The column below appeared last week in our local paper. It was a week late so the reference to my son's birthday was a week late. But here it is:
My wife and I find that there's not a whole lot on TV these days that's appropriate for family viewing. Reality programming has all but pushed sitcoms off the air. The sitcoms that are still being made might be funny to me but often the subject matter isn't exactly family friendly. So, over the years we've been buying DVD collections of the sitcoms we used to like watching.
Recently we watched an episode of The Cosby Show where the oldest daughter Sondra is having twins and her husband Elvin is terrified about not knowing how to handle and raise newborn babies.
It took me back to when we had our first child. I wasn't totally prepared but I was a fast learner. I discovered that you figure things out, you do the best you can, you pray a lot, and things turn out okay. By the time we had our fourth child we were so laid back, he's pretty much raising himself.
But a cute part of the Cosby episode had Cliff using a doll to teach Elvin how to properly pick up a baby. And I recalled picking up my own babies and holding them. They were so small that I could cradle them in the crook of one arm.
Then I looked around the room a my four children. The oldest has just finished her first year of high school. I bet I could still pick her up but she's a woman now, taller than my wife. The second became a teenager this spring and is nearly as tall as her older sister. So far neither of these girls has shown me any cause to dread the teenage years.
The third hit double digits this spring, 10 years old already and he impressed me recently on a long bike ride where he had to pedal twice as much as I did because his bike's a lot smaller than mine, but he pushed on and did it. And our youngest will be 6 this week. Last week he jumped over the line at his Kindergarten classroom door and will be going to school full days in the fall in grade 1.
Sometimes it seems like forever since I was changing diapers on these kids, pushing them around in strollers, lifting them in and out of their cribs. Other times it seems like just yesterday.
You can read in different places in the Bible about raising children. I wouldn't exactly call the Bible a guide book to child rearing. It was written centuries ago in a different time and a different culture. Everything might not be applicable to raising a child in the internet age. But some lessons might be learned there.
Early on in the Bible Moses tells God's people, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise" (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). I think Moses is telling the people that spiritual matters aren't just a Sunday morning thing, and don't leave the teaching of the "God stuff" to the pastor and Sunday School teachers. Make room for God in your family's every day life.
In the book of Proverbs there's a familiar saying (familiar to me anyway) that goes, "Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray" (Proverbs 22:6). Now I don't know that you can take that as a guarantee. Children have their own minds and you can't say that if you do this and this and this then they'll turn out exactly the way they should or the way you want them to. But parents can try to present a good example, they can try to impart the teachings of the love of God to them, they can pray for them, bring them to church, nurture them in faith. Then, with the help of God, children may learn to trust God and live a life of faith.
I think the most important thing we can do for our growing children is love them and pray for them. When I think of the way I used to cradle the tiny babies that my children once were, I'm reminded of a hymn by Michael Joncas that paraphrases Psalm 91. The refrain says:
And he will raise you up on eagle's wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of his hand.
Whatever else we do as parents, whatever we might do right in raising our children or the mistakes we so often make, we can trust that God holds them, and us, in the palm of his hand.
That's my prayer and my trust for my own children. May it be for yours as well.