Being a parent is a difficult thing. Rewarding, yes. But, never easy.

I can spend hours reading all of the parenting manuals at the nearest Barnes and Noble, including the one my pal Mike in Nashville wrote, in which I was fortunate enough to pen the foreword and watch his gem become a bestseller, yet in the end, we…gulp…are the ones making the right, or wrong, choices for our children.

No pressure.

Starting out, it seemed so easy. Change a diaper, warm a bottle, and take lots of photos that will later be produced for one of those embarrassing wedding videos. Lack of sleep was probably my biggest complaint in those days, only to be joined by backfat and an expanded waistline, but those don’t weigh much on life’s priority scale. Kids need more than just healthy snacks and good study habits, and the challenges get more difficult as they age. Throw in the chaos of life, and it’s like playing the advanced level of a video game blindfolded. After all, there are dentist appointments to keep, dry-cleaning to pick up, and kids’ bangs to trim. All the while offering good advice, steering them toward good influences, and hoping they ignore our inevitable mistakes.

And so last night, between a talk with my oldest who asked if prayers for Papaw to be alive could come true, and practicing giving eyedrops to a stuffed animal in hopes that he can conquer the task of wearing contacts, I realized more than ever the role of a parent.

We shape lives. And before we know it, they’re off to live them.