As I drove home from an appointment, I stopped for an oncoming school bus and watched some of the children disembark. At the street near a trailer, I watched as two young children ran to their mother and she embraced them and the three smiled and seemed happy, not only to be home but also to be with each other.

I wondered what the day at school had been like, but I also recognized that no matter what the day held, the children felt safe and happy to be with their mother and home again.

Bobby Burns, the Scottish poet, once wrote: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” I’m not so pessimistic about families and home as his poetic line was. One of the most famous of Jesus’ stories was about the “prodigal son.” The father in his story had two sons, one who had wanderlust and wanted to get away from home and one who stayed with his father while the younger son asked for his inheritance and departed. The key character in the story is the father who loved both his sons and welcomed the younger back home after he had spent all his inheritance.

A parent’s love can transform most of the burdens we face. Even when we are embarrassed to admit our failures. One of Billy Graham’s daughters was divorced, and she returned home, wondering how her father would receive her. As she tells the story, he was waiting outside the house and took her in his arms to welcome her home as she sobbed out her pain.

Unfortunately, one of the shortcomings of our present society is that there are too many fathers who are missing in action when it comes both to the discipline children, particularly sons need, and especially the loving acceptance that needs to come from a father. In the more than fifty years I sat in the counseling office, the most painful stories I heard were from the sons and daughters (especially the sons) who never heard the words, “I love you.” The second most common story was from the child who got into trouble but thought the parent wouldn’t care about it.

The German philosopher Goethe wisely said: “He is the happiest, be he king or peasant, who find peace in his home.” All the politicians in the world can throw money at the problems of the family, but the parent who teaches his child respect for the authority and gives the love his child needs from him can turn tragedies into triumphs for his children.

Parents – don’t fail at the most important task you have. Teach your child what loving acceptance means and demonstrate it so that he or she will always feel the way home. That is not only our greatest responsibility as parents, but it brings us our greatest joys as well.

Dr. James E. Kilgore retired as President of the International Family Foundation and lives in Canton. His most recent book, “Living Without Limits,” was published in late 2019 and is available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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