If you’re like me you discover boundaries by stumbling across them. If this were the method for locating trip wires and land mines in the military you can rest assured there’d be casualties.
I entered parenthood with images of my cape flapping in the winds of success. Has it happened? Actually yes! I’ve accomplished all the things I set out to do. Oh and by the way – pigs fly!
Not a chance in… HELP! I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Patience, Persistence and Parenting
I have crossed nearly every boundary I set for myself; some on purpose, some accidentally like a trip wire. Bottom line – parenting is a life-mirror that reveals to us our very fragile humanity. We need to be real with ourselves. Setting boundaries minus the experiences required to do so = unhealthy expectations and disappointment.
The approach I have discovered to the most helpful in parenting is patience and persistence – and yes the occasional land mine. But for real, why patience?
Patience. This is one of those human virtues even the most seasoned of people tell you not to pray for. I can’t become a patient person without the opportunity to choose to be patient. Translation: in order for me to be patient (with myself or anyone for that matter) means I will find myself in impatient circumstances. And impatient circumstances try me – they challenge my unhealthy boundaries (the ones I set before having experienced something firsthand) and cause me to learn from experience rather than idealism.
At the end of the day, I find that I need to be more patient with myself more than anyone else. I expect far more of myself than I do my kids or my wife. My tendency is to jump to the conclusion that I am failure as a dad if I can’t “figure it out” in a particular situation. The reminder to be patient allows me to be in tune with the fact that I will discover most boundaries by accidentally crossing them. I need to be patient with myself as life and experience teaches me the wisdom I need to be successful.
This leads to persistence.
Persistence. The never-give-up spirit. This quality is so lost on our generation. In our world of microwave happiness and unhealthy expectations of life, persistence is likened to physical exertion in a gym or in a yoga class. Persistence in parenting or relationship… not so much!
I’ll be honest. The first time I woke up in the middle of the night with my daughter or son and tried to go it alone in getting them back to sleep – yeah, let’s just say I entertained playing in a busy street in hopes that I might be run over. I was awful at comforting my kiddos when they were newborns.
Older women in my childhood church always told me “You’ll be the best dad ever! You’re so good with kids.” Where did they get this notion you ask? Because they’d see me holding a child at church making funny faces at them. That’s it. If that was truly a rite of passage for fatherhood then my almost 3 year old daughter would be a terrific father. Boy were those church ladies wrong, well-intentioned or not.
I do believe I found my niche in being a father, but it didn’t happen overnight. As a matter of fact, overnight is where more cussing conversations with God happened the first few months of my daughter’s life than did success in fathering. At certain points in my children’s newborn stages, I’d dread sundown like a kid going to the doctor for shots or surgery. But as time passed and my persistence grew so did my ability to speak my kids unspoken language – the secret language required for parenting babies.
This leads us to parenting.
What is parenting? Really – what is it? Have you ever thought of what a good definition would be? Truth be told, our definition of parenting flows out of our childhood experiences and our knee-jerk reaction to those experiences. The problem with this is our definition of parenting is often based on our experience of parents (ours and others) when we were kids. See the problem?
We must learn to define parenting (as parents) on a moment to moment basis. We often gauge our success in parenting on the 50 year plan we have for our life. But what if we began defining our parenting success on our willingness to patiently engage in our own humanity and the lives of our families from one moment to the next?
Are you being patient right now? Are you being persistent right now? Who cares about what the next moment will look like – all we have is this one. Be patient. Persistently pursue parenting in the only moment you have, learning from the land mines you step on and offering yourself the grace needed to drop the ball from time to time.
Patience and persistence posture our hearts for listening and being attentive. Attentive listening may be one of the top 3 qualities in great parenting, because it enables learning – and learning enables understanding and wisdom. And the application of wisdom and understanding in parenting – that’s success.
But success comes at the tremendous price of failure and the stick-with-it spirit. Parenting is not perfection and capes. Successful parenting is comprised of a humble spirit in tune with their humanity and their need for grace as they trust the process of patiently persisting, learning as they go and being vulnerable enough to admit it.
Kids need these kinds of parents: patient, persistent, attentive enough to stick with it, vulnerable enough to admit failure and humble enough to pick up the pieces after self-inflicted explosions.
Can we find success outside of this?
Not a chance in…well, you know.