The corrective brace of parenting

(This article was orginally published in 2007 when my youngest son was about 2 years old.)

As I sit here and write – my son screams in the other room.   The kind of scream that every parent hates to hear.  The kind of scream that makes a Mom leap a couch and a Dad run through a door.  The scream that says “I’m in pain – help me”!!   And yet I sit.   What would make a parent sit back and let the screams continue?   What kind of parent would allow such pain to enter their precious child’s life and not do something about it?   Either an evil parent or a parent who has been informed about the purpose of the pain.   An unloving parent or a parent who understands the horrifying consequences if this particular pain is avoided.

My son was recently diagnosed with Metatarsus Adductus caused by Tibial Torsion, a congenital defect of his legs that causes his feet to twist inward – pigeon towed, if you will.  Though thousands have this – his is a bit acute and if it goes untreated, he will end up with a permanent, awkward gait.  To avoid this consequence, he must wear a corrective brace at night on each leg.   If he wears it faithfully at night, every night, for six to nine months – it greatly improves the probability of correcting the defect.  The heart breaking scream is caused by the pain brought on by the brace.

What’s particularly difficult is that when I look at my son, I do not automatically notice his defect.  I see a cute little guy, full of life, unstopped by a pesty little diagnosis about his chubby little legs.   Because of this bias, I am sometimes tempted to forget the brace “just this one night.”    After all, the brace is so rigid, so firm, so legalistic – in the truest sense of the word.  In fact, if you ask him, he would tell you in his eloquent baby language that he’s just fine.  No brace required – especially not tonight.

There are a number of braces to choose from, just like with parenting.

I can’t help but think of the correlation between his corrective brace and the corrective brace of discipline all parents are called to place on their children.   Sadly, few strap on the brace.  On one level, I understand why.  It is much easier not to.  Who wants to be unpopular with their children?   Who wants to be misunderstood as to why you are doing it?   Who wants to listen to their children scream (or complain, whine, cry, etc)?    There is something deep within us that makes us extra sympathetic to that little cry – even if the little crier is sixteen and shaving.  And yet – the brace is necessary because the defect exists.   Without the defect, the brace is cruel.  But because of the defect, the brace is the most loving thing you can do in spite of the tears.

The Bible affirms this truth repeatedly throughout Scripture.  (Parenthesis mine)

  • Foolishness (defect) is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of discipline (brace) removes it far from him.” – Proverbs 22:15
  • He who spares the rod (brace) hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline (brace) him.” – Proverbs 13:24
  • Do not withhold discipline (brace) from a child; if you punish him with the rod (apply the brace), he will not die.” – Proverbs 23:13
  • “Bring your children up in the discipline (brace #1) and instruction (brace #2) of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4

So, parent – what kind of brace does your child need?   Some younger ones may need the brace of spankings.  Others need the brace of restriction or the loss of privileges. Maybe yours needs the brace of correction and instruction.   Regardless of the type of brace, the real question is, are you willing to place it on them?   Are you willing to place it on night after night, consistently, until the defect is “fixed”?   God has given parents a relatively short window in which the brace is most effective.  If we wait too long, its influence will be diminished.   If we apply it inconsistently, it will take twice as long and not guarantee a proper healing.   Your child could end up with a deformed spiritual gait. Or a criminal record.

As for my son, if the brace does not fix his defect, surgery will.   They will break his legs and re-set them as they should be.   The thought of surgery does not sit well with me, particularly if it is a result of my unwillingness to do my job now.

If you do not brace your children, God can certainly still cure them with a bit of Divine surgery.   Just a word about surgery with God though.  It’s always open heart and never with anesthesia.   Kinda makes the brace a bit more attractive, no?

*************** MEDICAL UPDATE *****************

The brace was applied on my son’s legs every night for about four months and as a result of that consistent application, his legs were healed several months ahead of schedule.  Today, he runs and jumps and moves around normally – you cannot tell he ever wore a brace.

Though the brace was difficult to place on him night after night, the right decision was made – even if it was unpopular.  And because of that, he avoided a painful surgery.  I think he’s glad he wore the brace.  Yours will be too… eventually.