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Once a Parent…
Photo: Studiomill
“Once a parent, always a parent,” my interpreter, alias the janitor, would tell the Spanish-speaking mothers on the County Hospital maternity ward.

Before explaining to the groggy women who’d given birth during the night the importance of filling out the Spanish-language survey forms I was handing to them, he wanted to reinforce the importance of their role as parents.

The women knew about the Mother and Child Study being conducted by a local university. Most had filled out a form with one of the nurses in the prenatal clinic on their first visit and they knew that their pregnancy was important to the study. There would be follow-up contacts on the well-being of the child.

The silver-haired janitor was allowed to interpret for me on days when I could find no bilingual patient on the ward. While my goal was helping medical science promote safer pregnancies and healthier babies, his was to remind, especially teenage mothers, that parenting doesn’t end when the diapering ends—or with grade school—or when their child marries.

“My son is 40 years old. He called me late last night. His truck broke down on the highway. I was tired, but he is my son, so I drove 50 miles away to help him. Family should always take care of family. You never stop being a parent,” he told them on one of those mornings. (He also shared in English.)

I appreciated his messages and hoped his hearers did also. His words often helped put things in perspective for me. With three teens of my own, many were the times I felt inadequate—felt I’d blown it for good.

Wise Mother

How could I be a wise mother to teenagers when I’d made such a mess of my own teen life? Somehow, the reminder that my children would still be my children when they reached their 40s and beyond gave me comfort. I shouldn’t give up on them—or on myself—because we were in this for the duration.

This thoughtful man taught me to look beyond the day: beyond disappoints, frustrations, or fears that parenting so often presents and to take hold of hope for tomorrow.

I saw through his examples of family interaction the importance of family members trying to work together for the good of all, building foundations for children to grow up knowing that they have significant roles in the family structure.

Almost 40 years have passed since I last heard the janitor. He was right: Mom and Dad are the first to call in a crisis. Who knows more about fixing a car or cares more about you when you’re sick? Who understands the ache in your heart as much as the ones whose hearts have ached for you?

Beautiful parallels for our lives are found in the “parent” passages of Scripture: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you…”(John 15:9). Loved before birth—loved beyond death—loved through eternity.

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By Lois Pecce. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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