Endless Parenting

Jason Micheli —  October 1, 2012 — 2 Comments

I’ve loved my wife since I was 15 and have been married to her for 11 years. But marriages, as my job unfortunately reminds me all the time, do end.

Every day I believe more and more that I’ve been called to the ministry  in which I’m engaged, yet some day in the distant future I will cease to be a pastor.

I’m the parent of two curiously perfect boys, a vocation and identity I will never- even if I wanted it (even if they wanted it)- be able to shake.

I’m reading Michael Chabon’s new novel, Telegraph Avenue. Here’s how Chabon’s narrator puts fatherhood:

“…he saw it never would be over. You never would get through to the end of being a father, no matter where you stored your mind or how many steps in the series you followed. Not even if you died. Alive or dead, a thousand miles distant, you were always going to be on the hook for work that was neither a procedure nor a series of steps but, rather, something that demanded your full, constant attention without necessarily calling on you to do, perform or say anything at all.

Fathering imposed an obligation that was more than your money, your body, or your time, a presence neither physical nor measurable by clocks: open-ended, eternal and invisible, like the commitment of gravity to the stars.” 

Jason Micheli


2 responses to Endless Parenting

  1. Bob Oelschlager October 3, 2012 at 8:41 AM

    Re: Endless Parenting


    Certainly the commitment, the obligations, the love and the joy of being a parent never ends; but even to suggest that the parent-child relationship is more long lasting or more important than the marriage relationship is dangerous to the point of heresy. (Genesis 2: 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife…”).

    I believe in holy matrimony and the sanctity of marriage — the marriage relationship is “set apart” and the closest two humans can come to the relationship God wants with each of us. I believe marriage is sanctifying (we become better people through our relationship with our spouse). I believe marriage is a sanctuary (your spouse will accept and love and forgive you when no one else will).

    This is one of the reasons I believe homosexuals have a right to this relationship too.

    When people assume that they will have two or more marriages or equivalent long-term relationships, then it is easy, tempting and logical to transfer the “most important relationship in my life” ideal to their children. They look to their children to be their life-long best friend, their rock, their soul mates, and their sanctuary. And this is dangerous. It can hurt them and their children.

    Parents who see their relationship with their children this way are incapable of holy matrimony – taking the risk, having the faith and making the commitment to a partner to achieve the depth and intimacy that is the ultimate human relationship.

    Parents also have to make decisions that may upset their kids in the short term; even make kids mad at them and dislike them in the short term. Parents have to love their kids enough to prepare them to handle life on their own as independent adults; to set them free to find and follow their own path. That job as a parent is in conflict with a parental goal of establishing a life-long best-friends, soul mates, rock and sanctuary, most-important-mutually-supportive-relationship-in-my-life bond. It prevents parents from making tough decisions and from letting go.

    Bob Oelschlager

    • I’m duly chastened 🙂
      I can’t be sarcastic and snarky towards others’ sloppy theology without owning up to it when it’s committed by me! You’re absolutely right that, theologically understood, marriage is primary to the parenting role and that making it primary in a practical sense has important rearing implications.
      Mostly, I just like the art with which Chabon puts it fatherhood.Theology aside, though, I think there is something to the observation that parenthood has a permanence to it- even when its done badly- that marriage, unfortunately, often does not achieve. I think there’s probably a way to put that without seeping in to heresy but I’m not sure how. Yet again, I’m appreciative for your pushback!


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