The Psalmist of the Bible tells us, “Children are a heritage of the Lord…. Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them.” If ancient King David is anything like me, he grinned when he wrote that, for the thought of having a quiver-full of kids makes me, well, quiver. Providing a safe place for our children, and the food and clothing that go along with it, can be a terrifying responsibility. Even worse, raising a child to be a self-sufficient, functioning and productive member society can be overwhelming. Having had five children of my own, I have learned by my own experience the roller coaster ride that being a parent can be. My family has been the center of the greatest highs in my life; they have also been at the center of my deepest lows.
Most of us go into marriage and starting a family not fully appreciating the patience, kindness, long-suffering and wisdom raising children requires. The problem of being a parent is, by the time you are trained well enough to do the job effectively, you are essentially unemployed (although I realize you never stop being a parent, even after your kids leave home). And often, as we are in the middle of our on the job training, we feel like Allyson in Mom’s Night Out,* a total failure as a parent – that we just aren’t good enough. But we are. Although a bit preachy, I love the message of this clip:
My in-laws had six kids and a plaque on their wall that said, “Before I got married I had six different theories about raising children. Now I have six kids—and no theories.” My wife and I feel pretty much the same way. Although our five children have some similarities, there are also great differences among them. I sometimes wonder how five children, all raised in the same environment, can be so different. In short, our children come pre-wired. They have minds of their own. So I try to be philosophical. I’ve tried, as a parent, to teach them things I feel are important for them to succeed, but I try not to take the blame if they do things that I consider not to be so smart. But the opposite is also true. I don’t feel like I can take credit for any of the good things they do.
So in this post I won’t throw out any theories on how to best raise children; there are entire sections in libraries and bookstores that attempt to tackle that subject. Instead, let me share two simple truths about children:
Truth No. 1: As Arnold Glasow said it, “The best thing to spend on children is your time.” Or as my wife would say, “It doesn’t matter what we do as long as we’re together.” The movie, Chef** tells of how a father takes a road trip in a food truck to recapture his passion for cooking, but more importantly, to reconnect with his son by working together:
By playing together (just hanging out):
And by learning from each other:
And when it comes to all things technological, who better to learn from than our own children?
Truth No. 2: Love all your children all the time. When they need it, and when they deserve it. My children are far from perfect—just like their dad. I hope my children feel my love for them, even when they sometimes do what I consider to be foolish.
In Silver Linings Playbook,*** after a stint in a mental institution due to his bipolar disorder, adult son, Pat, moves back into his parents’ home. In this, one of my favorite scenes from the movie, Pat’s father, tries to help his son, even though he’s not quite sure how. So he tries to connect through something they both have in common, a love of football:
The important thing is Pat, Sr. never gives up on his son.
A young woman once wrote about the continuous heartache her brother had caused her parents. He got involved in drugs. He resisted all efforts at control and discipline. He was deceitful and defiant. Ultimately, he got caught with drugs by the police and finally forced to face the consequences of his actions. For two years his parents supported her brother in his treatment program, both economically and morally, which ultimately brought about his eventual recovery from his addiction. In summary, this young woman wrote:
“I think my parents are extraordinary. They never wavered in their love for [my brother], though they disagreed with and even hated what he was doing to himself and to their family life. But they were committed enough to their family to support [my brother] in any way necessary to get him through the tough times and onto more solid ground.”
So love your kids when they make you proud. But more importantly, love them when they don’t. And the corollary is just as important. Don’t judge other parents by what their children may sometimes do.
Hopefully, you’ll find more highs than lows when it comes to your children. In the final analysis, I hope that you can agree with George Banks in Father of the Bride Part II,**** that life doesn’t get any better than this:
Let’s tip our caps to all those parents and grandparents who spend time with their children or grandchildren, and love them regardless. And if you happen to have a parent or grandparent who exemplify these two truths, give thanks – especially to them.
*Mom’s Night Out
Production: Affirm Films, FourBoys Entertainment and Provident Films
Directed: Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin
Screenplay: Jon Erwin and Andrea Nasfell
Starring: Sarah Drew, Sean Austin and Patricia Heaton
Release Date: May 9, 2014
Production: Aldamisa Entertainment and Kilburn Media
Directed: Jon Favreau
Screenplay: Jon Favreau
Starring: Jon Favreau, Robert Downey, Jr. and Scarlett Johansson
Release Date: May 30, 2014
***Silver Linings Playbook
Production: The Weinstein Company
Directed: David O. Russell
Screenplay: David O. Russell (based on the book by Matthew Quick
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro
Release Date: November 16, 2012
****Father of the Bride Part II
Production: Sandollar Productions, Taylor-Made Productions and The Meyers/Shyer Company
Directed: Charles Shyer
Screenplay: Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer
Starring: Steve Martin, Diane Keaton and Martin Short
Release Date: December 8, 1995