As is the case with most parents, learning how to raise a child is often a mix of hit-or-miss ideas and relying on the “expertise of experts” and friends who have been there and done that.
It doesn’t always work out like we hope.
I can take credit for helping to raise two daughters and, to some degree, feel like they have each found success in their lives thanks to some of the direction received as a child. But in my own moments of quiet reflection, there are areas where I wonder if I did everything correctly.
Often, the answer is no.
Back when I was seeking answers about what was necessary to raise a child, I was told by one of those “experts” that there are four things — and ONLY four things — that children should be guaranteed from their parents: food, shelter, clothing and love. Everything else had to be earned.
Somehow, that didn’t seem like enough.
Years later, and far too late to be useful when my daughters were teenagers, a helpful reader of a newspaper I was at in Indiana, passed along something that was right up my alley — an interview with God — which I will share with you now.
“Come in,” God said to me. “So, you would like to interview me?”
“If you have the time,” I said.
God smiled and said, “My time is called eternity and is enough to do everything. What questions do you have?”
“None that are new to you. What’s the one that surprises you most about mankind?”
God answered: “That they get bored of being children and in a rush to grow up — and then long to be children again.”
God’s hands took mine and we were silent. After a long period, I said, “I have only one other question for you. As a Parent, what would you ask your children to do?”
God replied without hesitation.
“To learn that they cannot make anyone love them. What is important is who they love.
“To learn that it takes years to build trust, and only a few seconds to destroy it.
“To learn that what is most valuable is not what they have in their lives, but who they have in their lives.
“To learn that it is not good to compare themselves with others … there will always be others better off.
“To learn that a rich person is not one who has the most, but is one who needs the least.
“To learn they should control their attitudes, otherwise their attitudes will control them.
“To learn it only takes a few seconds to open profound wounds in people we love, and that it takes years to heal them.
“To learn that they may be entitled to be upset, but that doesn’t give them the right to upset those around them.
“To learn that great dreams do not require great wings, but a landing gear to achieve.
“To learn that they are masters of what they keep to themselves and slaves of what they say.
“To learn they shall reap what they plant — if they plant gossip they will harvest intrigues; if they plant love they will harvest happiness.
“To learn that happiness is a decision. They decide to be happy with what they have and who they are.
“To learn that two people can look at the same thing and see something different.
“To learn that those who don’t consider the consequences of their decisions won’t go far in life.
“To learn that true happiness is not to achieve their goals but to learn who they are through striving toward them.
“To learn that by trying to hold on to loved ones, they very quickly push them away; and by letting go of those they love, they will be side by side forever.
“To learn that there are those who love them dearly, but have a hard time saying it.
“To learn that, even though the word love has many different meanings, it loses value when it is overstated.
“To learn they can never do something extraordinary for Me to love them. I simply do.
“To learn that the shortest distance they could ever be from Me is the distance of a prayer.
If you don’t think this answers the question of what parents should give their children making the transition from child to young adult, you’re wrong.
While we are always filled with expectations, hopes and urgings, we can’t force our children to make the right decision — or any decision. We have to allow them to choose their own path and experience the consequences they will find along the way, good and bad.
It’s clear that all we can do is trust the path we’ve put our children on — all the while letting them know we’re here should they need us. And so is God.
Recently, while taking a moment to talk to God about my parenting years, I asked Him my own question: “What is the most most important quality a parent should master?”
To me, it seemed like several minutes before I was given an answer. But, of course, in His time the answer came within the thought of a heartbeat: “Forgiveness, because it is something that will forever be necessary and for a variety of circumstances. Children should learn not to be afraid to make mistakes, but also learn from those mistakes so that someday things can be made right.”
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.