I remember when our oldest was our youngest, just born. My wife and I arrived at the hospital with life already figured out. My memories of that time are fading at the edges. I remember the panic that enveloped as I stood ready to enter the surgery room and the same panic that faded as I entered and my attention turned toward caring for my family. I recall the awe of meeting my son, MY SON, for the first time. I remember watching, as my wife and son slept nearby, Tiger Woods win the Master's with a miraculous putt. Upon leaving, I remember telling the nurse that I knew how to change a diaper (although I did not), but she taught me anyway.
Years later, we welcomed another son into this world. The miracles repeated in the same and different ways. We were fully living this life of parenthood, all grace.
I think about what advice, if any, I might have for our friends. Here are a few thoughts...
- You don't know, what you don't know. My perceptions of all that matters most are quite different than pre-kids. God's teaching and renewing me. The changes in me have only been to the degree I've been able to get out of my own way; letting go and letting God.
- Parenting is mentoring and trusting, not controlling. Author John Lynch writes, "No matter what I believe, each of my children have their own relationship with God, finding their own way, in their own choices. I do not have control over that. It's a mistake to make myself responsible for the choices of anyone else, even my own children."
- Until you've been there, don't judge. Further, don't judge. I used to looked at other families and their kids with their messy faces, Cheerio strewn trails, scattered toys, and disheveled cars and wonder why they just couldn't clean the whole act up a bit. I write this on a table filled with Legos in a room will finger-smudged walls and next to a dog that sheds (which I had warned against). All perfectly messy.
- You have to receive grace before you can give grace. Just this morning, a tooth was removed from underneath a pillow and replaced with a gift. It should have happened last night. When our son wondered aloud this morning why the tooth was still there, I told him to go back to sleep. Sometimes, the Tooth Fairy is late. On another occasion, the Tooth Fairy was a no-show due to the heavy snow. It happens. The Tooth Fairy, our parenting, our kids, and life itself isn't perfect. And there is no getting there. There is only grace, received and given.
- Parenting gives new context. So many lessons of faith, trust, and of God's love for us have come alive as I related them to my own experience of Fathering. God, I'm so thankful.
My six-year-old just arrived with the sunrise and laid the money he received from the Tooth Fairy on the table with a smile. When he awoke earlier, he had worried the Tooth Fairy had forgotten. Although sometimes it's later than we expect, the gifts always arrive. Grace is always on it's way.