"What's your biggest parenting challenge?"
That's the question I asked as I traveled the country speaking to civic, church and school organizations. And everywhere I went the answers were echoed.
As I also sorted through countless e-mails over the last four years from readers of my column, I found that two basic themes kept coming up over and over.
The biggest concerns can be divided into two major categories: relational and practical.
Parents are having trouble in this techno-era connecting with their kids. They also feel as if timeless values are under attack and they need tools they can use to fight back.
And within these two major categories - relational and practical - the particular challenges were also consistent. I kept hearing things like, "Life is busy. The modern media is teaching my kid that it's normal to have sex as a teen. The culture has my kids in their cross-hairs. I can't connect with my children. My daughter dresses like a street walker. My son is distant." Over and over you could hear the heartbreak in their hearts - the hopelessness in their voices.
I began to wonder: What happened to the joy of parenting?
Perhaps the happiest moment of a couple's life is when their precious little one is placed in their arms for the first time. Close your eyes for a few moments and try to remember. Go ahead. Stop reading and close your eyes and think about what it was like.
What emotions did you experience - what was it like? I remember being in a fog of wonder. The little person that I had felt moving inside me was now in my arms - and he had an itty-bitty nose, unique expressions, an identity all his own. As I touched his tiny fingers and toes I marveled at how both delicate and strong they were. I remember the softness of his skin. The warmth of his body. The precious cry. The utter helplessness of that baby. And I remember desperately wanting to protect him, to hold him, to make him deeply happy.
For some strange reason, God had chosen me to be the one to nurture and shape that child into an adult that could make the world a better place. It was up to me to keep him safe, to make warm lasting memories and teach him important lessons. To make him laugh, and think and learn. I was up to the challenge. I was ready - and it was a sheer delight to begin the journey. My husband also felt "the call" - and we considered it our greatest and most important role in life.