For all the madness, chaos, exhaustion, and frustration we all will agree – parenting is worth it.
Watching my son beam with excitement when the lightbulb goes off in math draws clarity out of madness. Praying for God to mold their hearts brings a peace that stills chaos. Hearing about one of them treating a needy child with respect ushers in energy that overcomes exhaustion. Laughing with them creates joy that dwarfs frustration. Oh yea, parenting is worth it.
At times I get so caught up in the day-in-day-out minutia of parenting that I forget to ask the million dollar question, “What is the purpose of parenting?” It is good to step back and ask again, “Why are we doing this? What are we ultimately trying to accomplish in the time they will be under our roof?” Some of the brightest minds (click on their names for their bio’s) chime in on the subject:
Dr. Phil Dembo writes, “I believe that the goal of parenting must be to raise children to develop as a fully engaged person who is able to navigate through their own experience while feeling comfortable in their own skin. The goal of parenting must be to raise children who are able to self-regulate in the world around them, especially in a world that is becoming more and more detached and self-absorbed.”
John R Brauer penned, “Our primary job is to put ourselves out of a job. Essentially, as parents we have 18 years to teach a child to become a self-sufficient, fully functioning, contributing adult member of society.”
Lori Gottlieb moderated the panel of Erika Christakis, Amy Chua, Larry Cohen, and Ellen Galinsky at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival. To say these folks are accomplished is an understatement. Lori started out the panel discussion with this, “So before this morning I asked all of the panelists what they thought the goal of parenting was. And they all gave me these very thoughtful, articulate responses that sounded like what they should want is helping children have focus and self-control, learn to take the perspectives of others, make connections, learn to take on challenges, I could go on and on…Everybody had these very smart responses but then when I asked, well, what did they want for their own kids they all basically said, I just want them to be happy.”
We’re just scratching the surface of opinions on this question. There are facets of truth in all of the responses above. How we define “fully engaged, fully functioning, happy, etc.” determines our understanding of the purpose of parenting. While I do not wish to disagree with any of them, I don’t think those answers are quite sufficient. They don’t go deep enough. They don’t get to the heart of the God’s expressed purpose for parenting. Which brings us to the point: God’s purpose for Parenting.
Malachi 2:15, “And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.” The purpose of parenting is godly children. The purpose is not well-behaved, fully engaged, fully functioning, happy, successful children. Those are byproducts. They are not evil or shallow. They are results. Of course we want that and more for our kids! It is good to want that for those we love the most. After all, God wants all of those things for us. He promises we will ultimately possess all of them in the life to come…but not necessarily now. For now we are to start on what we’ll do for all eternity – knowing and enjoying God.
Psalm 78:5-7, “He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” This is the goal. One generation passing on to the next the experiential knowledge of God gleaned from obedience to Him. The goal is children who are obedient because of a love relationship with the living, breathing God of the universe. The aim is children who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good; who have put their hope in Him; and who walk and talk with the Savior. Anything less is too shallow.