To write about PKs, I went right to the source...our two sons. Over dinner a few nights ago I asked them if being a PK had ruined their lives. I took it as a good sign that they said in unison, "What's a PK?" Once I told them it meant "preacher's/pastor's kid" Noah (13 years old) quickly proclaimed that it was terrible to be a PK. When I asked why, he said it was because of all the expectations put upon him and how people treated him differently because he was a PK. When I asked for examples, he couldn't think of any. Then he back-pedaled. I think he just thought it was much dramatic to be a put upon PK and fit the stereotype. Anyway, once the real discussion ensued he and Adam both agreed that it was no big deal.
They couldn't come up with any examples or reasons why their lives have been any more difficult because their dad was a pastor. They did, however, come up with a lot of perks. For example, how many kids get to hang out with Ten Shekel Shirt all day or having Jeremy Camp take a shower in their bathroom. (They were asleep when Jeremy came over to shower before hitting the road after leading a DiscipleNOW. They were in elementary school at the time and the big question was, "Was Jeremy Camp naked in our bathroom?" I replied that since he took a shower, I thought it was a fairly reasonable assumption.) They realized that they have been the beneficiary of lots of leftover pizza, chips, and soft drinks after youth events. Adam and Noah came to the awareness that not everyone's dad can arrange his schedule to come on field trips, attend school events during the day, and take them to school. Being a PK has given them opportunities to do mission work in Nicaragua, go to cool camps when they were too young to go as campers, and meet all sorts of fascinating people.
The down side? Mostly things that our guys likely don't remember or weren't aware of because of age. We've had a couple of family holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas cut short due to pastoral emergencies like a sudden death in which Robert was asked to perform the funeral. We've have some major stresses in church that have caused us personal stress, like fighting factions, finances, and staff leaving. We have tried to never talk about these things in front of the kids and I think they have been largely shielded from them. We have moved twice, from Missouri to Louisiana and then from Louisiana to Wisconsin, since they have been old enough to be aware of moving and we have included them in the process. Once we began to seriously consider moving we told them and gave them time to process it and an opportunity for their input. We were especially worried about the move to WI since they were going into the 5th and 8th grades at the time---terrible ages to move. However, a fellow pastor and former missionary reminded us that when God calls us, He calls our children too. That has proven to be very true for us!
The jokes about PKs revolve around them going wild and sowing their oats. Certainly we have known of that happening to otherwise "good" kids. However, I don't think it is anymore likely to happen to PKs than kids whose dads have other vocations. I think the biggest risks for PKs are when their dads care more about church than family and make that evident in where they spend their time, energy, and emotion. I also think that when pastors and their wives don't practice what they preach that they are putting their kids in jeopardy of turning their backs on the church and on the Lord. Dad better be the same at home as he is behind the pulpit or trouble will be brewing. It is so imperative that we remember that our kids are not perfect and we need to release worrying about what other people think of our kids and instead just parent them as best we know how and to the glory of God. My kids had explosive diapers, threw the occasional toddler temper tantrum, got whiny when they didn't get a nap, and even embarrassed me on occasion.
The classic story of wishing a huge hole would swallow me up because I was so mortified came from the mouth of my sweet 4 year old Adam. I had recently cleaned out the bathroom closet and came across the "peri-care bottle" from when Noah was born. (TMI warning: For those not in the know, this is a squirt bottle used to clean the nether regions of a woman after childbirth and prevent infection from episiotomy stitches.). Rather than tossing out the bottle I thought it would make a fun bath-time toy for the boys so I added to the basket by the tub. When Adam asked me about it, I had always tried to be open and honest about things, so I told him in kid friendly terms what it was. I didn't give it another thought...until 4 days later. I had taken Adam to Mission Friends (a Southern Baptist program that teaches preschoolers about mission work) on a Wednesday night and was picking him up from class. When I got him his teachers were dying laughing and pulled me aside. They told me that Adam shared a prayer request during prayer time. I was thinking how wonderful it was until they told me what the request was. Adam had asked everyone to pray for my sore bottom because I had to have stitches after Noah was born. Thanks bud! Moral of the story: our little ones (and even bigger ones) are normal and need to be given the room and opportunity to be themselves. Their boisterous, lively, lovely, curious, creative, audacious, personable selves. Sure, they need boundaries and they need to behave, but not more so than any other kids. They are not perfect and no one should expect them to be. It's the mama bear's job to protect them from other people's misconceptions and constraints.
Bottom line, PKs are like other kids. Mine have griped about HAVING to go to church because Dad was a pastor until we informed them that we would still attend church and Sunday school every single Sunday even if their dad wasn't a pastor. We had non-negotiables (Sunday school, Sunday worship--morning and evening when there was an evening service, and Wednesday night). However, other things like choir, youth trips, and special activities were optional. We didn't make them go. We have tried to model an authentic life in which Christ is factored into every decision and relationship. We have allowed them to fail. We have given them responsibilities. We have made them work and encouraged them to play.
However, on the flip side, I do think it is important that PKs make their faith their own. That may involve some pulling away, a lot of questions, and some serious wrestling with God. It is crucial that our kids know Jesus as friend, confidant, brother, and Lord...not because mom and dad said so, not because they've been told in Sunday school every week, but because they have checked it out and found it to be true. Like Jacob, once they have personally wrestled with God their walk will never be the same. As PWs we have to keep them prayed up and release them to the Lord to woo and strengthen them in their faith. After all, He loves them even more than we do.
My boys have had some periods of God-wrestling and I am sure there are more to come. I hope and pray that there isn't any wild oat sowing, but that remains to be seen (or not). They are in the clear so far...at least as far as I know. However, they are teenagers and lack solid judgment and understanding of long-term consequences of their decisions, as all teens do, so that's why prayer is important. When they do mess up, which is inevitable (I just pray for little, fixable messes without devastating consequences), I hope I can respond in grace and unconditional love. I hope I can have some positive influence and continue to mold these young men in my home so that they can be hopelessly in love and recklessly abandoned to Jesus. I want them to fight injustice, love the unlovable, and believe in the impossible. I want them to find a vocation that enables them to pursue their passions and utilize their talents. If they choose to marry, I hope they will marry godly women who challenge them, love them, inspire them, and treasure them. And I do not want them to be defined by their father's profession. They deserve to be their own wonderful selves.