Jon and I walked through the door labeled “Parenthood” in our early twenties, having been married three years and seeing it as the next logical and casual step. If we could have had the thirty years’ worth of hindsight we have now, we might have chickened out altogether (I’m glad we didn’t), or at least entered parenthood appropriately shaking in our boots. I don’t think we realized our own inadequacy or the solemn responsibility of keeping another human being alive—let alone teaching them all they need to know to become independent, law-abiding citizens.
In retrospect, we appreciate not only how immense the task, but how valuable the treasure of other adults’ involvement in our kids’ lives. Where would we be were it not for grandparents, aunts, and uncles willing to step in for baby-sitting duty in those early years when a short break for a date or a nap felt like the difference between life and death? Where would we be without Sunday School volunteers who reinforced the lessons we felt ill equipped to teach? Without the teachers and coaches who put in untold hours of paid and unpaid time, building into our kids? Without youth leaders during the years when we parents were the stupidest people on earth? Without other parents who welcomed our noisy and messy kids into their homes, demonstrating healthy relationships in the midst of normal family conflicts and chaotic schedules? We’ll never know the full impact others have made, but we are eternally grateful for it.
Several years ago, I accepted the opportunity to influence 16 high school students by teaching their drama class. With three teachers in my family and a passion for all things theatrical, you’d think this would have been a natural fit. Not so. Frankly, teenagers frightened, annoyed, and bewildered me. But others were investing in my kids. Perhaps God was nudging me to do the same by sharing some of the knowledge He’d granted me over the years.
Two months in, I not only felt frightened, annoyed, and bewildered, but I could add frustrated, impatient, and tired to the list.
But a strange thing had happened. I began to care about these kids! In addition to making me tear my hair out, they made me laugh. Along with their noisy nonsense, they demonstrated incredible creativity. My prayers evolved from “God, help me!” to genuine prayers for their needs.
Near the end of the year, I received a note from one of the students who seemed least interested. It said, “Thank you for telling me that I can do it! Yes, in the end I did do it. I’m glad I was put up on stage. It helped me out a lot. Thanx.”
Who’da thunk it? I had actually influenced a young person for good! Perhaps the biggest accomplishment was, along with the relief when the dismissal bell rang each day, I gained a new appreciation for full-time teachers and all they invested in the lives of these and my own kids.
Working with youth will never be my number one gift, but I am confident of two things: first, every one of us can make at least a small investment in our greatest natural resource—our children. Second, it really does take a village to raise a child.
Teachers, as you prepare for a new school year, may you feel the support of that village in every way required. God bless you!
|Part of the village that helped raise me.|