What makes a good parent?

In one word? Humility.

In two words? A sense of humor and humility.

Lately, I have spent more time with my five grandchildren, all of them aged two and under. I am struck by the fact that most adults are not natural baby whisperers and that our society really does not spend time preparing hapless adults to become parents.

Children, especially babies are, well…little. Little and vulnerable. Vulnerable to the large, often clueless adults, who care for them.

Put yourself in a baby’s situation. Preverbal for years, it must be frustrating to be tired or in pain, only to have a bottle thrust into your mouth or have a tense, upset mother try to nurse you when your stomach is bloated with burps.

This disconnect does not end once children can communicate. Nope, our adult reasoning simply does not always compute in little brains. Why, I have been told that human beings do not get their adult brain until they are 25 years old! Apparently, the frontal lobe that makes sane, rational decisions is not fully developed until the mid-twenties.

That means that for almost a quarter of a century, humans need a special kind of love and nurturing that will not only meet them and connect with them right where they are, but also guide them gently without controlling them and stunting their own growth intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

That means that the best parents are willing to learn — from their offspring, from books, from experience, and from others. Good parents need a wonderful sense of humor to laugh at their own blunders, to laugh at their kids’ blunders. Openness to try new tactics helps, as does creativity. But most of all, they need to be intuitive, listening to their little ones’ body language and tone of voice and their own gut feelings and instincts.

As Catholics we are called to listen to the voice of God within because those kids are His and He knew them before they were born. He knows how they tick better than you or I.  And this is often where the greatest lessons in humility enter in.  Listening to this voice of God is what truly makes us a “good” parent.

Ponder: How is God calling me to grow as a parent?

Lord grant me the gift of humility as I stand before each of my children, recognizing them as gifts from you, their heavenly Father.

Copyright 2014, Melanie Jean Juneau

Painting: "Baby's First Caress," by Mary Cassat