Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep,
And can’t tell where to find them;
Leave them alone, and they’ll come home,
Wagging their tails behind them.
This old Mother Goose rhyme about a lazy shepherdess seems to have started off as mocking the English customs agents at Bo Peep tower, with the “sheep” being the smugglers, and their “tails” the merchandise. For those who know the rest of the poem, Bo-Peep never does make a catch.
Whether Her Majesty's customs agents ever caught a smuggler is one thing, but when it's about children, the nursery rhyme becomes much more serious. Over the past few generations in the “Developed World,” the trend has been to follow the same advice Bo-Peep was given, while expecting different results. Children are becoming more self-assured by the day about their ability to run a household; before they can even walk! They know this from carefully re-enforced experience. Mothers are somehow embarrassed to say, “No,” and apparently terrified of enforcing it once it is said. The fathers? Too often just off on the sidelines thinking that the child-care thing is “her” job, and more than content to let her deal with it.
As kids, one time my friend and I caught a really good breeze with our kite. It started climbing so fast that we were taking turns biking to the store for the next ball of string. In the five minutes it took to make the trip it was time to tie on the new string and go for more. That kite was almost out of sight when a Cessna flew under it and hit the string. As high as that kite was, and with as much wind, without a tight string holding it straight it dropped like a rock.
Parenting is hard work, and it is risky. We don't know if our kids are going to turn out well, but the more effort we put into it, and the more willing we are to risk losing our child's immediate approval for their own good guidance, the better the odds they actually will love us, and actually be lovable human beings when they are older.
In all the history of babies, there has only been one born with a will to do what is right. When he was grown, he was quoted to say, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays his life down for his sheep,” and something about going out and risking all to save one wandering lamb. Not exactly Bo Peep.