Mother’s day is a special day for me. This season I celebrate my oldest child’s 24th birthday, a very happy occasion. Part of what goes along with that is that I will celebrate the 24th anniversary of becoming a mother. It is likely the most important change I have ever faced in my life. It was bigger than getting married and bigger than ordination into ministry, and both of those were pretty big changes. But becoming a mother was something completely different. When I was expecting, people told me, “Having a baby changes everything.”
I believed them. But that is a lot like someone saying, “The Grand Canyon is a really big hole” or “It’s a long way from Juneau to Fairbanks.” If you haven’t experienced the magnitude yourself, it is hard to wrap your brain around.
I love my children very much, but parenting is hard. Tiny babies need to be fed every few hours, day and night. Little kids are really busy and get into everything. Teens have lives full of drama and helping them learn to navigate their new freedom and a responsibility really is a matter of life and death sometimes. And I am finding, now that I am the parent of young adults, that parenting never completely stops. I no longer have responsibility for my children’s day-to-day safety, but the worry is still there. When they are sick, I still feel the same concern and want to make them well. But I am not even in the same city and I can’t bring them juice and comic books.
What I want to tell you today is that I think parenting is holy work. It is holy for mothers and fathers alike. Parenting is very important. It is the hardest, but also the most important work I have ever done. When we show love to our little children, we teach them how to love others. When we treat them with fairness, we teach them the value of being fair. When we pass along our values to them, teaching them what is right and wrong, we shape how they will live in the world and the choices they will make. We help build a better future for our society by raising our children to be good people.
If you are in the trenches of this important work of parenting, I want to give you some advice. Any job this important should not be done without help. Don’t try to do this holy work in isolation. There are many good places to get support. Aunts and uncles and grandparents often provide loving family that can lend a hand. Schools are often key players in raising good citizens. Work with your child’s school and be on the same team, working for the best interest of your child. And bring them to your faith community. The choice of faith community is entirely up to you. It could be a church, fellowship, synagogue, or temple. Growing up in a religious community can give your child important gifts. There is the gift of learning your religious values. Children learn what your faith teaches about how people should treat each other and how to be in the world, and some idea that their life has meaning. That is important. What is also important is the gift of a community of folks who come together to care for each other. Knowing that the congregation is there to support them, in good times and bad, can give families a sense of security and comfort.
If you are a parent, I applaud you for the hard work you do. If you support parents, as a teacher, coach, counselor, or extended family member – cheers for you as well. They say that it takes a village to raise a child. I think that is true. Please remember that village is often enhanced by the inclusion of a religious community. Let us help you do this holy work of shaping our future by helping you with raising your children.
• Schurr is a reverend at the Juneau Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.