Something happened to me today. My oldest son (of three) turned ten today. TEN! This means I have been a parent for a decade. I have ten years worth of experience at something (well two things, my wife and I have been married for 16 years). I love my boys. All of them. Each individually for differing reasons. They are awesome dudes and I can’t imagine what life would be like without them. Rather than sing the praises of my boys, which I could do all day long, I want to share a few things I have learned over the last ten years. Might be a bit of a stretch to say these are parenting tips or advice, but either way these are things I have learned as a dad.
1. Unity. Always. Ronda and I need to always be on the same page when it comes to the boys. This becomes even more critical when there are more kiddos than adults.Children are manipulative can artists that will use whatever they can to their advantage and divide and conquer is one of the most popular tools to use. As long as the parents are unified together dive and conquer won’t work.
2. I’m not always right. This was kinda hard for me to realize because I am the parent and therefore i know better or more r at the very least I can beat you up. Having said that, I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I make mistakes and mess things up. One of the greatest parenting lessons I learned from my dad growing up was being able to own up to being wrong or being out of line. When I mess up, I ask the boys to forgive me… same as I expect from them.
3. I am always right. This may seem like a contradiction to above, but there are times when it is appropriate to say to your kids, ‘I am dad and therefore I am right!!!!’ Growing up the lamest reasoning my parents ever used for anything was ‘because I said so’. Reality is, this is often the most relevant, best answer in almost any scenario, especially the ones where I don’t feel as though I owe my boys any more explanation. This doesn’t sound right? Well it is, because I said so.
4. Sometimes it is better to just walk away. There are times my boys make me so mad I wanna wring their little necks (something I think my parents also threatened). The right choice here is to just walk away. Calm down and let cooler heads prevail and then we can all work towards resolving this matter in a way that would society proud of our civility. We use time out in our house, but I have also realized its ok for mommy and daddy to take a time out. There is no discipline or situation that has to be handled immediately, unless there is blood and that’s another story, so it is ok time catch your breath and come back to it.
5. Patience. It takes way more patience to be a parent than I have on my person on any given day. It is only through the grace of God I have made it this long. Suffice it to say, God is patient with us so it only seems fair for us as parents to be patient with our kiddos. This patience will never be tested more than when you go out to eat. Going out to eat is a thing of the past… for the next 5 years. It. Just. Isn’t. Worth. It. Which leads me to my next lesson:
6. God is awesome. Not because of the awesome things he does, or the ways he works out the mess we create or how he does any of the other things you may want to insert here. But because of how much I have learned about my relationship with him by being a parent. So much more of how he interacts and relates to us as humans makes much more sense now that I have kids of my own. The depth of his love and commitment to us is mirrored in the parent-child relationship. If God loves/cares for me equal to or greater what I do my kids then his love is much greater than I could have anticipated prior to having kids. This realization has shed some light on why my prayers don’t always get answered the way I wish they would. Sometimes I ask for stuff that wouldn’t be good for me or wouldn’t make sense if I got them from him. Same is true of being a parent. Kids ask some ridiculous stuff acting as though it sounds perfectly reasonable to their little minds. What doesn’t sound right about ice cream for breakfast?
7. Each child is different. This sounds novel, but it is true. Each one of my boys is a human being. An individual. I have three little men running around my house. Three very different people with different needs, wants, ways of communicating, ways of showing affection, ways of laughing, things that make them sad, things that make them angry and ways of processing life. What makes me think there is one size that fits all parenting? There isn’t. Each of my boys needs a little bit of a tweak to the way I interact with and parent them. Still the core approach to parenting, but a slightly different application to each one. The sooner this is learned the better,
8. Kids just want you to be engaged. It doesn’t matter what you do with these little animals, as long as you are doing it with them they are happy. Kids want our time. They want our attention. They want to know they matter and are important to us. They want to know we care about them. It doesn’t take much effort to show our kids they matter to us. This is probably one of the most important things I have learned as a dad. What my boys want most out of me, is me. They want me. They long to be with me doing menial stuff. There is something much more valuable or electric about being in my presence than I could have guessed. Give your kids time. Give them you.
9. My parents put up with a bunch of crap from me. I learned this little tidbit very early on as a dad. I came to understand what kind of people my parents must have been to have put up with my brother and I. We were off the hook and so are my boys and now I have a greater appreciation for all my parents went through and did for me growing up. Wow. Which really leads me to my last lesson or thought…
10. Parenting is hard. Like many things in life worth doing it is hard. You have to give up everything for these little terrorists. (When my boys are pitching fits, that’s my favorite thing to say to them – “Your fit is hurting my ears, you are terrorizing me and I don’t negotiate with terrorists. So when you can talk calmly we can negotiate, but I refuse as long as you terrorize me”) Our lives cease to be our own in many ways. We now have to think in terms of our family in terms of the needs of our children. Everything about schedule, routine and everything you do is shifted. Your circle of friends changes. Your routine activities change. Hobbies change. Priorities change. You now have to consider everything you do with them in mind. And the strange thing is, this doesn’t feel like an inconvenience to you. You do it gladly. You look forward to doing it. They are the joy you never knew you were missing. Having said all that, it is hard. It is not easy. You feel like you got a new complicated toy and when you open the box the manual was left out. Its terrifying. You have no idea what you are doing for like the first 20 years of being a parent. You never sleep, there’s always a poopy diaper to change. It just isn’t easy. You constantly fear making the wrong choice and doing something that will warp them forever. You wonder what’s the return policy if you break it? It is hard. Don’t be fooled into thinking this gig is easy. It isn’t.
There you have it. Ten lessons I have learned for each of the ten years. Not an exhaustive list, but a few that come to mind. Being a parent has been the most difficult and most rewarding thing I have ever done.