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God Must Be Crazy To Give Parents Children


God Must Be Crazy To Give Parents Children

Do we screw up our children?

If young adults actually knew what parenting entails, they probably wouldn't do it. Luckily they think they are invincible. When it comes to fathers, I think it wasn't too difficult to find better ones than me. Work was essential to avoid the poor and underprivileged way in which I was raised, but my parents loved us and they saw to our needs and a few extras came our way. But work was demanding, and so was the occupation I was changing to. I was always way too busy.

I wasn't raised with parents being involved in much of what children did. I didn't know anyone who was. On a farm, they gave me work to do, and I did it. Alone. Parents might show up at a basketball game. We didn't expect it. We lived in our world, they lived in theirs. We didn't even want our parents looking over our shoulders. Society didn't force the two to mix, and didn't create that expectations. Wait, isn't that harmful?

I met with most of my high school classmates a few months ago. Very nice people, all. Not one went to jail. Some became religious leaders, one is head of a big company, two were in radio and movie production, several had their own businesses, one climbed a mountain, and most lived wholesome lives raising families, in a small rural area where hardly anyone had any expectations. We were taught as children to make our own way in the world, not get it handed to us.

In exceptionally well done studies of happiness around the world, the things we seem to treasure as a society as bringing happiness, are not standard. Poverty is a downer, universally. Earning more money than is needed doesn't increase happiness. Unmet expectations brings unhappiness. We get set up by society sometimes to have different expectations than what we get. We all have to deal with the world we have. The reality of our world isn't set by our expectations of it.

I loved being a father... when I wasn't hating it. I was more tolerant than I ever thought I could be. Our abilities were stretched to meet the need. Those children put a twinkle in my eye, a delight. I made sure their needs were always met. Their wants? Endless - no one had that much money. They were fun to play with when young, and we made sure they were in schools that would encourage them to love learning. My wife stayed home with them through the first grade, and then always took jobs in which she would leave for work after they left, and arrive home before they did, until they were all in high school. So the two income household that is today's standard, wasn't ours and we were always just a little short of money, but I made a good income.

Some of our kids had rules, some had guidelines, depending on how responsible they were. I learned that you can't treat everyone the same. You can expect children to stay out of trouble, but the reality of our world isn't set by our expectations. To them, rules are just there to break. They aren't supported by reason and experiences, so they are like sticks. Break them when you want. Experience is how kids grow. It's how they learn about why the rules are there.

I truly wanted teenagers that I could talk to, help form their adult attitudes, do things with them. Nope. Not to be. They all were practicing to be lawyers, and had more fun driving people crazy and arguing endlessly to justify what they wanted. They especially argued and fought with each other. It got to the point that if we went somewhere as a family, we took two cars. One car for parents, one for kids. Today they would have been on ADHD meds, but we preferred active children to medicated.

Parenting is thankless. Everything you provide for children is a given, an expectation, especially in a world where people have plenty, and kids don't have to pay for it. But it's also very rewarding. You give kids enough freedom to make some mistakes. You let them learn some things the hard way. You let them make their own way in the world. You let them earn some money and pay for things, so they appreciate them and not expect everything in life to be handed to them. Sometimes they ask for things, and you know it will only bring trouble, so you don't give it to them. Other times you know what they want will only be wasted, played with for an afternoon and then forgotten.

One of mine couldn't stand authority and had to flirt endlessly with law enforcement. Rules? See how far you can push them. He wouldn't attend school, so he got no car. When he finally did leave, more or less, and got a car, he refused to license his vehicles for at least ten years. His legal fees were enormous, but that was a minor annoyance. I told him, if you get yourself in jail, you get yourself out. He mostly burned it out of his system by the time he could be charged as an adult, when he discovered that those minor things you don't want to do will actually land you in jail, and he realized, no, I wouldn't get him out of jail. Our expectations of life aren't reality. But he learned a field on his own, worked his way up, and now has a very responsible job.

I finally got to the point of saying to myself and others, "Get yourself a tee shirt that says, "I survived teenagers." Every kid is different. There is no right answer for everything. For many things, there is no answer, you just have to live through it. Eventually they will move on, their mature personalities will form, and those irrational, irritating, and troublesome things in their lives will no longer be present.

I was very fortunate that my three became successful in their lives. And by age 28 they were mostly done moving in and out. Compared to many parents, we didn't have it too bad. "Everyone screws up their kids," says current wisdom. We survived. Our children do well in life. We apparently did some things right.

So there it is, a formula: love, tolerance, acceptance, forgiveness, guidance, rules, guidelines, support, individual attention, allowing them to make mistakes, allowing them to suffer the consequences of their actions, two cars, a twinkle in a parent's eye of love and good humor, appreciating their success, telling them so, and the knowledge that we're always here for them even if we prefer they don't move back in, and be careful of defining our lives by outside expectations - there is a wide range that works. Parenting? This is a metaphor: We're made in his image, and now you know what you need to know about God. Not the angry, hateful, "Do it my way or else," God. But the loving God who lets us make sloppy mistakes and learn, wants to see us succeed in our lives, and wants good things for us. Except he does it a lot better than I do.

Kids make me laugh. I wrote about some experiences in this free ebook, Things Parents Can't Have.

- Dorian


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