There are lots of things I’ve learned about being a parent since Annie was born. For example, she has more energy than I ever will. She tests me to see how I’ll react when she disobeys. She asks me LOTS of questions. Along the way, I’ve come to appreciate my parents a lot more and what they went through raising me. Given that Bean’s due any day now (hopefully September 8th or so), I spend a lot more time reflecting on my priorities and trying to understand what God expects of me as a parent. I could quote most of the Bible verses about being a parent long before she was born and could still show off my mad Bible memorization skills if pressed today. The trouble is the Bible verse all parents learn as their first directive is pretty darn vague. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). What’s this “way he should go” stuff about? What’s this lack of departing promise? Don’t you want your kids to “depart” one day? Isn’t that why you train them anyway, to be independent and able to depart? I know, I know, that’s not what that verse is really about, but it brings up a good point – why is it so hard to be a parent and why didn‘t God give us such explicit instructions as to give us no excuse for screwing it all up?
Here’s my take – God uses children to teach us as much or more than he gives us children to be trained. I can’t give you scripture to back that up, but I’ve learned more about myself, my sinful nature, my shortcomings and my difficulties since Annie has been around than in all the years prior. God has proven I can’t do it alone. So as I’m preparing to become a father again VERY soon, I thought I‘d share some of my reflections on what I need to be reminded of as I start this parenting process again with a new baby.
First, I need to teach my kids they are valued. The Bible makes it pretty clear that I am valuable as a child of God. My children need to understand the value they have to their mommy and me, and more importantly, the value they have to God. Since one of my primary tasks is to point them to God and his holiness, I can’t leave out the value of His mercy and love and what great value that gives them.
Second, I need to make sure they know the reason behind discipline. So I can be sure to get lots of hateful comments, I’ll go ahead and tell you I believe in spanking. I believe in the use of the rod as a tool of discipline, but more importantly, I’m a student of God’s word in how and why I’m to discipline as I do. When I spank Annie, my goal is to approach her lovingly and explain that she is being spanked because of her disobedience and God’s command that I discipline her for it. If done right, the spanking is not the focus – restoration is. Beyond what I’ve read in the Bible about discipline, Tedd Tripp’s book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, has been an excellent resource to help me control my anger, discipline in love and focus on the heart, not the symptoms. I need to make sure my children understand discipline.
Third, I need to make sure Annie and Bean know how much I love their mom. I constantly must show Stacy that she is my one true love, my partner, my helpmate and best friend. I already see Annie watching how Stacy and I interact and asking questions about it. Kids learn by watching, then model the behaviors they see. If they see mommy and daddy fighting, what will the kids believe is the right thing to do? If they see respect, honor and mutual trust, what will they believe?
Fourth, I need to make sure my family knows I am committed to them. Too often, I see families that are looking for an excuse to call it quits. Dad is bored with mom, mom is bitter with dad, children are filled with anger, etc. I believe this is due to a lack of commitment by the entire family to stick out – no matter what. My family should never doubt that I’m coming home at the end of each workday to be with them. My family must never wonder if I’m going to disappear one day because “I just can’t take it anymore.” My family must know I’m committed to be the husband/dad I promised to be.
As I eagerly await the arrival of our new little one, I’m asking God to show me more of these needs and help me internalize the lessons. I can’t think of anything better to pray in these last few weeks before I start the parenting process all over again. I’d love to hear your lessons and reminders because I’ll be pretty darn sleep-deprived for a while and anything you can do will help!