I’ve reached a milestone in my life. One decade of parenting. It would probably take me that long to write all the lessons I have learned over the years. So instead, I’d like to list a few things parenting has taught me, and more importantly how it has changed me.
Patience. Here’s a rule of thumb. When you want your kids to move quickly – cleaning up, rushing to the car in the rain, or walking quickly past the toy aisle…they are in slow motion. When you have literally an ounce of energy left, they could fill water towers with their energy. What have I learned through this? Patience. (Still learning this by the way). I have to be patient with their slow pace, learning how to pick up toys, and their misunderstanding of why they can’t do things. Parenting is a marathon, and if you expect them to be competent, tax-paying, godly, self-sufficient people after they grow out of diapers, buckle up and take a drink from the patient drinking fountain.
Flexibility. All the kids dressed, fed, teeth brushed, hair done, and looking very well put together. You are headed out and we grab the baby to put into the car seat. One problem. Poop. Poop. Is. Everywhere. You thought you were going to be early out the door…now your plans aren’t the only things you have to change. Kids get hurt, sick, tired, soiled…you have to be flexible. Roll with the punches. As a very structured, plan ahead, day-timers are fun type of guy. This has been a challenge, but also a valuable lesson.
Confrontation. Multiple children are screaming. Another yells “I’m going to hit you”. Loud noises, like someone is throwing something, is also occurring. You just sat down for the first time all day. You didn’t even have a chance to exhale. So do you let it play out? You may not believe in evolution, but you are really tempted to see if this “survival of the fittest” thing has any merit. Oh, you’re so tempted. But no, parenting has taught me you have to get up and confront the assailant and the defendant. Listen to the witnesses, plea bargains, and review the evidence…and then make a verdict. People rise when judges enter the room, you have to duck from not getting hit with a whiffle bat. Judges also get to retire to their chambers for decision-making and a quiet moment, you have to wait till midnight for that. So, what do you do? You confront, correct, and discipline. Why, because you love these kids.
Giving. You’ve read the graphic. Your kid when they are 18 will have cost you $__________. It’s like when you buy a house, don’t look at that last page that includes all the interest. Don’t do it. And with kids, don’t ever think about how much they are going to cost. Instead, think about how much love you can give them. My wife and I have rarely worried about how God would provide for our children over these last 10 years. He has always been faithful. Sure, they will get more expensive in the coming years, but you can’t live life seeing children as dollar signs. Give love to them, be wise with your money, but be willing to give too. And giving doesn’t stop with your money, your kids need you to give them time, attention, and all the love you can possibly share.
Unselfishness. Speaking of giving time. Listen, there will be times when the only “me time” you get is when you go the bathroom (and even then do not expect privacy) or that sliver of time before the last child falls asleep and you pass out. So if you go into parenting needing a lot of time to yourself, you’re in the wrong business. Let me tell you, parenting taught me how selfish I was. I still fight selfishness, but having little ones that need me to play with them, teach them, and show them God-moments each day…I can see the value of being unselfish. I’m still learning this lesson every day, but my kids have helped me be more selfless.
Perspective. Ever heard the phrase “don’t cry over spilled milk”. My mother-in-law helped teach me this principle. There is a difference between an accident and a deliberate act of treason by your kids. You get me? Yesterday one of my kids dropped a big glass bowl, and I grabbed the vacuum, my wife grabbed the broom. Perspective. It was an accident. We cleaned it up, and moved on. I’ve gone to bed with stickers or little hair rubber band stuck to my feet. Every day I have to look in my shirt for hair that my little girls have shared with my clothes in our laundry. I’ve stepped in toothpaste, slobbered on, and had to wipe boogers with my hand. Hey man, perspective. One day, I won’t have this. And I’ll miss it. I’ll miss the noise, the craziness, the boogers, the spilled drinks, the cheese sticks I find under our couch that have been sitting there for months (they get hard as a rock!). I’ll miss it. So it’s taught me perspective (that’s certainly not always perfect), but it is much healthier than it was 10 years ago.
I have a long ways to go. I’m just in my first decade, and “teenage-dom” is around the corner. I’m sure I’ll learn a whole new set of lessons then. But until then, I’m thankful for the lessons God has taught me through parenting. It is a humbling, joyful, frustrating, tiring, loving, and growing experience all rolled up in one. And I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.