Parent Like the Good Shepherd
by Linda S. Clare
Ah, toddlerhood. My eighteen-month-old grandson, Amon Patrick, streaks past my daughter and me, eager to stuff pebbles into his mouth or toss a cell phone in the toilet. His mommy does her duty, fishing the rocks out or drying the cell on the bed of uncooked rice. “I can’t believe how fast he is!”
He falls and skins his knee. She turns to me as if I am the Fountain of Parental Wisdom. “Oh no! I hope he doesn’t get infected.” Her brow furrows. “You think he needs to see the doctor?”
I smile instead and gently pick him up. “Sweetie, I really think he’s OK. He skinned his knee.” I grab the back of his shirt so he can’t run away. “But you’re right—boy is he ever fast.”
She’s not convinced. “But I saw it on my online MommyGroup. A scratch like that can be serious!”
“Let’s wash it with soap and water first.” I won’t lecture my daughter. She’s already teased about her hyper-vigilance. She’s not (I hope!) a helicopter parent. But she does seem to suffer from First-time Mom Syndrome.
In the twenty-first century, parents can access more information than ever. We can track an unborn baby’s growth, from smaller than a raisin all the way to bigger than a watermelon. Hundreds of websites and forums provide more advice than a village full of midwives. But with so many voices, it’s less clear if first-time moms and dads are always better off.
The Internet is a marvelous thing—until it strikes fear into the heart of a first-time parent. That rash, swelling, stuffy nose or colicky crying can be a scary experience. New parents quickly learn they are often helpless to right whatever is wrong. And even the pediatrician often says the baby will simply “grow out of” a symptom in search of a diagnosis. While the Internet can be a valuable and life-saving aid in some cases, most new parents are sleep-deprived and unsure. An ominous conclusion found on the Internet can terrify parents into midnight runs to the ER with an infant who is just teething.
Whether it’s colic or a true emergency, new moms and dads can always call upon the Lord’s strength, comfort and wisdom in order to think more rationally and stay calm. At the very least, new parents need a strong spiritual network of support in their baby’s early months and years. And after a while, parents need to have confidence in order to let their toddlers skin a knee every now and then.
The Rod or a Shepherd’s Crook?
Since I ended up doubling my number of children overnight with the birth of surprise twins, I really needed advice. Back then, many moms thought we should only use the book of Proverbs to “train up” our children, using a liberally application of “the rod” (in my case a wooden spoon) to avoid spoiling. I sometimes wonder how well my generation did, though. If anything, today people seem to feel more entitled than ever. So when it comes to my grandson, I can’t help spoiling and I’m not sure a wooden spoon is the most effective child “trainer.” Maybe a better idea is to read what Jesus says about children and love. If we respect them yet set firm boundaries like a good shepherd, maybe the rod isn’t as necessary.
The Least Among Us
It’s easier than ever to compare your baby’s development with online growth charts, milestones and anecdotal evidence. A baby who walks at eight and a half months looks superior to the kid who’s still crawling at 16 months. An early talker, sitter, roller or smiler makes some parents think they’ve birthed a genius. And with toys such as Baby Einstein out there, the competition and pressure can be daunting. But Jesus warned against comparison. When the disciples asked Him who the “best” among them was, he said they were missing the point. In fact, Jesus challenged the world to reorder its comparisons. Instead of rewarding or praising accomplishments, he asks us to use a different yardstick: that of Love.
When I picture Jesus as a shepherd, I see someone in charge who gives me boundaries but also loves us unconditionally. We can be the same kind of shepherd for our children. The kind of Love Jesus asks of parents—first-time moms and grandmoms alike—is to be a vigilant shepherd and allow our children to skin their knees now and then.
Linda S. Clare is the author of women’s fiction, including The Fence My Father Built (Abingdon 2009) and A Sky without Stars (Abingdon 2014). She teaches writing at a community college and for George Fox University and lives in the Northwest with her family and three wayward cats. Visit her at www.Lindasclare.com or connect at www.facebook.com/Lindaclarebooks or @Lindasclare on Twitter.
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