I'm reading Dr. James Dobson's new book, Bringing Up Girls (review coming soon, by the way) about parenting, and as designed, it has me thinking about my own job as a parent, not only of my daughter but also of my son. I was thinking this morning about some of the things he needs to understand that I've learned in my lifetime. I want to pass on those nuggets of wisdom to him so that he doesn't have to spend 20 or 30 or 40 years trying to figure them out. I thought, if only my own father had taught me some of those things better, he might have been able to help me out that way when I was a kid. And the fact is, he did teach me a lot of things he had to learn the hard way himself. I am quite grateful for the things that he managed to get through my thick skull and help me incorporate into my life. Passing on wisdom from generation to generation is critical; just ask King David, who many believe passed on the wisdom found in the book of Proverbs to Solomon, who later codified it in the book we have today.
But then I started thinking. The human race has been around an awfully long time, and there have been many, many very wise men and women in the world. Surely some of them were my great grandparents, or great great grandparents, or somewhere up the line. Somebody, sometime that I am descended from knew the things that I need to know. Why didn't they pass them down to me? Why didn't that knowledge filter on through the years until it rested in my lap, like a priceless gift from a stranger who seems vaguely familiar?
Well, it could be that the person who knew those things died before getting a chance to pass them on. That sometimes happens. It could be that there was a divorce, and a child never had the parent with that information as part of his life. Different children have different needs; maybe the parent who knew that nugget of information that I desperately need to know, simply never had a child who needed to know it. Maybe the child was just too hard-headed to listen to wisdom. There's an example of that, too, in the life of King Solomon; his son Rehoboam clearly had no grasp on the wisdom of his father, and instead of listening to wise counsel from older men, followed the advice of his idiot friends, and it cost him his kingdom (here, see for yourself in 1 Kings chapter 12). It happens to the best of us; there are any number of plausible reasons that knowledge might go to the grave with a parent and never be passed on to the child.
There is one reason, though, that haunts me a bit. I wonder if someone, somewhere in my ancestry, simply dropped the ball. Maybe they got busy with career, hobbies, social activities, politics, or whatever, and neglected to pass on critical information from parent to child, maybe even critical information that could save the child a lifetime of heartache. Maybe that child never learned what he or she needed to know, and thus was unable to pass it on to the next generation and the next. It could be that I have somehow managed to figure out something that some ancestor of mine hundreds of years ago knew, as plain as the nose on his face, but nobody else in my family has managed to get a grip on since then. As a parent myself, I have a responsibility, a duty to carry out, and that duty is to not be the weak link in the chain. If I can be a person who succeeds in passing on any and everything useful I have learned about how to be a successful human being to my children, then I will have gone a long way toward having been a successful parent. There is more to parenting than passing on information, of course, and given the choice between being a loving parent who passed on no wisdom and being a wise parent who did not love, I would go with being a loving parent and never look back. But if I can succeed in being both a loving father and a wise father, and pass both of those traits on to my children, then one day I will be able to face my maker with my children like trophies beside me and hopefully hear the two golden words that each of us hopes to hear from Him: "Well done."