Without a doubt, parenting is the hardest job in the world. You don’t get a practice run. It’s 24/7/365-for-life. From the day you bring them home, every day marks just a little less control you have in the lives of your kids. Parenting will cause you to experience every emotion known to mankind at some point in your journey — both good and bad. And quite honestly, if you’ve got all the parenting answers, you probably don’t have children.
The Wisest Man that ever lived (Solomon) wanted to make sure his son was “Blessed for Success”. That’s what most of the Book of Proverbs is – a Parent’s Guide to making sure our kids are equipped, trained, educated, prepared for the “blessings” that God desires to bestow on those who understand that God has a plan for each and every life. And yet, many of today’s good parents — even those who follow after the words of this bastian of wisdom, will admit to feeling like they are or have been a complete and total failure as parents from time to time. So who or what gets to define ‘good parenting’?
I was reared in the age of Dr. Spock. When I say that to many younger audiences, they nod knowingly to each other and say – “We used to watch the Star Trek movies and reruns when we were growing up also.” But I’m not talking about THAT Dr. Spock. I’m referencing Dr. Benjamin Spock, the Pediatrician who wrote a best-selling book on how to rear children. If Oprah, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz are our self-help gurus of this generation, Dr. Spock was of his. His book ranks among the very top sellers of all time.
Dr. Spock was one of the first advocates of eliminating “spanking” from the arsenal of parentally-inflicted punishments. Unfortunately for me, my parents apparently skipped that chapter because I do believe that I can recall on at least one occasion when my mother actually spanked me WITH Dr. Spock’s book on Child-Rearing. (Just kidding — she used other things, but not the actual book…that I recall.) No, while I may have been reared in the “age” of Dr. Spock – my parents did not follow most of the teachings of the good doctor.
Indeed, I was reared in a rather old-fashioned way. I was taught to do such archaic things as clean-up my messes and obey my elders and say “yes, ma’am and no sir”. I wasn’t allowed to hit my sisters, I had to kiss my mom good night and doing household and farm chores was not optional. I wasn’t allowed to watch “Happy Days” on TV because of the “Fonz”. I got in trouble from my grandmother one time for saying the word “pregnant” instead of “family way” or “expecting”. The word “but” was never used unless it was a conjunction and the worst language I ever heard my mother say was “H-E double ‘eck’!” We were in SS from infancy, I learned all the books of the Bible before I knew my times tables and even my punishment was issued by a wooden dowel stick which she called “the rod” in the Biblical sense of the Word. I didn’t get dessert if I didn’t eat my veggies, if I got in trouble at school – I learned what trouble REALLY meant when I got home. Once after spending too much time with some teenage second cousins, I made the foolish mistake of referencing a police officer (in the 60’s) as a “pig” and by the time my father was done with me…well, let’s just say this….every time I even look at bacon, I get a twitch to this day.
But my how times have changed. If your child doesn’t have a “Wii” (and I’m not talking about their restroom habits) you’ve denied them a healthy and normal upbringing. Today’s child needs a personal assistant just to keep up with their schedule of sports events, music lessons, private tutoring and birthday parties. Not long ago, I read a news story regarding parents who are now questioning the practice of giving birthday parties for 1-year olds that actually had gift registries. A couple of years ago, many of us read of the family from Boston who were asked to leave an airplane because their 3-year old pitched a 20-minute blood-curdling tantrum and would not be buckled into her seat. (The parents were considering legal action against the airline and they notified the media looking for sympathy.) Those of us involved in education understand that more important than a degree in education these days is a degree in law if you are going to be working with children.
