3 Crucial Realizations for Becoming a Better Parent
Every good parent wants to become better. After quickly learning life isn’t just about you anymore, every decision takes on a new dimension. You no longer ask what is best, but what is best for your children. And you try to make the right decisions, but things don’t always work out how you envisioned.
Here are three things I’ve learned since becoming a dad:
1. You will never attain the ideal.
At least once a day, I am a perfect father, and I have perfect children. It’s usually during the drive home from work. I can see my family clearly, giving me time to change into comfortable clothes. Coming up, one-by-one, asking me to read them a story, or build a model plane, or wrestle. After a quiet dinner, each have their time with me. They leave smiling and all go to bed happy. That’s how I see it during the drive home.
But that’s not what happens. Still in the garage, I am bombarded with little hands and feet. So far so good. But soon the demands are unleashed, and they do not cease.
Lift me up! Swing me around! Come see this bug! I wanna show you something! Remember you said you’d play that game? Look at what we did at school! Come watch a movie with us!
I’m not even in the house yet. My joy is prodded by annoyance, which in turn causes guilt.
A block away, all I wanted to do was see my children, and in an instant, I want them to leave me alone!
I was chasing a dream, the perfect image of a father and his children. I was chasing the ideal. And while noble, the gains are lost without realizing that the virtue is not in the actualization, but in the pursuit.
2. Your job is not to entertain.
There is one phrase in my house our children are learning not to utter:
Dad, I’m bored
I’m no dummy. I’ve read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Once you hop aboard the entertainment train, there’s no getting off. And I don’t know about you, but my kids don’t just want to know what I’m going to play with them, but what I’m going to play with them next, and then after that, and then after that. I have to think four steps ahead before I throw the first ball!
They are endlessly rambunctious, unrelenting in their challenges for you to satisfy their innate drive for excitement and novelty.
And after the board games and the baseballs and the coloring and the building, I have only enough energy left to drop my styrofoam Minecraft axe and exclaim before I collapse:
Are you not entertained?!
Okay, I’m back. My 3 year old demanded we spin in my office chair and listen to the “Road Song” by the philosopher and cultural icon SpongeBob Squarepants.
Sorry. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Theme. Don’t ask.
Where was I? Oh yeah.
The point is that our children aren’t bored enough.
We could all use more time to reflect. That requires stillness, silence—boredom.
3. Your child’s success or failure depends only partially on you.
You delight in their successes, swelling with pride that bursts into social media. And you groan in their failures, obsessing over what you could have done better.
But we would be best to realize how little control we actually have. All we can do is raise them to seek truth and to love God. The rest is up to them. If it leads to success, my heart will rejoice with them. If it leads to failure, my heart will break for them.
What epiphanies have made you a better parent?
About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.