by Teressa Voltz (Woodforest, Houston)
When my oldest daughter was about eight or nine months old, she did not like to ride in the car seat. It was always a fight to get her buckled into the seat. Our car seat was a hand-me-down and was made with exposed metal buckles. One day, it was really hot and especially difficult to get her in the car seat. I remember that we struggled through screaming and thrashing around as I finally got her into the seat. She usually would calm down once buckled, but her screaming escalated. At first, I thought she was just hot and irritable, but the screams began to alarm me. When I finally took her back out of the seat, (it was only a few minutes, I promise, but seemed quite longer), she ended up having a third degree burn on the inside of her leg from those exposed buckles. As a parent, I felt like a complete failure. How could I let this happen to my child? How could I have done this to my child?
There are times, as we parent, that we all feel like failures. We ask ourselves, “how could I have done this, or not done that?” Parenting is not easy and all parents have made mistakes. What we need to remember is that even though we will make mistakes, feel discouraged, and sometimes feel grief, we must allow God to guide us and lead us as parents.
I have heard parents say, “I wish my child came with a manual.” Wouldn’t that be great, especially when they are teenagers? While we do not get a manual from the hospital or doctor when we bring our newborn home, we do have a manual, THE manual to follow as our guide. The Bible should always be our go to book when needing guidance with our children. It is so difficult today to raise children in a Christian home in the middle of a secular, evil world. As my husband and I raised our children, I remember hearing from friends and family, “you are too strict,”; “they are going to rebel when they are older,”; “you are being ridiculous.” Were we ridiculous that we did not allow our children to see R-rated movies? Were we ridiculous that we only had one television in our home and it was in the living room? Were we ridiculous that we ate as a family at the dining room table most nights? Were we ridiculous that our children couldn’t go out on a date with just the two of them until they were 16? Were we ridiculous that they couldn’t have a cell phone until they were in high school? Were we ridiculous that we had to meet the parents first before being allowed to a sleepover? Were we ridiculous that we made them change clothes before going out if we didn’t feel they were appropriate? Were we ridiculous that it was the expectation that our children went to church with us? Were we ridiculous that we got our children involved in numerous church/denominational activities? Were we ridiculous that the answer was no many times?
Ridiculous. Maybe in the world’s eyes. But we took our guidance from the Lord. We prayed about every decision and for guidance. We prayed for, with, and beside our children. Did we make mistakes? Of course, often and many. Me burning my child’s leg is just one example of hundreds we made. But we kept our focus on Christ. We didn’t compromise our convictions and the direction we felt God leading us with our children just because others made fun of us and said negative things about our parenting. It wasn’t about being friends with our children when they lived at home. It was about leading and guiding them with the convictions God gave us through the Bible and the Holy Spirit. According to Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV), we are instructed to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and might and teach this to our children.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV)
Did we get discouraged about our parenting skills? Yes. Did we question sometimes if we were doing the right thing or making the right decisions? Yes. Did we get tired of the struggle? Yes. We all do. It’s human nature and it’s Satan filling us with doubt and weariness. It was because of those times of doubt and weariness that we continually made sure that our children knew we loved the Lord no matter what.
Keep your eyes on Jesus. Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) tells us to, “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This doesn’t mean that our children will always make the best decisions and choices, but it does mean that we as parents must do our part as commanded by God. Use the best parenting manual available and continue to pray for God’s guidance as you raise His children. After all, they really aren’t ours, they belong to the Lord.