Parenting is a job we sort of “get,” regardless of our qualifications, knowledge, or experience, simply because of biological reality. No matter how much responsibility and experience we’ve had in our jobs or other aspects of our lives, I think when we first set eyes upon that tiny, fragile, amazing miraculous life that somehow came from us, the significance of the task before us begins to truly manifest itself in a way that can make the most confident among us feel completely and hopelessly unqualified.
It is, after all, our responsibility to not just keep those tiny things alive for the next 18 years, but to train them in such a way that they aren’t a danger to themselves and others. It’s a big job, an important job, actually the most important job any of us will ever have, and it’s ours by default.
I can’t think of a whole lot of things scarier than that.
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And so, with God’s help, we do our best to rise to the task. We all make mistakes along the way, but somehow that tiny, fragile infant that couldn’t even turn over or hold its head up begins to grow, begins to crawl, to stand, to walk, and before you know it they are writing on the walls, throwing temper tantrums, and back talking Mom and Dad because, well, they know everything and we’re just stupid old people.
Isn’t it funny that none of us ever had to teach our kids to be rebellious, disobedient, stubborn, jealous, argumentative, or selfish? I never had to tell my son, “Hey, Nathaniel, be sure you look out for No. 1 because, ya know, nobody else is gonna look out for you.”
They’ve got all that stuff covered. Looking out for No. 1 came naturally to him and to our other kids as well.
It’s that darn sin nature we’re all born with. You’d think maybe one child out of our four would have been free of it, but apparently that’s only happened to one couple in history!
(Speaking of, I respect Mary and Joseph as people of faith who listened to and obeyed God, but it’s hard to identify with them as parents. Really, how hard could it have been to parent the, SON OF GOD?!)
[sharequote align="center"]Parenting, if we’re doing it right, is HARD WORK. It’s mentally and physically exhausting. [/sharequote]
But good character, politeness, kindness, honor, integrity, faith, even proper nutrition – those things have to be taught, and taught again, and reinforced, and reinforced some more. Parenting, if we’re doing it right, is HARD WORK. It’s mentally and physically exhausting. You don’t punch out at 5 p.m., you don’t get weekends off, you’re never really “off the clock” even when you manage an occasional “date night” and someone else is watching the kids. You’re always on call, always responsible, always accountable… always worried, even after they’ve left the nest (as our own parents can attest).
It’s no wonder so many parents, at times us included, fall into the rut of our daily routines, focusing more on “staying alive” and getting through the day than whether we’ve taught or done something meaningful with our kids.
So many family routines involve a quick stop for fast food, dinner in front of the TV – then, for the kids, some video games, more TV, maybe a bit of homework before bed and some TV to fall asleep by. (I’m not trying to pick on TV, because there is certainly a place in family life for it, but the “win-win” aspect of that dynamic – because the kids like to watch it and parents like the “peace and quiet” it brings – can certainly lead to overuse.)
We’re all guilty.
When a child displays a bad attitude about a decision that doesn’t go her way, do we let it go because we just don’t feel like dealing with that right now, or do we lovingly correct?
When a child clearly didn’t do his best on homework or a test, do we work with him to the best of our ability, getting the teacher involved if needed, or do we just leave it alone because maybe Algebra isn’t our forte?
When a small child starts a temper tantrum in the middle of a restaurant because she didn’t get her way, do we discreetly discipline or give the child what she wants just to shut her up and keep people from staring?
When a child of any age refuses to eat dinner because he doesn’t like what you made, do we buy him a Happy Meal to please his delicate palate or do we teach him how to eat to sustain his body for the long-haul?
Parenting, you see, is intentional. Regardless of where you stand on the nature vs. nurture debate, nobody argues that nurture doesn’t play a HUGE role. The choices we let our children make today can have long-term drastic consequences for themselves and others as those choices continue into adulthood.
That’s why it’s vitally important to keep our heads in the game, to stay focused, to parent intentionally not just once in a while, but every… single… day. To be sure, “keeping them out of prison” is a worthy enough parenting goal, but ours should be so much higher. We are, after all, training people made in the image of God to eventually take over the world He gave us to steward.
It doesn’t mean we never rest. Some of the most wonderful times in our marriage is after our children’s bedtime. We’ll read a book or have adult conversation. We’ll even play a game on our phones or computers sometimes. But not while the kids are awake, not while we can teach them something, spend time with them, encourage them, train them.
We all make mistakes. We all fall. But, my challenge to you as well as to myself is when we do to get back up and keep at it because there is truly no job as important, as vital to society, as this one.
Every moment of every day with our children is a precious gift from God. Soon they won’t want to hear what we have to say. Soon they won’t have to hear what we have to say.
Soon enough the only things we’ll teach them will be from their memories of us.
We parents may not be as qualified, equipped, or ready for the monumental job set before us as we wish we were, but that doesn't mean God can't take our meager efforts and turn them into something special.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.
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