselves. While God hopes that we choose the goodness and light of love that he offers, he knows that not all of us will.

This is what I try to remind myself when I feel a sadistic urge to purchase duct tape as part of my parenting strategy. Saying little is not about self-censorship, but having the good sense to understand that even though my children are inescapably woven into my heart, they are also individuals whom God willingly trusts to have autonomy over their own lives. The beauty of being in a relationship with God is understanding that he didn’t come to condemn us but to share his merciful compassion with us. He knows we are going to make mistakes. He isn’t as worried about our stumbling as much as where we stand in relationship to him.  While there may be times when I’m called to step in and offer guidance to my children along their path, I recognize that my greater role is to step aside and trust them to take the next right step.

None of this is easy for me because I’m not Jesus. My love for my children is fierce, and protecting them from the world (even from their own mistakes) feels primal. Yet, I look to his example and I realize that genuine love requires both surrender and trust. Besides, I know from my own experiences that mistakes are often great teachers, and if things really fall apart there’s duct tape and Jesus to help put them back together.





6 thoughts on “Duct Tape and Jesus: When Not to Speak

  • August 24, 2023 at 2:22 pm

    After a long time since I met you at a Luncheons For Life, I still thoroughly enjoy your stories.
    Wish I could see you occasionally at Mass but maybe it’s because my wife and I attend the Saturday Vigil Mass.
    Keep up the good work and God Bless!
    Benjamin (Mike) Smith

    • October 18, 2023 at 10:26 am

      Thank you, Mike! We occasionally make it to Saturday mass. It’s funny how we cycle in and out of different mass times and then get used to the familiar faces. What a gift our parish community is!

  • August 23, 2023 at 12:51 pm

    Oh, Laura. This post hits really close to home! But your words dovetail so nicely with the Catechism’s teaching on the freedom which comes from God and our free will as humans to choose the good or to choose the bad. The last few days of Catechism in a Year podcast was about this exact topic. Thanks again for your insightful and thoughtful post!

    • October 18, 2023 at 10:25 am

      Helen ~ Yes, that free will is some interesting stuff! Sometimes, I think it was a bad idea – because so often we humans choose poorly but its so beautiful that God has enough faith in us to trust us with it!

  • August 23, 2023 at 11:00 am

    Thanks for sharing! This is perfect for me with one recent college graduate and one about to enter his senior year of college.

  • August 23, 2023 at 10:50 am

    What a perfect post for what I have been experiencing right now. I really needed this to remind me to let my children live their lives and make their own decisions. I do have to tell them how I feel to a certain extent though. It’s weird how you think it should be less stressful letting them make their own decisions. I have come to realize that I do want them to make their own decisions and not be afraid to make those decisions. I mean, if something doesn’t work out because of a decision then they have to figure out how to change it. Life doesn’t move in a straight line.

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