My daughter is turning three tomorrow. Three years! I know it’s a cliche, but cliches are cliches for a reason. Time flies with kids. It’s like going down a hill, you really don’t slow, you just seem to pick up speed. I love being a dad though. It’s my favorite job and by far the most rewarding. As much as you help your kids grow and learn and discover however, I’ve been shocked at how much being a parent has taught me over the last three years.
Don’t get me wrong. I KNOW that Sarah and I have a long way to go still, and we have hundreds of tough, funny, and unexpected lessons to learn along the way. But, on the eve of my daughter’s third birthday, I thought I would write about three lessons (by far not the only three) that Sarah and I have learned about ourselves along the way.
- I care too much about what people think. This one was kind of hard for me. I’ve always been a bit of an outsider, so I probably had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder when it came to this. In my mind I didn’t care what people thought of me, I was an independent person. Being a parent made me realize that might not be as true as I thought. I remember the first time, for whatever reason, I had some clarity when it came to this issue. Sarah and I had gone to a play with two kids. August was cranky, Lizzy had just started potty training and we made a huge mistake. We decided to take them to a 2 1/2 hour show. Obviously it didn’t go well. I got very frustrated and was scolding Lizzy for what seemed like the millionth time when I suddenly heard my own voice. I sounded terrible. Really mean. I stopped and thought, “What am I so upset about?” I mean literally she was 2 something and she couldn’t sit through a 2 1/2 hour show…what did I expect? I realized I wasn’t mad at her, I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed that she had made a scene, in front of people I didn’t know, in an environment really not cut out for kids. I wasn’t scolding her because she had done something terribly wrong (at least I wasn’t as mad as I was because of that). I got that upset because I was embarrassed. I realized that when it came to my kids I had to check my pride at the door. Not that they don’t need to listen or obey, but if I scold my kids because I’m embarrassed all it teaches them is that what other people think is incredibly important. To be honest…it’s not. I love the way the Message version of the Bible puts Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.”
- Intentional is Hard! So I learned this even when Sarah and I got married. There are two ways that I tend to do things, on purpose and by habit. I had great parents and I had a great childhood. I love my parents and I loved my childhood. But when we first brought Lizzy home, I found myself doing and saying things that surprised me. If you pressed me on why I was doing them I would give a half-hearted…”cause”. It wasn’t too long before Sarah and I realized that auto-pilot is a really scary way to parent. So we started talking. How to discipline, why to discipline (this is how I came to the conclusion of lesson 1). What we wanted to do for Lizzy’s school. How to keep our marriage a priority. How we were going to have “The Talk” with our kids and what that would look like. How we wanted our kids to relate to church and our working there. Sarah and I realized that if we wanted to do things on purpose it took talking about it before we got there. We still stumble upon the unexpected by accident. We have to do the “time-out” moments where we look at each other and say “How should we handle this.” But we have decided if we look at each other and ask the question “Why that way?” and answer with a “Well…cause…” we need to spend more time there.
- You and I are loved like crazy! I love my kids. I’m proud of my kids. I’ve been proud of some of my accomplishments but they absolutely pale in comparison when I see my kid talk about what she learned at church, share her toys and triumphantly shout “Look, I’m sharing!”, or even face something she’s afraid of with a crinkled nose and scowling expression. Matthew 7:11 holds so much power for me when Jesus compares God to a Father. If I love my kids as much as I do, and I am selfish and pity and sin-filled, how much more, how much immeasurably more, does God love you and I.
Certainly these three aren’t the only three, or by far the last three, lessons we’ve learned or will learn as parents. I mean this isn’t even mentioning how what you say on accident will be repeated on purpose, the fact that Nickelodeon makes way too much on the idea of talking rescue pups, and how if you think it’s out of arm’s reach it most likely isn’t (I’m not talking about dreams, I’m talking about the steak knife in relation to the high chair at the restaurant). I’m looking forward to learning even more lessons along the way. What lessons have you learned?