Life is a great teacher-What I have learned from being a Parent
Earlier this week I shared some thoughts regarding what I have learned in the last 12 months, the year 2014. Today I’ll take a different approach, talking about some of the things I have learned by being a parent. I feel extremely blessed to have two grown sons, both living nearby, that I have had the ability to mentor, develop and now watch grow into strong young men and soon to be husbands. Ironically, the oldest son, Daniel, celebrates his 27th birthday today. Happy Birthday to Daniel! The younger son, Matthew, will be 25 in the summer and both will get married prior to college football season, a must in this part of the world.
Let’s dive into what I learned along the way:
- Experience and exposure are valuable issues in raising children. We had the good fortune to take our sons to many parts of the country while they were young and this enabled them to have a greater perspective on the world then if they had only spent time in their state or region. Even further, they both spent time outside the country either while in college or shortly thereafter. The biggest challenge I have seen with most Americans is that they have never been outside of this country. It is hard to judge your own area without seeing it from someone else’s perspective.
- It takes a village, or a Scout troop, to raise a family. Both Daniel and Matthew achieved the rank of Eagle Scout while in high school. For some this may not be a big issue, but I will tell you that the scout troop played a pivotal role in getting our sons to understand the value of hard work and persistence. There were also numerous times when I could engage another parent to get a point across that I could not get across on my own. Raising teenagers is sometimes like pushing a rope. Teens will listen to other parents they know and respect much more readily than they might listen to their own parents, but I also know there were many times when I thought they did listen even though they may have given the impression they were not paying attention.
- Mothers and sons have a special bond. Even to this day I find that my sons share much more with their mother than they will with me. This does not bother me in the least, but it is just something I have come to know and accept. My sons have a great mother, one who understands the value of a good tailgate and who also understands that camping can be a fun experience even though she may not have been with us physically on most of these journeys.
- Your children are watching every move you make. I will never espouse to having been the perfect parent. In fact, I was far from that, but I always tried to model my actions such that the boys would see what I thought was important based on where I took them or spent my time. Giving back to others is a great virtue and I am so pleased to see that both of the boys are now actively engaged in making a difference in the lives of other young people. It brings tears to my eyes to even think about it as I type this now.
- Husbands and wives need to be on the same page when it comes to dealing with children. Gena and I have been of one mind in most everything we have done with the boys, but there were times when they would try to “divide and conquer” when there was something they wanted that one of us did not agree with. Don’t let your children divide your relationship with your spouse.
- My role as a parent has changed as they have grown and matured. As young boys they needed someone to tell them what to do, and they listened and obeyed most of the time. As teenagers I shifted to more of a mentoring role with occasionally telling when needed. As an adult parent I am more of a confidant and resource, acting in roles as called upon. The biggest challenge I see with many parents is that they cannot get out of the way of their children. I hope I have never been seen as a “helicopter parent” and letting children and young men fail occasionally is good for them, with limits of course.
- Prayer is a never ending component of parenthood. I am not sure how often my parents prayed for me, but I know that I pray for my sons daily. We may disagree on some issues, but I know their hearts are in the right place. One of the hardest parts of being a parent to adult children is accepting that they may not do things exactly as I would want. That is between them and their Maker and I only have the ability to pray that they seek that guidance.
I have learned many things by being a parent over the past 27 years and I trust I will remain in this learning mode for many years to come.
I wish the happiest birthday to my elder son Daniel today and also have my younger son Matthew in mind too.
Have a great day!