I don't know about you, but somebody played a terrible trick on me. Someone just gave me these kids with no instructions. I will never forget having them hand me my first baby and thinking, "Now what do I do?" I can remember this terrifying realization that I had to take him home and take care of him and I didn't know how to do that. It had been a long time since I was even a babysitter so it was scary.

Well by the time they handed me my second baby, I thought, "No problem. I know what to do." Except there was a mean trick. Child #2 was NOTHING like child #1. This trick has been repeated. By the fourth baby, I just looked at him and thought, "Well, let's find out who you are and we'll learn this together."

Obviously, someone forgot to give me the Parents' Owner's Manual. I mean if I buy a stereo, they give me a manual. If I get a computer, there are tons of manuals. If I get a car, I certainly get a manual. But you get something as important as a child, and she doesn't come with a manual! Big problem.

My first son loved to sit and read in my lap. So I took my second son, sat him in my lap and began to read - screaming child in 0.2 nanoseconds. OK, so that didn't work. I'll try something else. To get him to do something, I'd say, "I'm counting to five." He'd put his hands over his ears and yell, "Don't count!! Don't count!!!" He couldn't stand it and felt compelled to do it before I reached the end. Aha! That worked like a charm - he was a compulsive numbers boy.

So with child #3 I said, "OK, I'm gonna count to five." He just looked at me and said, "OK, go ahead." It didn't work at all. I had to start from scratch learning what would work with him. And on it went.

And that's not all. The mean trick continued. Counting worked great with child #2. Well, now he's 17 and it doesn't work at all. So not only are you coping with different kids, but they change every year and practically minute by minute.It's like waking up every day and finding a new computer sitting on your desk. How are you supposed to keep up with that?

It helps to know what our job is as parents. What are we to do? Basically, there are three purposes of parenting:

1. Health and safety of child

Just like the momma bear, we are to help protect our children and teach them to look before they cross the street, eat their vegetables, and keep them safe.

2. Values education

It's also our job to pass on the values and character that we have learned and find of value and importance to us. We teach them about God and the purpose of life. We teach them about how to be honest and why and how to be friendly and why.

3. Train children to be independent adults

And finally, it's our job to train our children to be independent so they are capable of moving on and creating families of their own. This is true of the whole animal kingdom - you see the mommy and daddy birds, bears, or whatever teaching their offspring how to eat, care for themselves, and stay safe so they can grow up to be on their own.

Parenting is a thrilling thing - the best job on the planet! And it helps to know what you're supposed to do.

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