To be a good parent is to love as God loves. There is a reason we call Him Father.
A good parent is married before having children. He or she enters into a faithful, life-long, and loving commitment with an apt partner, laying a foundation of stability and love for future children. The three persons of the Trinity cannot help but be faithful and loving to each other, for they are the same One Being. The Father was ever faithful to the Son. But God too entered into a faithful commitment, a covenant, which would lay the foundation for His children’s well-being, their salvation, the climax of His love in mercy. God was ever faithful even though His children were not. So too should parents be to disobedient and wayward children.
The Father created us generously out of love, loved us before we could love Him, and enables us to love Him. So too do good parents procreate children out of love, love their children before their children can love them, and teach their children how to love. To be married without children is to lack this divine love, the primary purpose for which God ordained marriage.
To love is to suffer and to offer that suffering as a generous sacrifice. Good parents necessarily suffer for the sake of their children. They suffer through the mistakes they must allow their children to make. So too did God suffer for us on the cross for our sins that God allowed us to freely choose. Parents suffer the toils of caring for a totally dependent, self-centered human being who will not truly be able to love them or care for them until a certain age or level of maturity and not without the parents’ help and guidance. We too are totally dependent on God and are self-centered. Parental love, at least for the beginning of the child’s life, is a one-way relationship from parent to child. So is it also between God and man in the beginning. Despite all the suffering, God and good parents remain faithful, generous, and loving.
God’s love is tough love sometimes. So too must a parent’s love be sometimes. Only those with an intimate knowledge of a child and of his or her unique character and needs can know when to show mercy and when to show wrath. God knows us better than we know ourselves. Parents should know their children better than anyone else, well enough to know when to show mercy and when to show wrath. But both the mercy and wrath should spring from love, as with God, not from weakness, indulgence, intemperance, or other vices.
Despite the suffering and wrath, God’s love is also joyful when His children grow and mature in love, obey His commands and teachings, accomplish great things in His name, and share His love with others. So too do good parents take joy and pride in their children when they grow, mature, obey, achieve, and love.
A child will never be able to “repay” the love of his parents in full. Neither will any of us be able to come close to “repaying” the love and generosity God has shown us. God and good parents give generously with this fact in mind, expecting their children to pay it forward to their own children (if called to marriage), their spiritual children (if called to the religious life), and everyone they meet and interact with. For love is meant to be shared and thus expand.
“And yet it is not an equal return, first to be loved, afterwards to love. For even if one were to contribute that which is equal in amount, he is inferior in that he comes to it second.” -St. John Chrysostom