When people learn that I have three children (ages 3, 5, and 7 if you’re interested), they assume that I must be an outstanding parent. They write to me with questions like this: “How do you raise your kids under grace?” I invariably respond, “Ask me in 10-15 years.” Ask me when I’ve done it.
For the record, I make no claims to being an expert parent. Like you, I love my kids and I am doing my best to represent their heavenly Father to them. I am constantly encouraging and affirming them. And yet I get frustrated. I say things I shouldn’t and I sometimes go to bed wishing I could change the way I acted during the day. I don’t have the answers you are looking for. But here’s one thing I have learned: kids are one of God’s great mysteries. Anyone who says they have all the answers is obviously not a parent. Or they have turned their kids into robots.
This afternoon we spent two hours trapped in the car with my three-year old singing, “Let’s go to the movies” from the musical Annie. Not the whole tune mind you – he doesn’t know the lyrics beyond the first line. So for a hundred and twenty miles we got, “Let’s go to the movies! Let’s go to the movies! Let’s go to the movies!” He just didn’t stop.
Why did he feel the need to sing this line a million times? I have no idea. He spent most of Annie with his face buried in a cushion. He didn’t like the movie but he clearly likes this song. “Let’s go to the movies!”
Luke’s motives for doing half the things he does are a complete mystery to me. In the car we asked if he wanted to give his mouth a rest. He sang louder! We tried distraction, we made threats, and all we got in reply was, “Let’s go to the movies! Let’s go to the movies!”
We couldn’t very well apply the rod as he wasn’t really being naughty. Singing is his way of expressing joy and there’s something beautiful about a happy child. But it made for a long drive.
At times like this I wonder, how can you parent what you don’t understand? You can’t, at least not fully. You can teach your kids love and manners and how to share but at the end of the day your child is going to turn into a person the world has not yet seen. Only God knows how they are going to turn out. We need to practice faith-based parenting. We need to trust our Father to be a Father to our kids. So repeat after me: “If God can take care of me, He can take care of them.”
Don’t beat yourself up if you feel a little out of control. Who says you have to be in complete control? If you were in control there would be no need for faith. But you’re not and there is and that’s a good thing. So relax.
Anyway, I’ve gotta run. For some inexplicable reason I have an urge to go to the movies.