As parents we must comprehend the great potential for good or evil that lies in our hands. It is our privilege to build a foundation broad and deep that will be as enduring as eternity. Ellen G. White had this to say of parents: "By their example and teaching, the future of their children is largely decided."—Prophets and Kings, p. 245. A child will absorb like a sponge what he sees and hears. With the miracle of birth there is given the privilege of inscribing on fresh young minds strength and beauty of soul and mind. Eternity alone will reveal the influence of early training.
The wives of workers have much responsibility in many fields, but it cannot be overemphasized that parenthood must take precedence over all other duties. If any work demands absolute selflessness it is that of rearing children. In just a few short years we must help them find the best in life. Muddy feet and smudgy fingers leave their marks on the floors and walls. But suddenly there is lost somewhere a small lad or lass, and the door of opportunity closes. They go their way all too soon. If we have helped them to a steady growth in Christian character they are provided with a bulwark for avoiding the pitfalls of life and are prepared at maturity to stand aloof from the threatening dangers of a careless world.
Home should be an oasis of tranquillity in an untranquil world. Home, to a child, is father, mother, and love, and these make a potent combination. The wives of ministers and teachers in the work of the church are not faced with the handicap of a divided or a one-parent home. However, in our human striving and imperfection, there remain innumerable daily questions as to the wisest course to pursue, which must be carefully and prayerfully considered.
In an age when our wants have outstripped our needs there is room for reflection as to what place "things" should occupy in our scheme of everyday living. Many mothers, for economic reasons, feel that they must add to the family income by employment outside the home. It is impossible to overlook the pressures of the present current standards of living. It is enough to say that each mother must settle this serious problem individually, for she alone knows every angle of it. The decision cannot be made lightly, for it may have far-reaching consequences, not easily discernible at the moment. Will having what we call the niceties of living at the present be of more value to the happiness and future well-being of our children or is mother's presence in the home of more vital importance?
Socrates, the Athenian philosopher, who wore one robe summer and winter, said, "How many things there are that I do not need." Simple living has been emphasized in the instruction given by God to the remnant church, as is evidenced by the following statement. "Puritan plainness and simplicity should mark the dwellings and apparel of all who believe the solemn truths for this time."—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 189. Surely, if this idea is inculcated in a child he will be better fitted to take his place in a worldwide work that becomes dynamic when it is sacrificial.
Jules Henry in his book Culture Against Man says there are two themes that dominate our lives and desiccate our values, so that our days are often empty of truly satisfying meaning. One of these is our lopsided preoccupation with amassing wealth and raising our standard of living. The basic question is whether reducing our living to simpler terms outweighs in value to our families the benefits of maintaining the present standards of living. This decision is vitally important to our children.
The good seeds of character are to be sown moment by moment, day by day. A tired mother coming home after a long day's work outside the home has little time or opportunity for planting these tiny seeds. Will her influence be a shadow or a substance? Great gain or loss hangs in the balance. Moral choices between right and wrong determine character, and parents must seize every opportunity for training, for it is now that the work must be done. Walt 'Whitman has said it is not so important what you do with the years, but it is very important how you use each hour. Mother needs to be on the job keeping her flock free from every influence that would poison young lives.
Little everyday decisions add up to more than we at the moment comprehend, and they change the shape of things to come. In the Washington Post of August 19, 1962, this report was made, and it brings into sharp focus the unhappy results of an error so infinitesimal that it passed unnoticed: "The omission of a hyphen in some mathematical data was said to have caused the failure of a space ship launched toward Venus, at an estimated loss of $18.5 million." Only a hyphen! The workship of the home is a great "Do it yourself" project, which demands constant supervision, and the little details to be worked out cannot wait until mother gets home. Many of them probably would be overlooked.
Life takes on new meaning when we realize the limitless source of wisdom and power from Him who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not. We may well tremble over the responsibility that is ours, and the tangled threads of our own weaving can bring us to despair. When baffled by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, how fortunate we are to have a wealth of material available in this vitally important field of child training. We must take full advantage of it. The soundness of the instruction given to this people by God through the Spirit of Prophecy has been demonstrated in many fields. In the field of child guidance the words of Dr. Lillian Gore, specialist in elementary education for the United States Office of Education, relative to sending young children to school, have a strangely familiar ring. "They have many things to learn about eggs and leaves and people. It is not right at this age to put the emphasis on formal instruction." Thus in modern language the words of Ellen G. White in Education, pages 207, 208, are confirmed: "The brain, the most delicate of all the physical organs, and that from which the nervous energy of the whole system is derived, suffers the greatest injury. By being forced into premature or excessive activity, and this under unhealthful conditions, it is enfeebled, and often the evil results are permanent. . . . For the first nine or ten years of a child's life the field or garden is the best schoolroom."
Educators are asking whether the pressure of early schooling is bad for young minds and bodies. Dr. Gore has this to say: "I have seen too many emotional blocks that took years to work out, caused by just this sort of pressure." Is the price too high in sending children off to school too early in life so that mother may become a breadwinner? In the light of such statements one can appraise problems with more perspective.
We read much of upset children. Perhaps you are faced with the problem of a child who seems to be color blind to right and wrong. There is a little bit of lying. The child is mean to other children. A child psychologist with ten years of clinical experience says we must not look at the terrible thing the child has done, but at what triggered the act. What was back of his behavior? If he is hateful to other children what is going on between the parents? The child may be imitating, acting out what he sees at home. In a family where the not-too-perspective parents openly quarreled before their son, the mother continually threatened to leave home. On returning from school each day this child immediately made sure that mother was still there. These parents were blind to the tension building up in their son's life under the fear that someday he would come home to find mother gone. In adult life this man deserted his own family in a moment of deepest discouragement. Who is to say what influence this background of early emotional pressure had to do with his act?
This is the kind of black-and-white reasoning parents must make. The future hope of society depends on the great principles of better living and true values of happiness and success instilled in children, the poor man's riches. By submerging self, by putting everything we have into parenthood, we may disappoint the enemy and save ourselves long years of futility and frustration.