NOWADAYS fathers are present at the births of their children. The wonder and pain, the cry of life and the blood of birth are thus in some measure shared by both parents.

The helpless, naked miracle of a first newborn child surpasses any other experience within marriage. A sense of unworthiness seizes the new parents as they gaze upon the normally perfect parts; miniature replicas of their own, and yet totally unique, every time. Mother is fulfilled; father is proud, and both realise that a living thing has been committed to their care.

For the first time they have become one flesh in a very particular way. The child, a part of each parent, is now to embark on a separate existence.

Proper Parents

It stands out a mile that birth within wedlock is what God ordained. Otherwise the babe is handicapped because there is not a true family circle in which it can be entwined. Parenthood outside marriage is a breach of God’s provisions.

Not that conception and birth within the marriage is everything. The home has to be prepared for the baby who will become a focus of attention and care. Graciously, God has given us nine months in which to adjust our thinking and habits. We have to make room in our hearts and minds for the new member.

Meanwhile mother has the experience of pregnancy. This is greatly enhanced by the atmosphere of the home. Maybe, there is no obvious medical explanation why it should be so, but there is little reason to doubt that the love, contentment and mutual care of the parents-to-be affect the unborn child. If, as we are told, the foetus can respond to music, why should it not also reflect the peace of the home around it? And why should not the closest music be that sung by the mother in one of the songs of Zion? Prayer in the home and worship with the ecclesia during pregnancy make for peace of mind. Thereby we ask God to be with us in the time ahead.

Two Disciplines

Within the mother-to-be a marvellous disciplined process is at work. Stage-by-stage development is governed by the instructions that God planted within the cells. Happily, it is a process which occurs ‘naturally’. It is only when the process is interrupted or abnormal in some way that it becomes a cause for anxiety. Otherwise it proceeds quietly until at the due time the child begins to move within the mother with sufficient vigour for both parents to feel it. This quickening process is one of the many thrills of pregnancy.

After birth the growth continues and it is served by the routine of food and care. The parents are now directly involved in the potential of healthy development.

But, another discipline can have the most profound effect of all: the discipline of the home. The child will soon have to learn ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, even in the early months of training. The parents’ habits will become part of the discipline of the child.

If the home is unstructured, loud and ‘violent’, the child will become aware. If there are shouting, discordant voices and quarrelsomeness, the babe will be affected. If home is a haven of peace, a place of prayer and a place where the word of God is read every day, the child will soon know. The best way to have the best home for the baby is to learn a good discipline before it is born.

How soon?

How soon can a child learn the good things of Christ? It is never too soon for the parents to exhibit Christlikeness. Would we like our child to be like Christ? If so, we must have Christ as our pattern. Children learn by imitation as well as by direct instruction; that is, by example and precept.

Little children in under-developed countries are soon trained to beg for money, and in developed countries are sometimes taught early how to steal. Surely the responsive smile from babies tells us how quickly the very youngest child can learn.

Christadelphian children often learn to read months, if not years, ahead of their contemporaries simply by joining in the daily readings very early, first by repeating words after mother, then by reading a verse and soon by reading five verses. It is an exciting time and wonderfully fruitful and instructive.

Bible questions from the readings or at table can be a looked-for challenge, especially when later on the children ask the questions and the parents have to answer.

Brain-washing?

Does this mean that we are subjecting our children to brain-washing—which we take to be pressurized pounding of the mind resulting in the involuntary submission of the child to its parents? The answer must be no. Rigorous, relentless and insensitive imposition of an adult mind upon a child has no part in a follower of Christ.

In everyday affairs, we make plain to a child where dangers lie and where love is to be found. The parent’s words are designed to keep the child from harm—burning, injury to itself or others, for example—and this sometimes needs loving sternness to produce compliance.

Similarly, in things spiritual it is made clear that we pray before meals, talk about God and His word, have God’s rules for the home and seek to behave in a way that shows our discipleship. As a child begins to understand and to talk, we can gradually explain the reasons for what we do and encourage willing cooperation.

Children came to the temple and Jesus was glad (Matthew 21:15,16). So it is good and right to take our children to the meetings at the earliest possible time. It is astonishing how soon they learn to imitate our silence and, later, to ‘sing’ the songs of praise. What we do when young helps to fashion our minds for later on.