This is a verse that brings comfort to us as parents with the hope that our efforts are not in vain. Yet do we understand – “in the way he should go”? I have heard that the word translated “train” in the Hebrew refers to the way a gardener prunes, cares for, and shapes a plant along its natural tendencies. In other words, a skilled gardener knows the properties of his various plants and is sensitive to those strengths and weaknesses as he cares for those plants. For instance, he knows when to prune a hydrangea, right after blooming is finished, not in the early spring causing the current year’s blooms to be cut off. To effectively care for plants, the gardener must know the characteristics of those plants.
As a parent, to effectively train my child in the way that child should go, I must make the effort to know that child. Sometimes they will surprise us! I was reminded of this recently when one of our daughters attended an alumni game at the college where she played soccer. As a little girl she played princess with the best of them and dressed in pink whenever given the choice. She was a princess! Her father realized that she had athletic ability when she was quite young, yet she did not show much interest in sports. Phil worked with her and “trained” her skills in sports, yet she followed his directions out of pleasure of playing with daddy, not enjoyment of the sport. As she got older, he signed her up for a team and told her if she didn’t like it after the season, she would not have to play again. To make a long story short, she gradually began to enjoy playing, mainly because it is fun to do something one is good at. Her dad recognized her “natural bend” if you will, and it served her well culminating in a college scholarship. More importantly, soccer led her to the school her future husband would attend and the common enjoyment of athletics.
This daughter still had a bit of the “princess” in her. One fall night she walked onto the field where she usually wore cleats, shorts and a jersey and instead had on heels and a lovely gown. The evening culminated in her being crowned homecoming queen. That was part of her “bend” as well.
As parents we may limit our childs opportunities if we only focus on one aspect of their character. We should pray often for sensitivity to each of our children and recognize their various strengths as they grow and change. God has created each child with unique qualities and one of the great joys of parenting is watching these traits unfold. We must also remember that they are created in the image of God for HIS glory and we must not impose our own “way he should go” on our children.