There is an old proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child," which is as true today as when this saying was documented. Dr. Calvin Mackie, in his book, "A View From The Roof," writes about five gifts to give your children: the gift of love, the gift of affection and touch, the gift of discipline, the gift of integrity and the gift of purpose.
Those of us who were blessed with the gift of children wondered where God left His book on how to raise children because you can't give them back or trade them in because you didn't get a warranty or a 30-year guarantee. Our successes in child rearing were few, but when we had one, we never hesitated in sharing: he slept all night; here's a picture of her using the potty; we saved enough money for a babysitter and went to Taco Bell for a night out; and he can eat with a fork. At the same time, there were those need to-be-forgotten times: the school called and wants another conference; she actually passed the driver's test; I opened the door to her room without first knocking; he forgot to put oil in the motor; we had to close her savings for college to use the money for braces; and the list goes on.
In reality, there are no books, no Dr. Phil's or Dr. Spock's advice or even premonitions for things our kids just might do in the immediate or near future. Some things just seem to work out in time. however, there are gifts that must be a part of every child's life that enable that child to face the unpredictable moments when we can't be there.
Our daughter, Jennifer, is very special. Unlike the boys, she's adopted and will always be, "daddy's girl." I remember the time when we crossed the street together for the first time and I took her hand, firmly. I also remember the time when I took her hand at a busy intersection, and she turned and said, "Dad!" She was in her 30s. I blushed and told her that I guess I just forgot for a moment. She smiled, grabbed my hand and we walked across together. I still remember.
The boys were different. I don't remember the time when I moved in to hug the boys and they backed up just a tad and reached out to shake my hand. My boys had become men. I still give them a big hug when they least expect it.
The gift that Julie and I have always tried to give our children is that we are with them no matter what! Of course we got angry and we let them know we were angry and why, but we never wallowed in or drug out that anger forever and ever. We'd say, "We love you. Just don't do, say or act like that again."
I know it isn't easy, but we did our very best to never buy good behavior through gifts, or by using threats, verbal or physical abuse.
Mackie writes, "Give love in the form of time, energy and effort. We love by nurturing and supporting and that love must be physical, vocal and spiritual."
Julie and I interpret that to mean we hug those kids every time we get a chance, we speak to them, in good times and in bad times, lovingly, and we set the examples by the way we love, enjoy and cherish one another in our home and when we are in public. Yes, I realize our kids call us June and Ward Cleaver from the sitcom, "Leave it to Beaver." For clarification, Julie does not wear an apron and I do not wear a suit all day.
Is the gift of love difficult? Well, in a world of broken homes, soap operas, exaggerated expectations and entitlement, yes it is.
Let's begin with God. "For God so loved the world...!" Let me step out theologically and suggest, "For God so loved His children...! That's a pretty good way to begin!