Art and a little science

Good parenting is rooted in warm relationships



April 28, 2022 - 3:38 PM


Even though our children finished high school years ago and are now married and living at a distance, my wife and I still get invited to many high school graduation parties every spring. Although I wonder if some families invite everybody they can think of, most of the invitations from inside our congregation grow out of deep and abiding friendships, which is a loveliness that’s supposed to emerge from a faith community.

We usually attend as many of these grad parties as we can. Parents inevitably cluster together as teens chat among themselves nearby. Balancing paper plates heaped with brisket and beans, we stand around and laugh about the challenges of parenting. Maybe it’s our foibles and ineptitude. Whatever the case, it’s clear to all of us that parenting is more art than science. It is, as Wendell Berry says, “a vexed privilege and a blessed trial, absolutely necessary and not altogether possible.” Various of us confess to flying by the seat of our pants, making stuff up as we go, and doing our best to look like pros along the way.

I’m struck by the prominence of fidelity over expertise for those who manage parenthood so skillfully. Even though parents seldom feel sufficiently prepared, those who grasp the value of strong emotional bonds with their children seem to know that character and attitude are more important than technique. Parental warmth supersedes method. Wisdom surpasses tactic.

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