As much as parents love their children, still there are times when parenting can be stressful. What’s a parent to do, for instance, when a baby is fussy and efforts to restore calm don’t seem to help – especially in a public place? Clearly, both the child and the parent need help at such a time.
A recent article in my local newspaper really tugged at my heart regarding this issue (The Toledo Blade, Nov. 14). There was a large drawing of a crying baby in an airplane, and a parent’s hand bringing a pill to the baby’s open mouth. The article was titled, “Drugging kids,” with a subtitle “At the end of their rope, some parents sedate their babies.” It explained that the practice of medicating an infant as “a last resort” has become increasingly common – and that medical opinions regarding the supposed beneficial or harmful effects of this practice are highly divergent and inconclusive.
I remembered how I felt in similar situations while raising my children, and how effective I found prayer to be in restoring my own, and my child’s, sense of calm. A passage from Mary Baker Eddy’s textbook on Christian healing comes to mind: “The poor suffering heart needs its rightful nutriment, such as peace, patience in tribulation, and a priceless sense of the dear Father’s loving-kindness” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” pp. 365-366).
This alerts me to be more diligent in bringing my prayers – affirmations of God’s love and support – into the public arena as a compassionate support to parents and children. The love of God reflected in even one person’s smile and calm can contribute greatly to the well-being of others.
Parents, as well as children, need to feel that they are precious, dearly loved individuals – especially when they are under some form of stress. The following verse in the Bible speaks clearly of God’s tender love for every parent and child: “The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num. 6:25, 26). Or, as Eugene Peterson interprets the first verse of that passage in “The Message,” “God smile on you and gift you.”
Just as the sun “gifts” its rays with all of its properties, God gifts His expression, or spiritual likeness, man – which is the actual identity of every man, woman, and child – with the full range of His beautiful spiritual qualities. That’s the way God always knows us and sees us, no matter what’s going on in our lives. As such, God is naturally and perpetually smiling on us with love and approval, just as a mother or father spontaneously smiles on and embraces a newborn babe.
Through a parent’s own prayers, or the prayers of a compassionate bystander, both parent and child can feel the reassuring influence of God’s loving comfort and approval. I began to learn the value of prayer in raising my children as a very young mother. My maturity in this practice grew with my daily study of the Bible and Science and Health. It wouldn’t have occurred to me that I was at the end of my rope, or that I needed to resort to medication for a child. God was always there to meet the need for me and for the children. And the needs were met.
During the years of raising my own children – and even while witnessing the continuing development of grown children, and of grandchildren and great-grandchildren – I’ve seen prayer bring God’s calming love to all manner of stressful situations.
God gifts every parent and child with tenderness, patience, calm, composure, and guidance to meet any need that may arise. These qualities are immediately available to anyone who turns humbly to the heavenly Father-Mother God in prayer. This doesn’t have to be anyone’s “last resort,” of course. But even if it is, it can bring to any situation the restorative calm and guidance that is needed.