Read an Excerpt
A Word of Introduction
"What have you learned from your own experiences and from counseling parents? What should I have done differently? I have young children. If your children were small again, what would you do?"
These words burst from a troubled father sitting across from me. His eyes searched for help. He was suffering the awful, empty, death-like feeling of a father whose son has strayed. He felt he had failed as a parent.
This father's words stay with me. Although they came to me in a direct, blunt way that day, they are not the words of a lone parents. In them are the questions that are uppermost in the minds of all mothers and fathers who take parenthood seriously.
What has experience taughtme?/ What has some experience in counseling given me? What insights and feelings have I gathered? And where would I place the emphasis if my children were small again?
In answer to the father who sat across the desk I've jotted down my reflections. I've added a thought or paragraph now and again as one has come to me. Like most important experiences in life, these ideas are not new or great. Nor are they difficult to remember.
I write as a father because much of what I have to say comes from my own life. I hope mothers don't find this too limiting and are able to find applicable ideas here as well! I intend this collection to be useful for all parents.
These simple suggestions, I believe, can make relationships with our children more meaningful. They can help shape the future of our children more than big things that demand a great deal of time and exceptional ingenuity. They are things that God has made so simple that all parents can practice them if they will.
What I offer here is what I wish I had realized more fully at the start of my own family. These remain goals toward which I seek to move. If what I share here can be a small stimulus to parents just beginning, or can become a fresh nudge to more established families, my purpose will be fulfilled.
Chapter 1 -- I Would Love My Wife More
If I were starting my family again, I would love the mother of my children more. That is, I would be freer to let my children know that I love their mother. It is so easy, in the closeness of a family life, to assume love, to take one another for granted, and in so doing to let a dullness creep in that can dampen the deepest love.
After I spoke on family relationships to a large group of parents, a father said to me, "If I understood you this evening, you said the greatest thing I can do for my children is to love their mother. Is that correct?"
"Yes," I replied, "you are right. And the greatest thing a mother can do for her children is to love her husband."
When a child knows its parents love each other, that child experiences security, stability, and a sacredness about life that it can gain in no other way. That child will also find a joy in relationships that it can realize by no other means. A child who knows its parents love each other needs little explanation about the character of God's love or the beauty of sex. And when mother and father smile in love, the child will smile back at them and at the surrounding world. The love a child feels between father and mother flows freely to that child and prepares that child to recognize real love in all future relationships.
To let my children know I love their mother I would seek to be more faithful in doing little things for her. True love is visible. I would show special kindnesses such as doing more of my share of the housework, giving her little gifts on special occasions, and writing her love letters when I'm away from home. I would take her hand as we stroll in the park or woods. And I would whisper loving words about her in the ears of my children.
To show my love I would plan more special times to be together with my wife. I remember the times the two of us went out for dinner or a concert or to relax for an evening by the lake. That love shared by us alone was not felt by us only. When we returned, the children had sometimes decorated the dining room table or placed a large Welcome Home sign to greet us, or prepared a short drama which they performed for us. They felt a love between their father and mother that they wanted to share.
I remember also when, as the children became older, they/ planned special times for their mother and me to take a break from work and spend time together. "You and Mom go away tonight, and we will stay at home," they said.
I now see more clearly than ever that when children see a close relationship of love between their mother and father, their love is enlarged and they are able, in turn, to also produce the best of life's joys and pleasures. I am persuaded that probably nothing gives children so great an inner reserve of joy and peace as when they feel and see their parents' love for each other. On the other side, children who live with conflict, or in the suspicion that their parents do not love each other, develop ulcers and upset stomachs.
I now know that there is a close relationship between parents' love for each other and their child's love, obedience, and caring. When mother and father join hands as they walk, the child also joins hands. And when mother and father walk separately, the child is slow to join hands with anyone.
I know that parenthood is passing. Children will soon be grown and gone. But the partnership of husband and wife is permanent. So their courtship must continue. If we keep the permanent in good repair and growing, the passing will unfold with comparative ease. But if we fail in the partnership of marriage, the problems of parenthood become almost insurmountable.
Does all this sound too sentimental? Then I'm persuaded that we need a lot more of such sentimentalism. A big part of the problem for many couples is that they often experience too much sentiment before marriage and too little following their wedding. And nothing is more important for the future well-being of parent or child than the deep, abiding, visible love of father and mother for each other.