As important as looking after our children’s physical needs is, and it is very important, even more important is making sure we teach them the gospel and give them every opportunity to learn and hear the truth. When I was a new mom, I remember all the baby magazines that inundated my home. I don’t know how all those magazines knew we had a new baby, but we had magazines in abundance with all kinds of conflicting advice and dictates about schedules and what’s best to feed the baby and breastfeeding vs. bottle and all kinds of other things pertaining to that first year. Probably the biggest guilt inducer for me was the insistence from some corners that breastfeeding is the only really best way to go, likening formula to something only slightly less offensive than putting poison into my precious baby. That is guilt inducing when you are someone like me who tried mightily to breastfeed all three of my kids, but it just never seemed to work well enough. They were hungry and never seemed satisfied until I began supplementing with formula. They needed more than I was able to give them, so, for us, formula was a huge blessing. But, to read some of the magazines, I was a failure as a mom.
It was always strange to me, also, how varied the advice would be from magazine to magazine. Some corners advocated never, ever, ever being apart from your child and sharing the same bed and playing Mozart continuously and all kinds of things. Others stressed ad nauseum the taking of much time for myself and how to look for daycare for my newborn. What I really wanted as a new mom was just some no-nonsense practical advice for loving and caring for my little one. It struck me often how very self-centered a lot of the advice was encouraging moms to be – with a pendulum swinging from one extreme of being so smothering of the child with every man-made strategy to ensure the smartest and most obnoxious kid ever (my opinion) to the other extreme of being so focused on making sure “my” needs were met that you started to wonder if some of the women writing these articles just saw children as a means to check off the accomplishment of “having a child” but didn’t really want to be bothered with the everyday stuff of motherhood they were so bent on finding ways to spend as much time as possible away from the baby, and lots of other muddled advice somewhere in the middle of those extremes.
By the time child number two and three came along, I’d learned not to put a whole lot of concern into what the secular magazines were telling me and just do what I knew was right for my own kids.
You know what? None of my kids are even going to remember whether they were breastfed or bottle fed. None of them know whether or not I played Mozart as they slept. None of them cared anything about the “educational” videos geared toward babies which were the most inane things I’d ever seen in my life. Gag me. In the long run of their lives, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that I was there. I took care of their physical needs and they thrived. I spent time with them day in and day out, changed their diapers, fed them, loved them, talked to them all the time, sang to them.
For all the ink that was spent making me feel guilty that I was not the nursing success that the breast feeding
Vastly more important is how well I teach my children on an ongoing, day to day, day in and day out basis. Much more important is whether I point them to the Savior. That is where the real focus truly needs to be. That has eternal consequences. There is no more important facet of parenting than to teach my children about Jesus and to point them to Him. It is so important that I be in the Word daily, because I cannot teach them what I don’t know and live out myself. As we rise up, as we sit down and as we walk along the way, I want to purposely be talking to them about God and His Word and His great gift of grace. They need to know that they are sinners. They need to know of Jesus’ sinless life, His death, His atonement for their sin and His glorious resurrection. They need to know the full counsel of God’s word. As parents, we have a responsibility to teach them these things. We also have a responsibility to have them in a church where these things we are teaching are reinforced, but we must not think that because we go to a great church that our responsibility ends with taking them to Sunday School. They need to see and hear what these truths mean to us and to see it lived day in and day out. And I want to be diligent to pray for them and entrust them to the One who put them in our home. This is a high calling. This is where our real focus needs to be.
Sure, it is intimidating when you are handed that little bundle and truly realize for the first time the immensity of the fact that you are responsible for this little person who is totally dependent on you. And sure, those first few years are physically demanding, and it is very important to care for their physical needs. We need good advice. But we need, even more, good advice and a teachable heart to think about the awesome responsibility we have to teach their minds and hearts, too, from the day they enter the world to the day they leave our home as adults. And even after they are grown to be available to mentor them as they mature and as they ask for advice. Being faithful to do that is a whole lot more important than where they get their milk that first year or what music was or wasn’t played or what preschool they did or did not attend. And it lasts a whole lot longer, too. And, as physically demanding as it is to be a parent, it is much more emotionally and spiritually demanding to be a good teacher and role model – consistently and day in and day out. This is a very high calling and wonderful privilege, indeed. I tremble sometimes when I think of the awesome responsibility we have as parents to make sure we teach these children well with our words and our actions. May we never grow weary or lazy in the race.