Without a doubt, parenting can often feel like the most daunting task on the planet.
We may love our children endlessly, yet at the same time privately wonder: "Do I really have what it takes to raise my son or daughter to be a proper adult and a real mentsch? I feel so overwhelmed at times, am I truly up to the task?"
These are questions that can plague even the very best parents, and these musings have been addressed by Judaism since time immemorial.
In Genesis 6:10, we find that Noah is blessed with three sons: Shem, Cham, and Yafes.
In reference to this, Rashi -- the classic medieval Torah commentator -- explains that most people in Noah’s era gave birth to children around the age of 100, but that G-d didn’t bless Noah with children until the age of 500.
Now, why would that be? Why wasn't he given children until the end of his reproductive years?
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, ZTL (Darash Moshe) comments that even when Noah was finally blessed with kids, he was only given three, because the blessing of children is given out with tremendously precise calculation.
The way it works is that G-d analyzes each person and determines how many sons and daughters he’ll be able to influence and be M’chanech (educate) properly in life. G-d determined that all Noach could properly handle in life would be three, and so this is the number of children he was blessed with, and this even impacted when precisely he was given the gift of parenthood!
This insight should give us great Chizuk (encouragement) when we encounter difficulties in the parenting of our own children.
If we have been blessed by our Creator with a particular child, it represents His vote of confidence in us that we have the right stuff we need to get the job done.
As such, it would be a terrible mistake to give up on a child, because by granting us this particular child in the first place, G-d is has clearly demonstrated that we have the ability to steer this child to a life of righteousness.
At the end of the day, our mission as parents is take our best values and traits, and make our utmost efforts to inculcate them into our children. In fact, this is how Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch explains the instruction from G-d (see Genesis 1:28), "Be fruitful and multiply…”
One may wonder -- what is the difference between “fruitful” and “multiply?” Both of them clearly pertain to the notion of increase!
Rabbi Hirsch explains that although their meanings appear to be similar, they cannot possibly convey the same thing (ie. an increase), or otherwise there would be no need for the Torah to use two similar expressions.
In truth, the term “fruitful” means that one should give birth to the children, and “multiply” means that a parent has to ensure their best qualities and traits are found in their kids.
As we enter the New Year of 5778, may G-d strengthen the hands of every good-hearted parent and bless them with Divine assistance in bringing out the very best of their children.
The task can seem overwhelming at times, but we most certainly have what it takes to succeed!