What are your hopes for your children? Do you want them to be happy, to be safe, to be loved, to be loving, to be well-educated, to be successful, to be popular, to be respectful, to be holy? Maybe you want these and more. After parents decide what they want in children, the question becomes how to produce those traits and/behaviors. Wishing for our children to be holy, kind, courageous, etc., doesn’t do any good. Simply telling children to be holy, kind, and courageous won’t do any good, either. Instead, like any other long-term goal, parents must begin with the end in mind and then take the steps to get children there.
We hope (want) that our children to be holy, so we model holiness in our speech and behavior. We hope they grow up to be humble, so we show them what it means to hold others higher esteem than ourselves. We hope they become kind, so we treat them and others with kindness. And, along the way, we give them opportunities to engage in these behaviors themselves, through friendships, household chores, family relations, worship time, and discussions.
A favorite saying of Rosalind’s is, “We are not rearing children. We are rearing future adults.” This reminder serves to focus our minds on what we need to do now, to reap our reward later. Our job is joyful, but, truth be told, somewhat monotonous: “Don’t scream at your brother.” “Don’t wake up the babies.” “Don’t push people out of the way.” “Say please and thank you.” “Don’t throw things on the floor.” Repeat ad infinitum.
We aren’t farmers, or even good gardeners; but we know that growing crops has parallels with child rearing. The beginning is a lot of monotonous work: till the soil, plant the seeds, nourish the land, check the weather, and add water if it doesn’t rain. As growth proceeds, the fruit can be seen. Fresh, healthy, aromatic, beautiful fruit! The end would never be possible without the beginning. The end wouldn’t be beautiful without beginning hardships.
Reflection: God labors with us to grow our children. He is with us in all the tiny, frustrating, dull steps along the way.
*Written by Dale and Rosalind Stanley, Roanoke, Virginia.