It has been brought to my attention recently that I am not a parent. Not a good parent, or a bad parent, just that I have not been counted as a parent at all.
Webster’s gives one definition as this: “a person who brings up and cares for another”
Dictionary.com gives this as an option: “a protector or guardian”
The Bible checks in on this subject with no shades of grey…
- Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
- Proverbs 29:15 – The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left [to himself] bringeth his mother to shame.
- Proverbs 1:8-9 – My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.
Whether or not you consider the Bible a source of learning, or training, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we all learn bad habits, just as we learn good ones. We all start from the same place; birth. From there, we learn. We are born imperfect. We are born sinners who make mistakes. Period.
- Ecclesiastes 7:20 – For [there is] not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
- Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
- Romans 3:10 – As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
So, I point this out because we are born flawed. We make mistakes. We make bad choices. We do things that are wrong. We are far from perfect, and I have proved that all by myself more times than anyone could ever count. We grow, we learn; and right, wrong, or indifferent, it becomes who we are, and how we are. Then at some point in life, as who we are and how we are, we become parents.
Ha! Parents! I don’t care how ready you think you are or how one thinks that this time is better than that time to become a parent. We all start as parents very similar to how we came into this world. We learn as we go. Yes, we have ideas passed down to us. Yes, we can ask, and we can read, and use all kinds of resources to help define this new role of parenting. Then all the while, every passing second, the rubber is meeting the road, and this person we now care for as a parent is growing, learning, and sometimes shaping us more than we are them.
Jumping ahead, us adults, as brilliant as we are, we sit in circles complaining about this kid or that kid, and those kids learned that behavior somewhere, sarcastically implying that the people in the role of parents are the cause. Then we go home and act the way we act within our four walls, and that is better than the rest? Maybe. Maybe not.
Certainly there are parents who are better at getting desired results in the behaviors and attitudes of their children than others. But I remind you that not one of us is any more perfect than another. If that isn’t a stark, bare bones, reminder that race and equality are rights gained simply by being born, then I don’t know what else is. Need we look any further than when toddlers gather, in virtually any setting, where they come together, instantly consider themselves new friends, and see nothing more than another kid, no better, no worse, no different, no tensions, no stereotypes, no more entitled, no less deprived. They see themselves and they see someone to share this passage of time with, on a level that is comfortable for them.
Okay, now to why I started this post in the first place. My time, my prayers, my devotion, my sacrifice, my yearning, my pride, my love, my care, and my concern have been deemed as not real, or not existing; so as I move forward through this piece just humor me and pretend that you are in fact reading thoughts and words as written by another parent.
First, I come from a place of imperfection. I am humbled by the lack of my own ability to avoid mistakes, sins, and bad choices, without the help from others and discussions with a God, Who has to be growing impatient with my personal learning curve. I am so thankful for my wife, for friends, for my family, especially my Lord and Savior, and the amount of patience and understanding that I am afforded.
That being said, I was nowhere near ready for parenting, according to my own definition and understanding, when my first born was conceived in October of 1991. I had no idea how much my life would change in every month of every year since. No idea. Oh man, have I made mistakes. Too many to count. Too many to not be embarrassed while looking in the mirror and discussing my track record. But, I will say that nothing has been a bigger blessing and more than two and a half decades of pure joy, than raising children. I often think that I am not worthy of the moments I have shared, watched, enjoyed, and look forward to, as a result of being responsible for the upbringing of children.
It’s 2017, and we are so smart. So much technology and instant gratification, but somehow, I have largely spent the last 25+ years going to bed at night saying, “Today didn’t go anything like I thought it was going to”. Why? Because having kids is life changing, not just once, but for all time. That’s okay. Actually, it’s perfect. Because we are not the same. While apples don’t really fall very far from the tree, they are different shapes and sizes, similar perhaps, but not the same. When I think of it, who really needs another exact replica of me anyways.
There have been times in my life that maybe nobody should have seen. Times when even in my own memories they are dark and drab. Yes, I was, er uh, I am not perfect, as I said. I almost ran away completely. I tried to run away in my mind, but knew I couldn’t. God kept my feet to the fire, and there for a little while I was impervious. Or at least that was the front I wore. Those times were not a result of anyone or anything else, but my own selfishness and stubbornness. I almost single-handedly put myself into that state of mind. Every single person close to me during those times suffered in some way or another, including me. I take responsibility for all times, dark or otherwise. I have prayed about these. I have apologized. I have changed behaviors. I have loved when I wanted to hate. I have given when I wanted to take. I have under promised and over delivered. I have asked for help for the children I have been blessed with, to overcome the weaknesses where I have failed. I am human. I am flawed. I have questioned a lifetime of doing my best, because there’s always more to do. As far as I know, I am a parent, and that role will last longer than me.
I only know one way to do this parenting thing, and that is to be inclusive, hands on, and just go about life with the energy and passion that I would regardless of how many come with me. My parents taught me right from wrong, they taught me to love, to give, to care, to pray, to be kind, to listen, to work hard, to get the job done, how to respect, and whether they knew it or not, they gave me distraction-free space to learn how to be comfortable in my own skin, among a million other things that could probably be listed.
I don’t know if God placed 6 children in my care because He knew that I was a slow learner, or because He believed in me more than I ever would. But, I reiterate that nothing has brought more joy and opportunity for on-the-job personal development than half a lifetime (at this point) of time spent among the children I have been entrusted with.
So…to the children whom God gave me time to share…in my words…
It’s Been My Pleasure
For all of the moments when my heart leapt, and others when I searched for answers and wept.
For the times when I tried to be the driving force, but also the times when I pushed to change your course.
When your derring-do hinted of immortality, it might have been me that set a tone and introduced formality.
For the hours spent just to watch you sleep, and the prayers I whispered, holding back the years, your soul to keep.
For the hours and miles we covered pursuing this thing or that place, it was all worth it, to see a smile on your face.
Thankful for the strength to hold you hour after hour, and to watch you bloom like the most beautiful flower.
Watching you grow, play, perform, or just you being you, might possibly be the greatest thing that I ever do.
A smile too big to conceal, and a chest puffed with pride, seeing you achieve is far too much for me to keep inside.
Of all the greatest things that I ever did, watching you grow, learn and succeed, has been the best; that’s my kid!
All the questions answered and the mysteries solved, lessons shared, and the questions I posed, my way to be involved.
Exploring we did, rivers, lakes, mountains, and woods, all walking in God’s creation we shared that which is good.
We talked about God, right, wrong, and certainly respect, to be ready and so you would know what to expect.
When you love someone enough not to be their friend, to prepare you better for the rest of life you will spend.
It pains my heart to know that children I held so near, go their own way, yet I will always revere.
As you go, one by one, adults on their own quest, I hope you look back and know that all I did, was try my best.
Parent, or not; It is, it will be, and has been my pleasure.