I want you to know that I have sympathy for those who are parents in this generation. Many of today’s parents have good intentions and sincere hearts when it comes to their children. But frankly, many are overwhelmed with doubts, insecurities, feelings of inadequacy and even fears as they are bombarded with advice, materialism, threats and pressure. You can’t trust your teacher, priest/pastor, coach or Boy Scout leader if spend too much time reading of the predatory nature of pedophiles and homosexuals that are featured nearly every edition of the local paper or newscast. The public schools are just one stop short of a warzone in some cities and a sex club in others. The internet is filled with trolling perverts who want to send your kids free porn, have them send them pictures of themselves and arrange meetings down at the local mall “just to get acquainted.” Many of us know the top of our child’s head better than their face as we look at them constantly staring at their smartphone texting frantically as if they are trying to call in air support in the middle of firefight in Afghanistan. It’s a tough world in which to be a parent today and many of us, who are honest, often feel like failures or at least over-whelmed. At least I know that I have and do.
Some of these issues are unique to this generation and are the direct consequence of where our culture is at this point in time. Today’s parents have a 50/50 chance that they were not reared in a home with both of their biological or adopted parents. Choices to divorce, have kids out of wedlock and shack up without marriage have consequences — and even if you did it right, at least half of your kids friends have parents who didn’t. Many of us struggle with a culture that has elevated materialism to the point wherein if you don’t offer your child every new toy, brand-new matching furniture when they arrive from the hospital, a fully-paid-4-year education at an Ivy-League college, vacations to Europe and beyond, designer clothing and a vehicle that has every safety feature found in a Space Shuttle you are somehow a bad parent. And to make matters worse, Christmas is rolling around yet again!
I want to reassure some of you…
If you let your baby sleep in an open drawer because you couldn’t afford the Babies-r-Us bassinet, but you prayed over them every time you tucked them in, you ARE a good parent.
If you haven’t been able to afford cable TV, a Playstation, private lessons of any kind, and your idea of a vacation is camping in a borrowed tent in your back yard, but you’ve helped your kids learn their memory verses and phonics sounds as you sat at the kitchen table while dirty dishes awaited your attention in the sink – you ARE a good parent.
If your family has to wait until it comes out on video because you don’t want to drop a C-note at the cinema, if your kids wear hand-me-downs and Wal-mart sneakers, if you dining out means you’re checking out the dollar menu at Mickey D’s, but you were there to teach your kids how to ride a bike, or you’ve laid on a blanket in the backyard and talked about how God created the stars or you’ve wrestled on the floor with your kids until somebody broke something – you ARE a good parent.
If you feel bad because you didn’t use enough sunscreen on them at the beach, or because you once forgot to pick one of them up at school until they didn’t show up for dinner, or because your idea of mopping the floor involves using your fuzzy bunny slippers to sop up the spilled milk due to the fact that you don’t have enough money to hire a maid because you’re working over-time to pay Christian school tuition bills, but you sacrifice to make sure your kids are in a safe school, with teachers who love them and a curriculum that isn’t going to undercut your family’s values – you ARE a good parent.
And even if, as an adult, they choose to ignore your best efforts and make poor decisions on their own, at least you gave it your best. An adult child is not necessarily always a reflection on his parents. I’ve known plenty of kids who thumbed their noses at the good start they had in life, but who rebelled against that foundation. They broke their parents’ hearts, but each one of us is a free moral agent and “Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go…” is a proverb, not a promise and a rebellious heart is not always an indictment on a parent who did their best.
In the end, there is no such thing as a “perfect parent” and there is none good, but God. Don’t let the world force you into it’s mold of “good” or “success” or “failure” with any of its definitions — whether as a parent or a citizen or a business person or just as a human doing their best in a horrifically broken world.
So, if you’ve ever felt like a failure or shed a tear in frustration because your teen has declared you the worst parent in the world for telling them “no” they can’t stay out after 11, or because you won’t let them go to a co-ed sleepover or because you aren’t going to let them date before they are sixteen or because you won’t let them go see a certain movie or because you will not be talked to like you are the family dog or because you won’t let them hang out with someone you know brings out the worst in them – Relax…you’re doing fine…and know this…that sometimes the best that you can do is simply the best that you can do.
1 My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
2 For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you.
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
In the sight of God and man.
And lean not on your own understanding;
And He shall direct your paths.
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
And strength to your bones.
And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
And your vats will overflow with new wine.