In our modern world of technology and increasing specialization, parents may forget that nothing can replace the roles of father and mother in a child's life.
It's tempting to think that if we just had more money, more convenience, more resources. . . we could do better as parents. Our responsibility to not only care for our children physically, but to meet their spiritual, emotional, mental, and intellectual needs, is challenging and sometimes terrifying.
It has become acceptable to delegate more and more of this responsibility to schools, churches, health care professionals, psychiatrists - and any other specialist who has written a book or hosted a talk show.
However, there is no one more important to the overall well-being of a young person than caring and involved parents. We know instinctively the essential nature of parenting - it is evident in the conflict and guilt we feel when we haven't provided for or spent time with our kids, for whatever reason. The Mommy Wars and the continued debate between stay-at-home and working moms will probably rage on forever, but that is all just so much noise. It is up to each parent to determine if they are cherishing their children.
Some children have lost one or both parents - death, divorce, and other tragedies break the natural bonds, and these young ones depend on others to step in and provide the care and structure parents would have provided. This does not disprove the necessity of parents, but further emphasizes that this role must be filled if the biological parents are not available. It is certainly not permission for parents to delegate our responsibility to others.
In his blog Nurturing Resilience, Michael Ungar, Ph. D. posted a timely entry - Our young people need parents, not drill instructors:
As simple as it sounds, kids change when they find a parent, or parent-like substitute who can remind them, "You matter!"
Governments, schools, and other institutions should never be considered as more important or influential than parents. And Christians believe that God ordained the family structure.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. -Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. -Psalm 127:35
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. -Ephesians 6:4
I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, and keep his commandments. -Psalm 78:2-7
And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children. -Isaiah 54:13
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. -Proverbs 22:6
We may receive support, assistance, and advice from our extended families, our friends, church leadership, schools, and various professionals - but the bottom line is that children require our love, our time, attention, energy, and presence.
There are no substantial, genuine reasons for us to excuse ourselves from the sacrifices that became necessary the minute we decided to bring children into the world. We must take this charge seriously, and embrace it. Parenthood is an honor - not a burden, misfortune, hardship, or encumbrance. It may be difficult at times when our bodies are weary and our minds preoccupied with the tasks and problems that arise from daily living, and we may have to determine within ourselves to persevere regardless of our weaknesses or distractions. But we've been assured that God will give us grace (2 Corinthians 12:9) and strength (Philippians 4:13) to accomplish whatever he has chosen for us (Philippians 1:6).
We have an average of 18 years to give our children the tools they need to survive and thrive- don't waste a minute of it.