I believe that one of the most important, rewarding, things that can be done to help the world we live in, is to bring new life into it and care for that life properly. There are many noble professions that labor to improve the lives of others. The medical profession works to save and improve the quality of life. Teachers dedicate many hours preparing young people to take their place in the world as productive citizens. Environmentalists work to protect our world and keep it livable. Massive amounts of new technology fill the markets with timesaving, convenience creating, life improving devices.
Sometimes it seems that the career most overlooked, maybe because it doesn’t advance ones financial situation, is that of creating the life that so many seek to improve the quality of. Maybe another reason, besides the lack of monetary reward, could be the length of time it takes to see the result of ones work. Not many people plant acorns; they may not be around to enjoy the mature oak tree. In our fast paced world of “have it now” mentalities, waiting for twenty five or thirty years to hear “Wow! Dad and Mom, you weren’t such bad parents after all!” or “This parenting thing is tough; I don’t know how you did it.” isn’t perceived to be worth the wait.
In parenting, paydays don’t come at regular intervals, but they do come. Holding a sleeping infant in your arms, knowing that you helped give them life, contemplating their immense potential. Seeing your child share or sacrifice something they want to make someone else happy. Watching your children develop their talents and abilities. Witnessing them struggling in difficult situations and then making really good decisions, handling themselves with maturity and wisdom. When your offspring grow up and make the world a better place as they spread across the earth, you know it was all worth it.
As my children, one by one, take their place in the world, I can’t imagine anything more rewarding or fulfilling. As they start their own families, struggling to support and raise them while getting their education, I remember our start nearly thirty years ago. One is trying to get accepted to dental school while chasing a two year old, hoping his wife can get a little sleep after being up most of the night with the new baby.
Another is taking independent study courses while she cares for three children, runs them to dance, violin lessons and play groups. Another is trying to start his own business, keep up his grades and be prepared for their first baby.
I remember the struggles we went through in our early years, financially, physically and emotionally. I think of the many problems we have solved together that have made us stronger. I reflect on the ups and downs, the laughter and joy, the tears and frustrations. I think about the sleepless nights, the smelly diapers, illnesses and injuries. Now as our little oak tree is beginning to branch out, I see that it is worth everything it has taken to get here.
As I reflect on the effort required of me, I appreciate the many sacrifices my parents made in my behalf. Their patience and careful nurturing have influenced how I raise my own children. They had seven children and we were not wealthy; but I never felt deprived of anything. My favorite gifts from them are my brothers and sisters. They are such good examples to me, so talented and wise. In writing this, I felt I had to take a break to call my mom and thank her again for being so wonderful. My dad passed away two years ago and I wish I could thank him again. From the seven little acorns they dropped, now sprouted, grown and dropping acorns of their own, come dentists, lawyers, engineers, medical technicians, construction contractors, CPAs, pilots, speech therapists, musicians, mechanics, teachers, and on and on.
Sometimes Dad felt sad that he never graduated from college, that he wasn’t able to make more of an impact on the world. He set an example of service for his children in his dealings with his neighbors, coworkers and anyone that was in need. With his children and grandchildren serving their fellow man in Korea, Philippines and Guam, as well as several states; his impact on the world is not trivial.
As I take my reflections back another generation, I remember the days I spent with my grandmother. Anyone in my small hometown that became ill or had a new baby received a pot of soup and a loaf of fresh baked bread from her. And in the case of new baby, a homemade flannel blanket was included with dinner. She made most of my school dresses as well as dresses for school dances. At the end of a day spent with her I walked home with a new dress over my arm and my heart full because of the love, stories and good advice she showered me with through the day.
I make many mistakes. I still have so much to learn about parenting. But I have a good solid background of example to draw from. My parents, grandparents, neighbors and my own children are all good examples to me with good advice to offer. We are not alone in the struggle to be good parents. Help is all around us. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to give our children everything. But they do need our most valued commodity, our time. They need to know that they are more important to us than any of the myriad of other things demanding our time.
Sometimes parenting is viewed as a side job, rather than the chief occupation. Earning the money needed to provide for a family should be the means to an end. That end being: producing well adjusted, fully functioning, happy, productive citizens in the various communities wherever they go. Parenting isn’t for everyone, but those who undertake this vital responsibility should take it seriously. If we devote ourselves to the fundamental responsibility of parenting, the rewards far outweigh the costs. The stock market may crash, there will be natural disasters, you may be dying of cancer, or you may be disabled from a horrible accident through no fault of your own, but your influence will be felt for generations to come and the world will be a better place because you were in it.
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