The (un)Enjoyable Truth of Parenting
I’ll be honest, I’m a young parent. Young in the sense of my actual parenting experience spans just over 4 years. And I openly admit I don’t know a lot, I’m still learning. While I’ve worked with kids and families a lot in the past, parenting your own kids is different. I can’t just say “good luck” and go home to my kid-free life!
Now I have an 11 year old daughter, a 4 year old son, and a 6 month old baby girl. If you’re doing the math, I know it doesn’t add up. I chose to bring an 8 year old little girl into my life almost 4 years ago when my wife and I began dating. By that point I had my son, but he was just a little guy.
What I’m learning is that the little ones are easy. Correction and discipline are typically a walk in the park. The slightest correction with my son often brings his tender heart to a melting point. He has such a genuine concept of right and wrong, and a desire to obey that when he doesn’t it breaks him in two. My baby girl, well we are still at the eat, play, poop, sleep stage I think.
My pre-teen, spicy, independent soon-to-be 12 year old middle school girl? She tests me! Finally having an every-day dad in her life I know hasn’t been an easy adjustment. For years, because of choices her dad made, it was just her and mom. So naturally me coming into the picture rocked her boat. And yes, even almost 4 years later we are still working at it.
Having a daughter is a blessing, don’t get me wrong. But man, there are days I so badly want to go back to her being the sweet little 8 year old who didn’t have as much sass and attitude! There are moments, like earlier tonight, where her choice in action, attitude, and words put my patience to a whole new test. These are moments my anger easily flares, and my wife graciously de-escalates me before I go tear into my little girl.
And that’s being real. The truth is when I feel disrespected and dishonored by her intentional choices, I get angry. I get really angry, because I know she hasn’t been raised in a way that encourages deceit, a poor work ethic, and a lack of care for consequences. And my natural inclination is to swing the hammer down to make a point.
But I also know that while doing so might be a great emotional release for myself, it does nothing constructive for her.
When I respond harshly out of my emotions, it drives a wedge between us that is not easily removed. But when I respond with correction out of love, the outcome will be different. I’m not advocating nor do I fail to enforce consequences for her poor choices. But the approach in which it is done must be correct.
There are a lot of aspects in which being her present every-day dad brings me joy. Her inquisitive nature, her story telling, and artistic creative abilities are just a few. But there is nothing I find enjoyable about discipline with her.
Despite the hardship I feel, the lack of joy it brings me to enforce consequences when she makes mistakes, I know it’s worth it. I know that every time her mom and I hold her accountable for her choices, it’s for her best interest. I find comfort in the principle (understand it’s not a promise, or a guarantee) we find in Proverbs:
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.– Proverbs 22:6
Regardless of the circumstances, the pain I feel in the midst of carrying g out discipline, the agony of saying “no” to her request to do something deep down I want her to be able to do, I find comfort that right correction can bear fruit. But even if you don’t believe that, even if you think your discipline isn’t making a positive impact, as parents we are still called to train our children. And that includes discipline.
Notice the effect is dependent on the cause, but the cause is not dependent on the effect. In other words, regardless of the outcome, as parents we are still expected to raise our children correctly. Remember it’s a principle, not a promise that they will turn out “right”. As a follower of Jesus, that means teaching them how to follow Jesus themselves in word and deed. Right now for me, that often means helping my little girl see and understand the discrepancies in her logic, which in turn impacts her words and actions.
I never thought parenting would be easy. I knew there would be challenges, pain, frustration. I believed being a dad would be filled with joy. It never occurred to me though, how moments in the midst of raising someone you love so much can be so heart breaking in the moment. As with most things, parenting has its un-enjoyable moments too. But keeping the right perspective on why we discipline, why we correct poor choices and behavior is essential to finding the joy in the overall process.
After all, it’s really about raising someone who ends up loving Jesus more than anything else. That takes time, it takes growth. And growth often times comes through discipline and correction.