Parenting is a paradox. While we will need to give an account for what we have been entrusted with, the final product is not fully in our control. We are called to be good stewards, making a return on our children by putting our best foot forward. At the same time, there is freedom in releasing ultimate responsibility for our children into the hands of the Lord, who loves them more than we do. Even in the best of parenting situations, there are some inevitable and humbling gaps that God alone can fill.
The first gap is our own brokenness.
Because of sin, ignorance, illness, trauma, blind spots, and family dynamics, there is no such thing as perfect parenting. We are a work-in-progress and may, unfortunately, parent from these unresolved negatives. No one wants to make parenting mistakes or pass on deficiencies, but we all do - to one degree or another. It’s a matter of self-forgiveness and reducing the impact of our brokenness.
The second gap is their freedom. The free will of each human person is a mystery with consequences. Contemporary life includes discoveries that make life better and expand our vision of the world as well as a multiplicity of false ideologies and harmful addictions that bring desolation. The choices our children make over a lifetime may or may not reflect our values. We cannot be there, in the recesses of their souls, when they are faced with crucial decisions - but God can and is.
These “gaps” may be a reality but they are not an excuse. Parenting to the best of our ability is beyond important for so many reasons. The future of our world and our Church depend on it as does happiness here and in eternity. The Church teaches that parents are the primary educators of their children. In other words, parenting warrants ongoing discernment and action, to the extent something is under our control and ability to change. Our responses to the following questions may indicate where we can grow in responsible parenting.
Are my priorities in order (God, spouse, children, work, etc.)? If we can only give what we have, how is God calling me to pursue conversion, education, healing, and generosity? Do I have radical trust and security in God or is my parenting fear-based and failures personalized? Is my marriage healthy enough to model God’s love and parent from? Am I at peace with schooling options (public, Catholic, home-school, daycare, etc.)? In light of eternity, are my children “getting” the faith? Since grace builds on nature, are my children receiving a well-rounded formation? Do I stay close to and pray for my children, even if they are adults? Do I embrace the unique plan God has for my own family and respect that of others?
Each child placed in our care deserves to be treasured, nurtured, and protected - keeping in mind that there is only one Savior to fill in the “gaps,” and it’s not us. The parenting paradox means doing our best and then letting God do the rest. In short, with responsibility comes great accountability and with humility comes great freedom.