Perspective for Parents

So far as I can remember, I’ve never heard anyone say something like the following: “You know, I just don’t struggle with parenting. It’s the darnedest thing, but it just seems to come naturally.”

It’s a good thing I’ve never heard someone say that, because I’d undoubtedly be struggling with a number of highly inappropriate responses. That’s because, as we all know, parenting is hard. The following is a sample of my life as a parent over the last few weeks (I include it not because it’s exceptional, but because I suspect it’s typical):

1. My two-and-a-half-year-old daughter is in something benignly called a “phase.” She’s been making it abundantly clear that I currently lag well behind my wife in her personal estimation. When I go into her room first thing in the morning. I’m usually greeted with an inarticulate complaining sound, followed by an insistent, “No! Mommy!” I’m left wondering how to (a) communicate that my love for her is consistent no matter what, (b) impress upon my daughter the need to respect both mommy and daddy, and (c) not force her to give me hugs and kisses.

2. I recently engaged my four-year-old son in an actual conversation about something called “the magic O” (?!). This, he claimed, was the maker of the universe and more powerful than God. It was as if the smile on his face was saying, “Deal with that, Mr. I-Care-So-Much-About-Good-Theology.”

3. The same son has been excited to help me with yard work the last few days. I envisioned this as sort of a step on my triumphant march toward dad of the year. In reality, though, it’s often been more of an exercise in reminding myself of remedial parenting truths like “my child is more important that my yard” and worrying about my son telling me many years from now, “Nothing I ever did was good enough for you dad!”

These things, and a hundred more like them, can easily make me feel bewildered and incompetent as a parent. And they’re why I so appreciated this recent (and highly amusing) blog post by Kevin DeYoung on parenting. It will not only give you an encouraging sense of solidarity with another struggling parent, but it offers some much needed perspective. I’d recommend reading the whole thing, but here are a few excerpts:

There are already scores of books on parenting, many of them quite good. I’ve read several of them and have learned much. I really do believe in gospel-powered parenting and shepherding my child’s heart. I want conversations like this:



Me: What’s the matter son?

Child: I want that toy and he won’t give it to me!

Me: Why do you want the toy?

Child: Because it will be fun to play with.

Me: Do you think he is having fun playing with the toy right now?

Child: Yes.

Me: Would it make him sad to take the toy away?
Child: I guess so.

Me: And do you like to make your brother sad?
Child: No.

Me: You know, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That means loving your brother the way he would want to be loved. Since Jesus loves us so much, we have every reason to love others–even your brother. Would you like to love him by letting him play with the toy for awhile?

Child: Yes I would daddy.

I try that. Really I do. But here’s what actually happens:

Me: What’s the matter son?

Child: I want that toy and he won’t give it to me!

Me: Why do you want the toy?

Child: I don’t know.

Me: What’s going on in your heart when you desire that toy?
Child: I don’t know.

Me: Think about it son. Use your brain. Don’t you know something?

Child: I guess I just want the toy.

Me: Obviously. But why?

Child: I don’t know.

Me: Fine. [Mental note: abandon “why” questions and skip straight to leading questions.] Do you think he is having fun playing with the toy right now?

Child: No.

Me: Really?! He’s not having fun? Then why does he want that toy in the first place?

Child: Because he’s mean.

Me: Have you ever considered that maybe you are being mean by trying to rip the toy from his quivering little hands?
Child: I don’t know.

Me: What do you know?
Child: I don’t know!

Me: Nevermind. [I wonder how my brilliant child can know absolutely nothing at this moment.] Well, I think taking the toy from him will make your brother sad. Do you like to make him sad?

Child: I don’t know.

Me: [Audible sigh.]
Child: He makes me sad all the time!

Me: Well, I’m getting sad right now with your attitude! [Pause, think, what would Paul Tripp do? Thinking . . . .thinking . . . .man, I can’t stop thinking of that mustache. This isn’t working. Let’s just go right to the Jesus part.] You know, Jesus wants us to love each other.

Child: I don’t know.

Me: I didn’t ask you a question!
Child: [Pause.] Can I have some fruit snacks?
Me: No, you can’t have fruit snacks. We are talking about the gospel. Jesus loves us and died for us. He wants you to love your brother too.

Child: So?

Me: So give him the toy back!

Then I lunge for the toy and the child runs away. I tell him to come back here this instant and threaten to throw the toy in the trash. I recommit myself to turning down speaking engagements on parenting.
………
I remember years ago hearing a line from Alistair Begg, quoting another man, that went like this: “When I was young I had six theories and no kids. Now I have six kids and no theories.” I must be smart. It only took me four kids to run out of theories.
………
I could be wrong. My kids are still young. Maybe this no-theory is a theory of its own. I just know that the longer I parent the more I want to focus on doing a few things really well, and not get too passionate about all the rest. I want to spend time with my kids, teach them the Bible, take them to church, laugh with them, cry with them, discipline them when they disobey, say sorry when I mess up, and pray like crazy. I want them to look back and think, “I’m not sure what my parents were doing or if they even knew what they’re were doing. But I always knew my parents loved me and I knew they loved Jesus.” Maybe it’s not that complicated after all.

Amen. And may God give us abundant grace to walk a similar path.

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