“Train up a child in the way he should go;
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
I once heard a comedian say this about parenting – “The only experts in raising children are those who don’t have any.” From my perspective no truer words about parenting have ever been spoken. Linda and I are perfect examples. When we were first married but still childless, we were experts. We could watch parents in action and see exactly what they were doing wrong. If any of them had asked, we would have had all sorts of advice on parenting. It’s a good thing no one asked for as soon as we became parent, all that expertise disappeared. So what I share now, in this blog, is shared with that in mind. My purpose is to be encouraging not preachy. I hope I succeed. These are things I learned as dad of four kids and Pop Pop to 6 grandchildren.
First, children are a gift from God. Being a parent is perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done. In the first years of their lives they depend on you for literally everything. They are challenging, and time consuming. You laugh when they laugh. You worry over them. You hurt with them and sometimes because of them. There are all sorts of costs over the years that you don’t know how you will afford – car insurance… college… weddings. Having children was a much bigger change to our lifestyle than getting married. And I would not trade being a dad for all the money in the world. Among the biggest joys in life have been holding each baby and grandbaby, having them hold your hand as they walk down the street, or sit on your lap while you read a story, playing catch, watching them hit a home run or dance a ballet, seeing them confirmed and then graduate, walking her down the aisle. Every single moment has been a treasure. I am glad that when they were little we didn’t take vacations without them. We have plenty of time for that now. I know Linda agrees with me – Thank you Lord for our children and our grandchildren.
Second, there are no perfect children. Your children are going to do or say wrong things. I was not doing them a favor, when I refused to believe it when a teacher told me something I didn’t want to be true. Yes I wanted my children to like me. But more than a friend, I needed to be their dad – to love them enough to discipline them when they wrong, as well as praise them when they did well.
Along with this, there are no perfect parents. I made mistakes. I made dumb mistakes. I jumped to conclusions. I got upset when I should have stayed calm. I said things in anger I shouldn’t have said.
All parents make mistakes. Moms and dads, cut yourselves some slack. Forgive yourselves. God will. Your kids will. This is why I wouldn’t do premarital counseling for my kids and their spouses. I was sure that I was one of the issues they would need to talk about. The most important words that parents and kids can speak to one another , are words we learn from our God – to tell Him “I’m sorry,” and to hear from Him, “I forgive you.” The most costly loving thing, we can say to one another is “I forgive you.” It cost God His own Son to say that to us. He was more than willing to pay that cost. Parenting is an opportunity to share that gift with your kids through your humble, repentant, loving heart. When you are wrong mom and dad ask your kids for forgiveness. When they are wrong don’t say “it don’t matter.” Tell them you love them the way God has told you. Tell them, “I forgive you.”
You see, your kids really belong to God. They are on loan to you from Him. He has brought them into your life to do exactly what our verse for today says. “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” They are your most important mission field. Share Jesus with them at bedtime, in stories you read, and around the dinner table. Be in worship with them. Go to Bible class as they go to Sunday School. Let them see you read your Bible. Prepare them to walk with Jesus in life, by letting them see you walking with Jesus. In your prayers entrust them to God – after all, the only expert in raising children is Him… their heavenly Father and yours. And you can’t do this without Him. Amen.