Rugrats (for Parents)

You can generally tell how my parenting skills are by looking at my kids, the trouble is… we don’t really like that part. Results-driven parenting? Sounds so harsh…

The truth is you can’t cheat at being a good parent. So that I said results should only offend our pride but should leave the statement itself in a place that is quite defensible. The result you and I are looking for? Healthy kids. We should care about that.

Too many of us sacrifice our kids on the altar of our own image as parents. How I’m doing in your eyes can matter more to me than how my kids are really doing. If our parents’ generation taught us anything it’s that when you remove the tough conversations about the things that matter most (marriage, parenting skills) to this place of taboo, it is our children that ultimately pay the price for it.

The trouble is that by the time most of us figure out parenting it’s too late for our kids.

I hate that this is true but I can see it in myself and in most parents I know so we might as well talk about it? If I know anything, it’s that you can’t hide this sort of thing forever. Usually around the time a child hits sixteen everybody knows the issues rolling under the ridiculous “everything is ok here. move along. move along” facade we are so careful to maintain.

Of course our kids are a reflection of us! Of course that’s incredibly painful! I see a way through this though and I’d like to walk you through it? “Perfect!” You might say. “I needed a how-to-raise-perfect-kids template!” Good luck with that… if you find a “perfect” anything in parenting for the love of heaven give it to me!

The problem is that our kids are not plastic, this means that stuff happens. We’ve all seen kids who have had every opportunity to succeed decide to throw it all away and those who started with nothing somehow make something of themselves. This element is called the human condition. We decide what we are going to do in the end. Sure there are so many things we don’t have control over but that is never an excuse to throw our lives away and play the blame game. A guy I knew in business said “My dad used to beat us. I decided I didn’t want to grow up and be a jerk.” There you go. If he said it I can say it…

Parenting is tricky. There are so many ways to lose…

There’s a lot of talk about research and parenting techniques that my grandparents never had access to and wish they did, but on the other side of the coin is the reality that you can find research to support just about any parenting method you want to and we generally gravitate towards the information we were looking for in the first place. Sorry twenty-somethings, I know you think that what you’re reading is the only thing but I’ve been around long enough to know what failure tastes like and there is NEVER the perfect solution for a child, just what seems to be working right now. As that child and situation changes, so does the strategy.

Principles never change but methods do. What worked for a six year old doesn’t work for a twelve year old. What worked for one child may not for another. That’s life and it’s a mess.

The surest way for your kids to lose is by entering the game confident you won’t screw anything up! If you aren’t hungry to learn by actually walking the road and assume you’ll have what it takes because you’re so smart, you will regret it. Actually your kids will regret it. You’ll be too busy telling everyone else you did everything right and blaming the failure on whoever happens to be available for scapegoat duty.

It’s best not to lecture someone who has been driving a car for years because you’ve read the manual and ergo know more than they do. Translation: don’t lecture my wife about parenting if you don’t have kids! She’ll look at you and say what moms and grandmas have been saying to well meaning idiots for years: “Aren’t you sweet!?”

The smartest parents I know haven’t had any kids yet.

Don’t talk to me about parenting if the words “bath time!” don’t strike fear into your heart!
Don’t talk to me about parenting if you’ve never… um… lost track of a child!
Don’t talk to me about parenting if you’ve never had a moment when you actually thought your kid might be dying/dead.
Don’t talk to me if you haven’t had the “year of no sleep”.
Erin and I have walked the road. We have the right to write the book about it.

And so far so good! Like the guy falling from the top of a building said to people at every floor on the way down:)

Have we been completely confident? No.
Have we gotten everything right? Heck no!
In spite of some of what we’ve tried our kids seem quite stable and healthy which is a lovely shock! But again, the smartest parents I know haven’t had any kids yet…

The rest of us have and know that we don’t know what the heck we’re doing. The Bible says “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls.” Ain’t that the truth! The older my kids get the less I know about parenting. We’re just approaching the teenage years and when you have four daughters you just know it’s going to cost you a pound of flesh. Sure I have some good ideas but in the end I want results, not ideas. That’s why I’m worried. I’ve never parented teenage girls but I hear things that scare me.

So what am I doing about it? What I’ve done my entire parenting journey… ASKED FOR HELP. I really believe it takes a village to raise a child. I have watched hundreds of families make a fatal assumption that has forever affected the outcome of their parenting. Most of these families were Christian and that alarms me most of all and is where much of my criticism comes from.

At the end of the day God made me a certain way and from the time I was a child I was asking “Why did that happen?”. It’s how I was wired. Here’s what religious people hate: “Your method is obviously failing, so why would you tell me what you’re doing is the only way to do it?” Our tendency as Christians can be to use God as a scapegoat and cover our own mistakes by telling everyone “God told me to do it!”

More accurately… God gives us principles that never change in every area of our lives, but most people don’t understand that there aren’t really that many principles… there are many methods. It’s always a mistake to evaluate principles and not evaluate methods. To evaluate principles that have always been and will always be is extremely proud and makes us partake in stupid sins. The universe will never care if you disagree with the principle of gravity. It is what it is, deal with it! There are principles of morality and sacrifice that God has ordained that you can holler about but never affect. Thank heavens for that!

There are also principles in the Bible about parenting. But they are applied to YOUR children in YOUR home in YOUR society by YOUR methods. This is where we need the help and the evaluation.

The fatal assumption is that you will have what it takes to figure everything out on your own!!

This is where the village comes in.

Having problems with an emotional child? I am. Guess who I’m talking to? Parents of emotional children. I have no problem telling a perfect stranger I have no idea how to deal with, or even talk to ______. Maybe they know how? Maybe what they say can help me think about it right? I don’t know what I don’t know and all I know is that I’m not an emotional decision maker and have no idea what an emotional decision maker thinks. Maybe an emotional person could help me?

I hope someone can help me… I’m not saying I haven’t had great success in some things so far, but part of the reason is that I never assumed God would only give Erin and I all our kids need. It takes a village. It takes a community. It takes a church.

Our inability to honestly evaluate temporary failure or problems might make us isolate rather than lean in to the conversations that could save us! Do I care about my child or do I care about my parenting image? That’s what it comes down to for me. I decided my image can go take a flying leap until I release my kids as healthy adults that actually bring life to society, adults who are strong and protect the weak, adults who give and don’t take.

This means I have embraced imperfection and the mess. I live in a mess in my parenting all the time now. Heck, I had crying girls fighting over cupcakes this morning! Do you think I have any idea how to handle that? Of course not, and that’s the point.

I need some help. There is something I’ll have to have from the people around me or my kids will lose and I want to stack the deck in their favour as much as I can now.

It takes a village.

It also takes my Heavenly Father. “Unless the Lord builds the house they labour in vain who build it.” Look, if Jesus is your son you might just know enough about parenting to advise the rest of humanity. To overlook the best Father and resource means you might spend all the right energy doing all the wrong things.

Let that not be true of me in the end…


2 thoughts on “Rugrats (for Parents)

  1. This was fantastic, and hilarious! My daughter and I joke all the time that God was right in only giving me one child, she was all I could keep track of. Parenting her has been the greatest joy of my life, with many nights thinking what in the world am I doing??There were a lot of laughs, tears and throwing our hands up….sometimes in the same 5 min. Parenting is the toughest job out there, the most rewarding and the most humbling. Thank you for this series, it’s going to be a blessing!!


    1. It is quite a journey. People hoping parenting fills the void with predictable experiences and only “win” situations need to hang on, have a laugh and find the joy in the day to day things.


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