trying with kids

I've been applying my recent thoughts on intention to some issues and concerns of parenting. From what I hear from friends who are parents, and from my own worries as I consider having a child, it seems that we tend to have a lot of concern about how our children "turn out." In other words, the results of our parenting efforts. I've heard friends worried that they're not doing a good job, because of the frustrating behavior of their children. And I find it daunting to think of putting so much time and energy into nurturing a child when I see what happens to so many of them when they take their lives into their own hands. The statistics are not encouraging. And then there's the overwhelming grief when a child dies, and it seems all the parents' efforts and hopes come to nothing.

Not that all this is the right way to think about parenting, it's just the way we often seem to think about it. It seems to me that the focus on intention, the focus on our trying to do well, and seeing value in the trying, even when we fail, is a much better approach. And also closer to how God sees it. Our attempts to try to respond well as a parent, for the good of the child, in themselves are valuable. Even if the child rejects those attempts. Even if we fail because of lack of resources or lack of ability. And even if we have not acted well towards our child so often in the past, so they have learned bad behaviors that won't be easily (or perhaps ever) corrected, it is still valuable to try to do better now or try to correct our previous faults. Because it's not the result that is primarily important, not "how the kid turns out," but that we're trying to love them, which is in fact loving them.

I think that's backed up psychologically as well. Children can recognize the love in a parent's trying to help, even when the trying is weak or mistaken or fails. And I think the child appreciates the trying most of all. What is worst is when the parent stops trying, gives up on the child, that is what is dreaded most deeply. If the parent is still trying, the children know the parent still loves them.

And as parents we can be sure that our trying will never come to nothing, no matter what happens to the child in the future. The goodness, the value, exists in the trying itself, in the love that connects us with God and with one another. And that love is never lost, because it is God, the Eternal. When we try to love our child, it is an act of faith by which we touch God and God touches us and our child.