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Effective Parenting -  Cycles of Life

Zenas Sykes

May - The Character building for the month is Self Discipline - mental, moral and physical training in order to improve ourselves. The Activity for the month is Play - to keep our inner child active!

One by one, their postures so straight, so tall; their heads proudly looking straight ahead; smiles on every one of those little faces; dressed in their best Sunday outfits, the 5 and 6 year olds moved slowly to the center of the stage. A few of the more shy ones glanced nervously around. Although, really, there was no need for being nervous at this moment. All the children had been up on this stage in the past and had seen the sea of smiling faces out in the crowd before! Why, it wasn't that long ago that they had been up here singing their hearts out in the Easter program. And not too far beyond Easter was the Christmas show, where having dressed up in the clothing of the era, they all stood on this very stage to celebrate the new baby King Jesus.

Yes, all of their families, including parents, brothers, sisters and even grandparents , had shown up to share in this moment on stage. But this moment was different. Very different. For this time these 5 and 6 year olds were on stage to celebrate their own achievement. This was their time to shine! A cycle of life had reached its zenith! They had each spent what seemed like an eternity improving their minds. Learning about A and B and C, not to mention x and y and z. Knowing how many were 1 and 2 and 3. And the difference between red and orange and yellow and gold and indigo and blue and violet. Lessons about sharing with others, washing your hands after you go to the bathroom, holding hands when crossing the street, remembering to say please and thank you, being kind, respecting your parents, saying your prayers before meals and going to bed, and most of all, taking time to smile some each day. Lessons from kindergarten that we so easily forget. Simple lessons that when used on a daily basis give all of us a moment to shine at our best.

With all the improvements to their little minds, each of them was taking their next step. They were graduating for the very first time! No more being known simply as . . . .. "the kinderkids," they were now off to BIG KID school. First grade was waiting for them! Now was their time to take center stage, walk to the podium, adjust the microphone and announce what their life's work would be. I am not sure who needed the reassurances more, the graduating class, or their parents out in the audience. "Will my child be able to stand up there in front of this crowded auditorium and tell us what is in their heart?" , was in the thoughts of every parent.

"A Fireman," was the response from the first in line, chosen to be first in line because his last name started with an "A." Next came "a kindergarten teacher," "a scientist," "a balloon man," "a nurse," "a doctor," " a dentist," "a zookeeper," but the crowd came unglued when in the tiniest of voices, a very proud little girl, stood up to the microphone and spoke eloquently. . "When I grow up, I am going to be a mommy!" Oh if you could only have seen the face of her proud mother sitting out there in the audience. First it was a gasp, then, with hands clasped over her mouth, a slow glistening in her eyes. Her husband's arm gently clutching her shoulder, while he too moistened up a bit. What a proud moment for that family!!

For the better part of the next half hour, the parents and families in the audience witnessed what their graduating kindergartners planned to do with the rest of their lives; a librarian, a race car driver, a carpenter, a cook, a priest, a mechanic, a superhero, a mermaid, lots of dolphin trainers, horse trainers, truck drivers and on and on, each of those young men and women divulging their plans for how they were going to bloom into God's plan. Yes, they all had the courage to speak their hearts' intentions. Each of those young men and women were looking so brightly towards tomorrow, a tomorrow when all the passions inside would erupt into a presentation to the world at large.

And here all along I thought my duties as a parent had to do with teaching how to drive a car, plan finances and get married. Boy, how wrong I was. Those duties pale in comparison to what it takes to bring out the glory God has planted in each of His children. For every one of the children up on the graduation stage was setting out on a course that would ultimately result in their being just as God intended. Our real mandate as parents is very much like an Easter egg hunt. Consider each egg being potential within our child. As we discover the egg, think of our surprise at finding the potential and then think about our actions needed to nurture that potential to its full potential.

Some kids take years to discover what their real potential is. Some wake up one morning and just "become." In either case, as parents we need to supply the basics necessary for development. Love in the form of shelter, food, clothing, and lots of hugs when their knees get skinned or feelings get shattered. Even the lessons learned back in kindergarten have a place in their ongoing development. Be kind, share, say please and thank you.

Parenting never really does end. There is always some child out there, whether 3 or 73, just waiting to reach the next hill climb. And there is a parent in all of us, waiting to either catch the child falling off, or just help in dusting them off. "Hey, you ok? You looked great up there! Get back out there and try again!"

But let's get back to the graduation. Life is a never-ending cycle of starting at the bottom, climbing a hill to its top, then falling back down to start all over again. Over and over again. More cycles for some of us, fewer cycles for others. Each time we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get back to life, doing things just a bit different till we get it right. Being disciplined to sharpen that part of our self in need. Once we get it right, we climb to the top of the hill where its time to graduate again!

It's been a long time since ours were up on that stage, telling the world what they would grow up to be. For us, this graduation cycle is about high school and college. Our moment of truth is at hand as well. Did we spend the last umpteen years loving enough? Did we have enough of the right discipline to teach, train, and coach our children into being ready for their own set of cycles? Perhaps it is really we that are on stage now. Graduating as parents, reaching the top of our hill. And if we didn't get it just right . . . . . . .. . .

I look lovingly at my wife. You all know "that look"! "Now dear," she whispers into my ear ever so softly, "that's what grandparenting is all about!"

Read other articles on Effective Parenting by Zenas Sikes