It was 7:50 a.m., ten minutes before school started, and I was walking with my first-grader. As we neared the school, I noticed one girl in front of us who stood out from the throngs of other girls. While the other girls glanced casually, if at all, in both directions before crossing the street, this one girl stopped and very deliberately turned her head in each direction twice before crossing.

“Wow,” I thought, “she’s a really good street-crosser!”

And at that point, I saw her turn around, smile and wave. I understood. This girl’s mother had been standing at a distance on the other side of the road. This whole time, the girl had been aware that her mother was watching her.

You might witness this scenario and think, “The girl was afraid of getting into trouble, so she paid extra attention while crossing the street.” But there is more to it. The little girl was actually in a dangerous situation (yes, carelessly crossing a street is a life-threatening situation). And what saved her from potential danger was her awareness that her mother was watching.

This scenario wasn’t only about a fear of being punished; it was about a child experiencing safety because of her mother’s presence. The girl smiled and waved to her mother because she was happy that her mother was watching her. It was clear that she experienced her mother’s supervision as coming from a place of caring and loving.

There is a famous story in the Torah about Joseph’s moral fortitude. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, so they they threw him into a pit and then sold him into slavery. Eventually, Joseph became a slave to an Egyptian man named Potiphar. At one point, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, but he ran away from her.

Why did Joseph run away? The Midrash explains that when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, the image of his father Jacob appeared to him, saving him from spiritual danger.

What an awesome responsibility it is to be a parent! Do we have any idea? Looking back at my life, at all the joys and all the challenges, I can tell you that the happiest day of my life was when I gave birth and became a mother. It was also the day when my mission in life changed forever. And what exactly is involved in the mission?

Our job as parents is not just to provide our children with food, clothing and shelter. The mission is not just about bedtimes, brushing teeth or teaching our children good manners. The mission is deep and enormous. It has to do with protecting them from physical and spiritual danger. It is about blessing them, and loving them, and encouraging them.

“Mommy, look!” How many times do my children ask me to watch as they cross the monkey bars?

“I’m watching!” I tell them. “I see you!” Yes, they need to know that I see and that I care.

The mission of a parent is enormous and wonderful, and it starts with us making sure that our children know that we are watching them and are with them. And I mean really with them, not just nodding as they speak while your head is in one place, your hands in another, and your heart in a third. It’s a physical mission and a spiritual mission.

The other day, I was walking with my three-year-old son and my six-year-old daughter. My son asked me, “Where’s Hashem (G‑d)?”

Before I could answer, my daughter replied, “He’s everywhere.”

“YES!” I wanted to scream with joy. She gets it. Just as we are with them and watching over them, so is G‑d watching over us. If a little girl is more careful crossing the street because she knows that her mother cares and is watching, all the more so will our children be careful of spiritual and physical dangers when they know how much G‑d watches over them and cares about them.

It is an awareness that we have the power to instill in our children.