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Parents Courageous
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I reread "Captains Courageous" last week. I have read it before—first (and often) when I was in my teens, and once when I was in my early 30s. It is one of Rudyard Kipling’s finest novels, a tale about a spoiled rich kid stranded in the middle of the Atlantic. He has to work for the first time in his life, and becomes a man in the process. As a youth I thought the book was a marvelous adventure. 

It teaches why values like honesty, thrift, and a work ethic are important. It illustrates why a community with God at its core is a healthy one, even when faced with peril. Yet throughout it entertains rather than preaches.

When I re-read it last week I saw the book through a different lens—the eyes of a man with sons the age of Harvey Cheyne. The marvelous adventure was still there. Yet as I read it, thoughts crept in: “Where was Harvey’s father?” “What was he thinking as he raised his son?” “Was he thinking?”

Too Busy

Kipling showed that Cheyne Senior was displeased by the idle rich, those that lived like drones on the capital amassed by their parents. He would have tolerated his son’s following that lifestyle because he loved the boy, but it would not have pleased him. Despite this, Harvey’s father had showered the boy with toys, money, and love, but never spent time to develop his boy into a man. He was too busy building his empire. He could have. The father knew men, and knew how to train them.  

Once he sees the transformation his son has experienced, he takes him in hand. He also helps Harvey’s friend Dan. Yet until he thought he had lost his son, he had neglected his upbringing.

Parents often think that their major responsibility to their children is to provide for their physical needs—to see that they are well-fed, well-clothed, and comfortably sheltered. In reality, their most important responsibility is to prepare them to be adults. I missed that message when I read "Captains Courageous" as a youth.

Cheyne Senior got a second chance with his son. That is the beauty of fiction—the characters get second chances. In real life, you usually only get one chance to turn your children into the type of adult you enjoy working with. Neglect it, and it is gone. Maybe I did not miss Kipling's message. Maybe I absorbed it as a youngster without realizing it. Only now, in retrospect do I recognize it. 

Two of my children are now adults, one is in his teens. As they were growing up, I spent time, teaching them what it meant to be adults. A lot of it was example, but some of it was my wife or I taking a weekend or a week and focusing on some skill they would need when they left the nest. It takes time, but it is worth it. Turning our children into adults is the most important job we as parents have.

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By Mark N. Lardas, copyright 2007, Mark N. Lardas, all rights reserved. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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