Be So They Can Become
Parenting is really challenging. Maybe this is the understatement of the year, or decade, or of a lifetime.
Or maybe parenting is really easy for you. If so, please email me at
and tell me what it is you are doing to make it so easy.
Then, please repent for being such a liar.
For us, every step of the way has been like a puzzle that we’ve tried to solve. Except, someone hid some of the pieces, and there is no box for us to look at.
When our first child was born, we had the same feeling that many new parents have. “Why are you sending us home alone with this baby? Can’t we stay a little longer? What do we do now?”
Jennifer read several different books before Hope arrived,
What to Expect When You Are Expecting?
So What!? You’re Pregnant
Are You Sure The Baby is Really Yours?
I made the last two up. But she did read the first one, and I think it provided guidelines for different age milestones and steps along the way. At each “checkpoint” she would look at the book, and make sure that Hope had the proper number of teeth, or had taken the appropriate number of steps, or was sleeping the number of hours that the book said she should be.
And I guess it was helpful, I don’t know. A quick Google search shows that there are over 14 million copies currently in print, so I guess the book is relatively useful.
Our desire to know the “right way” to raise our kids has continued well beyond the first 12 months of their lives.
What type of tone should I take in this situation?
What are the long term ramifications of allowing her to have a second popsicle?
What does it say about me that my daughter peed in the sink at daycare?
(That actually happened, and no, I can’t explain it. Despite my most fervent pleas, neither could she).
These are just a few of the questions I have found myself wrestling with. I can get very wrapped up in trying to make the “right” decision as I raise my children. After all, I have a responsibility to raise up another human being, which I find to be a fairly important task. The two perspectives that I find bog me down the most, are:
How will this effect what type of person my child will ultimately become?
What does this decision say about me as a parent?
Every decision certainly isn’t impacted by these thoughts, but they always seem to be lurking, ready to lead the way if I’ll allow them.
What we often do, as parents, is follow the map that our parents provided us, take the advice of those around us, attempt to hit all of the milestones listed in the parenting books, or allow perception to dictate our parenting, all in an effort to “raise good kids”.
I’m learning a couple of things centered around these thoughts.
One thing is, I don’t need to be trying to raise good kids, I need to focus on raising good adults. Don’t get me wrong, I wan’t my kids to be kids, to have fun, to eat an extra popsicle (sometimes), and, for lack of a better explanation, be good kids. But when I look around at the adults in the world, it seems to me that one of the problems is that we are lacking in the “good adult” department.
And I think part of the reason for this deficit is that we’ve spent too much time worrying with what we know, as it relates to our children, and not enough time focusing on what we show.
So rather than asking ourselves the question, “Am I parenting the right way?” What if we instead asked,
“Are we the adults that we want our children to be?”
The first question ( the right way question) is pretty easy to deal with. There are plenty of books to follow, blogs to read, or we can copy our parents, because, “we turned out alright”. And, of course, we can always determine what we are “supposed” to do based on how the people in the grocery store respond to how we parent our children. There is plenty of information available if we want to be sure to hit specific milestones and talking points with our children.
The second question is only slightly (ha!) more difficult to wrestle with. It requires more than reading a book, or responding in frustration, or saying no to the second popsicle, because, that’s what you are “supposed” to do (I have a real issue with multiple pospsicles. I don’t know why, but I’m working on it). It requires us to show our kids the “right” way. It requires patience and authenticity with our children, which is often very uncomfortable and uncertain.
But I think it’s a better question for us to spend our time on. More worthy of the struggle. Parenting is going to be challenging for me whether I try to lead from a position of knowledge or from a position of example. I’m going to take what seems to be the road less traveled here, deal with the inevitable challenges, and trust that my family will be better off because of it.
Which means there will be times that I go off “script”, and times that other parents think I’m strange, or question my parenting. It means I’ll make more mistakes, and it will require more honesty, empathy, and grace with both myself and my children.
And it also means that I’ve got to not only “work on” my children, but also myself. What they get when they get me matters. Who I am, beyond just being their dad, it turns out, is critical for us all.
Do you want your children to be kind?
Do you want them to be tough?
Do you want them to have big dreams and pursue them?
You must do more than talk about it.
Do you want them to love people who aren’t like them?
Love people who aren’t like you.
Do you want them to deal with adversity well?
Show them how you deal with it and let them deal with it.
As Brene’ Brown says in her book, Daring Greatly (which is where the two questions came from),
“What we are teaches the child more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become”.
Originally published at efournine.com on July 9, 2017.