Since before we were married we’ve been discussing what our parenting philosophy should be. Although it’s been over 5 weeks since Michael was born, we STILL don’t have our philosophy nailed down (I hope you’re picking up on the sarcasm). We have made some progress, though, thanks largely to some passages in Scripture and, in part, to the truth-laden (again, some sarcasm here) song Hold on Loosely by 38 Special.

While the song seems to be describing the writer’s philosophy on love, part of the chorus succinctly describes our current parenting philosophy*:

Hold on loosely, but don’t let go

If you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control.

In defining our role as parents, the term “steward” seems apropos. A steward is “a person who has charge of the household of another”1. Scripture makes it clear that children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127.3-5), not an entitlement. Additionally, parents are responsible for training their children (Proverbs 22.6). In the same way we are stewards of the material blessings we receive from God, we are to be stewards of the children He has entrusted to our care.

Holding Loosely

Understanding our parenting role as that of a steward as opposed to a controller enables us to “hold on loosely” to Michael. It helps us worry less and trust God more to watch over and protect him. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here are three specific areas in which we are trying (“trying” being the key word) to hold loosely:

1. Not stressing too much about Michael’s schedule. We’re following the model outlined in Baby Wise which calls for a somewhat strict schedule; however, even in the book they talk about the need for flexibility. This is definitely a challenge for Michelle and I as we are both fairly regimented. Going forward we need to do what we can to keep Michael on his schedule but understand that there will be exceptions.

2. Putting Michael in the church nursery. Let me preface this by saying that this is a topic of much debate among parents, and we’re certainly not suggesting that we have arrived on this issue. Last Sunday, with Michael being 4 weeks old, we decided it was ok to put him in the nursery. We understood that this could result in him getting sick, but we decided it was worth accepting that risk in exchange for our ability to attend church without the distraction (I mean that in the nicest possible way) of a new born.

We most certainly want to be wise about the risks we take with our children and will, within reason, do our best to keep them healthy. Having said that, germs and sickness are a fact of life. In as much as we need to learn how to keep our kids from getting sick and how to take care of them when they are sick, we need to learn to trust God to keep them healthy and heal them.

3. Recognizing that Michael’s salvation is in God’s hands, not ours. Romans 9.14-16 and other passages in Scripture make it clear that it’s by God’s grace, not our own efforts or those of our parents, that we’re saved. As mentioned in our Dedication post, it’s our job as Michael’s parents to teach him the Gospel, pray for his salvation, and live lives that, as John Piper says, make it evident that we treasure Christ above all else. After that, it’s up to God.

As time goes on there will be numerous items to add to the “hold loosely” list, but for now these are the big 3. Whether it’s scheduling, health, or even salvation, it’s imperative that we don’t try to cling too tightly. Doing so will, as the song states, result in loosing control – getting stressed out, becoming over-protective, and even doubting God’s sovereignty.

Lord, help us hold on loosely.

Not Letting Go

While we understand that we must hold Michael loosely, we also understand that we will be held accountable for how we parent. Thus, we never want to completely “let go”. I hesitate to even use this term as there are countless examples of parents who still have not let go, in the right sense, of their 20, 30, 40, etc. year-old children. These parents can’t seem to stop controlling and/or worrying about their kids. That’s not at all what I’m talking about. What I mean is that we don’t let go in the sense of continually loving, praying for, and encouraging our children.

I have had the blessing of parents who have not “let go” of me or my siblings, regardless of what we did. This unwavering loyalty, which at times manifests itself in discipline and “tough love”, has formed a bedrock of trust and openness in our family for which I am extremely grateful.

Our prayer is that we would be conduits of God’s love – that it would flow to us and then continually through us to our children.

Lord, help us not let go.

* As parents of one, 5-week old infant, we have much to learn about parenting and, undoubtedly, much tweaking to do of our philosophy. We would greatly appreciate any wisdom and insight that any of you can provide.