Monday, May 5, 2014

My Parenting Book

"You should write a parenting book!" Graham said. 

First, let me just say that I cannot imagine higher words of praise from a fully grown son--the same son who reminds me daily that I have failed tremendously in training my dog. He won't be suggesting that I author a canine obedience book. 

Second, let me tell you why I doubt that I will ever write a parenting book. I won't do it because I am convinced there is no one formula, no one method, no one system that works. I read every parenting book that I could get my hands on, and while many wise authors informed my approach to parenting, none of them turned out to have THE ANSWER. Each family, child, and situation is unique, with innumerable variables. Parenting books offered some helpful insights, but many seemed to suggest that if I did X then my child would do Y. So I would do X, but my child would do Z. Z wasn't in the book. The variable that emerged in my house always seemed to be uncharted territory. Which made me feel like a failure. 

And I was.

Yes, I was. And I am. 

I remember once when I was frustrated as young mom, feeling like I was trying every possible godly discipline tactic in the many parenting books that I had read, and not seeing any results in my children, I cried out in anguish to God! I wanted to be a perfect parent, and I knew I was failing because my kids were a mess. 

Gently, God whispered a question to my heart, "Who is the only perfect parent?" 

"You, Lord!" I quickly replied. Indeed, he is the only Father who has never failed.

"Well," he replied, "Look at my kids!"

Aha! SO even the perfect parent--God Himself-- has messed up kids. Which means that my kids, who have flawed parents--are doomed to be disasters. You know why? Because my kids, like me, are sinners. Even when they were babies. Especially when they were toddlers. And when Graham was between the ages of 5 and 8, I was pretty sure I was going to kill him. 

I used to look at my misbehaving boys, shake my head, and think, "You little sinners!" 

Poor little sinners with parents who fail. What hope did they possibly have?

It turns out that little sinners don't need perfect parents, they need parents who know what to do with imperfection. Sin is a genetic disease. I passed it on to my kids, and I don't have the cure. Thankfully, the One Perfect Parent is also the Great Physician. 

And so it seems that parenting is about a couple of hungry beggars teaching their kids where to go for bread. The temptation is to think we have some bread to give them--that we can meet their needs. But we can't. We can only point them to the one who can. 

Therefore, if I wrote a parenting book it would consist of 18 words:

Cling to Jesus like he's your only hope, because he is. Teach your children to do the same. 

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