Taking a quick look around, it's easy to see that plenty of people are parents. However, I think we can agree that even though lots of adults are parents, it doesn't mean it's an easy task. So where is the disconnect? Why are people signing up for such a challenging assignment?
It’s true that some moms and dads may not have been thinking about much besides the activity that precedes parenting by about 9 months. But what were the rest of us thinking? “I want to make some babies to see if they will be smart and good looking. I'd love to have someone to inherit my lack of money when I die.” I did not say that in so many words, but I don’t think I had anything more profound to offer as a reason to reproduce. I'll bet you didn’t either.
Regardless of our motivations or our path to parenthood, there we eventually are, having our rear facing car seat buckling technique scrutinized by a labor and delivery nurse, then off we go . . .
Soon enough we realize that among other things, we have helped create a mirror—a “mini-me” that serves to show us our selfishness, and usually some of our own favorite character deficiencies we have been trying to grow out of for years. Having a small person who looks like you parading around the immature version of our own greed, dishonesty, unkindness, and anger (we’ll talk about procrastination later) is enough to drive us batty.
Besides challenging us to grow personally, parenting is hard for another reason—it doesn't take long to realize that there is no formula. Even once you start adjusting to the new normal, it just morphs anyway as kids move through ages and stages. Plus, if you feel like you have things under control with one kid, add a second or third and their charmingly unique personality puts you right back at square minus 17. (That is rounding up, after sleep deprivation is factored in, of course.)
Even though we want A + B to = C, once we realize it is more complicated than that, what then? Are we reduced to just “winging it” from here on out? Well, even though I like winging it as much as the next guy, I think there is value to an “approach” or “philosophy” of parenting, that encompasses the big picture “why” instead of just the “how” of a formula for behavior management. I’ve mentioned before that my first job out of college was working in a house of 12 juvenile delinquent boys (which is a great chance to practice parenting skills on other people’s kids!), and I soon noticed that my coworkers—who didn't have a good philosophy of parenting—quickly resorted to intimidation and manipulation to get the kids to behave.
There are all sorts of parenting resources in the “shelf help” section of the bookstore, but being suspicious of those with formulaic titles, here are some of the ones I have found helpful.
- Early on my “go to” was Parenting With Love and Logic by Jim Fay and Foster Cline. I liked it not only because Jim Fay is hilarious, but also because it involved logic with choices and consequences, instead of yelling.
- H. Stephen Glenn has a 6-CD set called Developing Capable Young People which I thought was brilliant in how proactive it was. It talked about caring for the person and not just about good or bad behavior.
- From there, I came to appreciate Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel which roots everything in the context of how God parents us and translates that into very practical approaches we can apply.
- Finally, my friend John Lynch recently wrote a book called The Cure & Parents with a couple of his friends. It’s a short book, but so good, as it illustrates how we as parents drag our own baggage into our relationships with our kids, shows us a glimpse at a picture of how that could be healed and healthy, and invites us to let God change us from the inside out.
So, however you got into this parenting business, and wherever you are along that path from car seat to driver’s seat, we are here now. Let’s lean in and embrace the challenge (and the people helping cause that challenge) as we grow together in grace and maturity, one unique day at a time.