In a Deseret News article Linda and Richard Eyre introduced an article that was mostly made up of their single daughter, Charity's, blog about her adventure in parenthood. She watched her sister's three children for a week. The whole article can be found by clicking here.
What she found was the answer to why parents do what they do.
"I was sitting on the beach at San Juan Capistrano. The sun was saying good night with simple yellows and that lightest of blues. McKay, 5, was digging, silhouetted in front of the shimmering waves. Baby Cubby was sitting nuzzled to my left side, and 2-year-old Lyla stood in the sand holding my thumbs. I pumped my arms as her feet willowed into the beach and she giggled in the amber light. Her hair was wispy. Cubby's body was warm. McKay radiated the plain happiness of childhood. The hairs on my arms stood on end. The world stopped spinning. Just for a moment, just for that wildly beautiful moment, as if unable to contain such euphoria and such love."
I thank heaven that God has put into us this extraordinary but so human ability to love.
It was a fantastic, stretching, exciting, tiring, happy week.
More than anything in the whole wide world, I desire those parent moments of incalculable love. This is my greatest life ambition."
I remember back to my early teen years when my desire to be a great Father began. I started reading parenting books at that age. Oh, don't get me wrong I was reading plenty of other books including about war and secret agents and so on but I felt like it was my duty to prepare to be a father and what better time than before I was a father.
Some time after I was sixteen I heard in church that a parenting class for those who were interested was going to be held at the church so I showed up early the day of the class walked into the class room and took a seat. The two teachers, two ladies stared at me and then ask what I was doing there. I told them I was there for the parenting class that had been announced. They were flabbergasted as they glanced at each other. They said the class was for those who were already parents. I said that I felt it was best to have the class prior to being a parent in hopes some errors could be avoided. They countered with the fact that many of the parents attending had children my age and that I couldn't be in the class. I said I felt that being prepared was better than trying to fix things afterwards but they ultimately got me out of the class.
Parents fall in love with their children. I think I fell in love with my future children starting at that early age.
Now many years since I was kicked out of that parenting class and having taken graduate level classes on giving parenting classes and having taught parenting classes and counselled many parents I am convinced that one problem that exists is that some parents want to give everything and do anything for their children's benefit. When they bend and twist their love for their child in that way which allows them to warp and spoil the child that greatly harms the child's ability to mature and grow properly but also damages their ability to love and be loved in their future.
So parenting isn't just loving the child any more than "loving ice cream" is about eating as much as you can get. Parents must train and prepare the child to be functional in the future. I call this training the child to be a 'human being' rather than an animal. This requires insisting that they clean some toilets, wipe the walls that they just drew on, and have them apologize to the neighbor for putting a ball through their car windshield. These type of parenting actions are often perceived by the child to be very unloving. Training the child to respect other people as well as their property is important. Teaching them also to anticipate and respect other people's feelings is vital to their future. This starts in the home by helping them recognize their needs are not the only ones that exist and that often those needs come in conflict with scarce resources meaning some needs and wants will not be met. And the competition isn't just with siblings but with the parents, sometimes grandparents, and also in competition with the family's providing service to others. Home is the beginning of learning all these things so they can eventually fulfill their roles in society.
The goal isn't to raise a "big baby", as a friend of mine calls the youngest child no matter how old they become, but rather to prepare a human being to enjoy and add something to the world at large.
So when we have those fantastic hair standing on end moments with our own children and our hearts fill nigh to bursting with love and appreciation for them, then we need to remember the goal is not to protect and foster their childish feelings but instead to develop them into their potential.
I've had some grand moments similar to those described by Charity in her writing above. I have held my children close while I stared in their eyes or gazed at their face or heard them call me by my new name (DaDa). I have seen them in their moments of brilliance as they have made me want to cry with their talents bursting forth beyond what I ever imagined. I have experienced some moments of pure happiness as things came together in their minds and I could see they were having moments of pure inspiration that would lead to momentous growth in their life. I have thought with appreciation of the opportunity to have been an influence for good in their lives as they have become someone remarkable "on their way to heaven". I don't know how much the books helped but I know for sure that I have done nothing as important or meaningful in my life as being a Dad and Father to them. For that I am justifiably proud of myself that I am giving parenthood my best efforts.