Earth. After about 20 years of on-the-job training, we begin to figure out what
it is all about. By then it’s time to let go and pretend we don’t care any more.
Added to these difficulties are our own personal problems, which can include
marital conflict or divorce, physical illnesses, financial pressures and the
other cares of living. Our unmet needs, such as those experienced by single
parents, can also lead us into behavior that will later seem terribly foolish.
Do I sound as though I’m whining here? I hope not. I’m simply attempting to
articulate the challenges that can accompany parenthood and the particular
discomfort that occurs for parents of strong-willed children when they begin to
feel they have botched the assignment. (The parents of compliant children may
not fully understand this emotional reaction, although there is usually enough
related stress to affect everybody.)
Despite the discouraging moments, it is my firm conviction that bearing and
raising children is worth everything it costs us. Along with the difficulties
come the greatest joys and rewards life has to offer.
How could that be true? How can the very thing that brings us anxiety and
stress be the source of such happiness and fulfillment? There is an obvious
contradiction here that bears consideration.
Christian writer and apologist C.S. Lewis tried to express the indescribable
pain that he experienced when he lost his wife to cancer. He would not have been
so devastated by her passing, he said, if he had not allowed himself to love her
with all his heart.
In the movie Shadowlands, based on this period of Lewis’ life, he wondered if
it would have been better never to have loved at all, and thereby to have
avoided the risk of losing the woman he adored. It would certainly have been
“safer” to live in a fortress, protecting himself from disappointment and grief
by remaining emotionally detached and uncaring.
Lewis considered these responses to sorrow and decided that in the end, love
is worth the risk. This is the way he penned his conclusion:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will
certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it
intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it
carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries … lock it up safe in the
casket or coffin of your selfishness.
“But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will
not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable … The
only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers
of love is hell!” Then Lewis added this concluding thought: “Why love if losing
hurts so much? We love to know that we are not alone.”
Doesn’t this insight speak eloquently of the pain associated with parenthood?
It certainly does to me. This is what bearing and raising children comes down
to. Loving those we have borne is risky business, but it is a venture that
brings great joy and happiness. Even though there are often trials and tears
associated with the challenge, it is a noble journey.
We as parents are given the privilege of taking the raw materials that
comprise a brand-new human being and then molding him or her day by day into a
mature, disciplined, productive and God-fearing adult who will live with us in
eternity. Doing that job right, despite its setbacks and disappointments, is
surely one of the greatest achievements of our lives.
In his Bringing Up Boys Parenting Videos, Dr. Dobson shares principles for
raising boys from his decades of expertise. This self-directed program includes
four DVDs and an accompanying workbook that will equip parents and youth leaders
to steer the boys they care about toward confident, responsible manhood.
To request your copy visit family.org/resources.
Dr. James Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit
organization Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, CO 80995; or
www.family.org). Material is excerpted from The Complete Marriage and Family
Home Reference Guide and Bringing Up Boys, both published by Tyndale House.