If, as the Torah says, humans are similar to trees, then parenting is a lot like gardening. You can read about it in books, but you don’t know what you’re doing until you get your hands dirty.

I don’t know of a single parent who learned toYou don't konw what you're doing until you get your hands dirty parent from a book. We can read every manual, take every workshop and attend every seminar, but when those little people holler in our ears, push our buttons and challenge us to the brink, book-knowledge fails us. These are the moments in which good parents are forged.

The only forgone conclusion when we set out to parent is that we will make mistakes. But what we do next, is up to us. We can repeat our mistakes or learn from them. There will be times when we say and do things we will be ashamed of. We will behave in ways we regret. If we learn from these moment, the first times will be our last. If we repeat them, the second time is unlikely to be the last.

So why do we take it on? Why we do we volunteer for a task that we know will try our patience, stretch our abilities and never give us a break?

Reasons to Parent

Some people get into parenting because it’s part of a dream. A husband or wife, two children, a poodle and a white picket fence. Others want children because it’s socially unacceptable not to have children. Yet others want children to bring them joy. Are any of these good reasons to bring a child into the world?

Imagine having a child for the tax breaks, or worse, to patch a loveless marriage. Would you not censure parents who think only of themselves when bringing a child into the world? Having children to give us happiness, or to fulfill a dream, or to fit in socially is just as selfish.

We have children because G‑d wants us to populate His world. Conception, pregnancy, labor and birth are not foregone conclusions. If they were, fertility would not be a multibillion-dollar industry. When our efforts are crowned with success, and we walk away with a living, breathing child, it is a miracle, an act of G‑d. And why did G‑d give us a child?

Because He wants us to populate His world. Our parents did it for us; now it is our turn to do it for our children. This means not only birthing them but also parenting them. Raising them, teaching them, loving them and empowering them. If a king gave you his child to raise, you would treat that child with reverence and make sure it lacked for nothing. We are given G‑d’s children. We can’t afford to neglect them or to take them for granted. We need to give them our very best.

We must raise G‑d’s children as He would. Presumably G‑d wouldn’t just give His children life; He would also give them love. And He would give them moral direction so they could be worthy custodians of His world. G‑d drafted us for the task. Our job is not only to love our children, but also to teach them. To guide, mentor and direct, showing them right from wrong.

Don’t be bashful and don’t feel insecure. It is true that you had no experience when you first started out and that your first child was your guinea pig. But you know you will succeed because G‑d gave you His vote of confidence. If He didn’t think you could do it, He would have found a different custodian for His child. But He chose you. It takes time, work, patience and sleepless nights, but in the end, G‑d knows you can be a good parent.

Responsibilities of Parenting

We are responsible for our children’s moral equilibrium. If we don’t teach our children right from wrong, they won’t learn. What kind of people will we have unleashed on G‑d’s world? Certainly not the kind G‑d had in mind when He entrusted us with His child.

It is much easier to feed, dress and provide for our child than to be the nagging parent who doesn’t leave well enoughOur children need parents, no buddies alone. But that is our role. Parenting means that our feelings and conveniences are irrelevant; the child is the only concern. Children are not served when we overlook their rants and raves. Children are best served when we stand our moral ground and demonstrate which behaviors are right and which are wrong.

Our children need parents, not buddies. They have plenty of pals at school. They don’t need us to fill those ranks. Parenting means confronting them when they do wrong, and showing them how to correct their mistakes. It means pointing out when others do wrong so that they see which behaviors not to emulate. It means modeling good behavior and pointing out positive qualities in others.

That, my dear friends, is parenting. It is not about taking the easy path. It is about making it easier for children when they become adults. That is our task. It is what G‑d chose us for. Bringing children into the world doesn’t cut it. Neither does housing, clothing and feeding them. Preparing them to be G‑d’s people on earth is what parenting is really about.

Let’s face it, there will be times when you decide to let something go and not make a big deal of it. Sometimes you will decide that certain fights are not worth fighting. That is okay. A parent doesn’t need to make a mountain out of every molehill. But if you decide to let something go, make the decision as a parent, as an adult considering your child’s best interests.

The (J)oys of Parenting

I can just hear your thoughts churning as you ask yourself how you will ever get your child to love you. Fear not. Parenting is filled with love.

We are our children’s entire universe. Our approval is like oxygen to them, and they crave our attention. You want yourOur children are saplings and they need structure and support children’s love? Show them some love—parental love. When your children speak, listen. And I mean really listen. Look into your children’s eyes and ask meaningful questions. Don’t rush them, and don’t make adult comments about their cute silly stories. If something is important to your child, demonstrate that it is important to you. Your child will love you.

When you come home from work, give your children a big hug and tell them you love them. When you are away, think of a gift to bring home to show your love. When you come home, put a smile on your face. For you, this is the end of an exhausting day, but for your children, it is just the beginning.

Make room for your child in your heart, and I guarantee you will be in your child’s heart.

If the Torah compares a human to a tree, then a child is a mere sapling. Saplings need guidance and support; when they wilt and tilt, they need to be propped up. When they are upright, they need water and sun. Most importantly, they need a gardener.

Our children are saplings, and they need structure and support. If they don’t get it from us, they won’t get it anywhere. They also need love and attention as a sapling needs sun and rain. Finally, they need a parent. As a fellow tree can’t help a tree; a buddy can never be a parent. Be your child’s parent. And as a parent give them structure and love.

Your children are going to come out okay. After all, their parents are pretty cool, aren’t they?