Did you know that being a parent is hard? It's full of mixed emotions, joys and defeats. It's quite overwhelming sometimes, but most would say it's worth the effort.
That's because children help us remember where we came from. A world without children is a world without a future.
A favorite movie of mine, "Children of Men," illustrates what a world without any births would be like. In this film, tensions, wars and paranoia become widespread, and the point seems to be that the joys children bring, and the disarming nature of the young, are at the root of sanity and stability of every generation. Hope is lost when children are not born, and there's no one to protect. Our ability to see the world as a better place withers when there are no generations beyond today's.
The relationship between parent and child is not severable, because we do not choose our parents. The bond exists regardless of possible attempts to cut it off -- sometimes through tears and hard circumstances.
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If our identity is a collection of
stories, experiences and images from our past, then how we are raised makes us who we are. We are at all times either an extension or reaction to the lives we lived in the shadows of those who care for us. This fact both comforts and
bothers me as I think of starting my own family -- the responsibility is a weight that often has me thinking of quieter times.
Being a youth minister, I think about parents a lot. I see how teens grow and how they care about their families. Even as they push away from the closeness they received in childhood, they still desire the safety of a relationship with those who brought them up. It is an unsaid desire in adolescence: "While I become who I am, I still want you to worry about me."And if there is no worry in parenting, then I assure you "parenting" isn't happening.
Have you ever seen your child run away for a minute, only to see them look back for a second, then continue? That's safety. You are their point of beginning, and that comfort allows them to explore confidently in a world full of chaos.
I think of the time when Mary and Joseph were visiting Jerusalem, as told in the Scriptures. They did what many parents have done accidentally -- began their journey home, leaving their son behind. An ancient version of "Home Alone," perhaps: "Jerusalem Alone," starring Jesus, then a child.
Mary and Joseph were worried out of their minds, maybe even embarrassed. Imagine all the frenzy they went through to get back to Jerusalem to find their son. And they found him -- at the Temple steps talking about the things of God with the people there.
When they saw Jesus, they told him how worried they were. He pushed back with a comment about already being home, but I imagine even the son of God felt good knowing his earthly mother and father, his caretakers, were worried and hurried back to make sure he was safe.
Living with future generations is not easy. The cultures of two generations are often hard
to bridge, but I am so
glad there are people willing to make the sacrifices it takes.
To all the families out there: Your nurture, your worries, your admonitions, your tears, your hopes, your work and all the stories you tell raising children -- it makes all the difference as the world figures out what it wants to be.
Daniel Griswold is director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.