How do you do it?
This is a question my wife and I get regularly. It usually comes shortly after someone learns we have five boys. We get it, it’s a lot of kids. We have a lot going on, blah, blah, blah…
Here’s the truth, whether you have one child or ten children, every parent has more to do than is humanly possible. Parenting is inherently bigger, more consuming and out-of-reach than anyone counts on. This is the dilemma.
Parenting is an infinite task with eternal consequences, yet it’s given to people who are trapped in a world of limitations. There’s never enough money, time, energy or even patience available. So what do you do?
First, don’t quit.
Second, recognize that God did not leave you alone in this journey. Yes, there is far too much parenting needed with any given child than any one mom, dad or village can handle. That’s why God promised to be with us—with you. Your parenting matters to God. And while He had a lot to say about the subject, I think He’d prefer we try a bit of a different plan, which brings us to number three.
Third, if your goal is perfection, you will be sadly disappointed. In my experience, I’ve learned it’s less about getting it all right and more about getting some of it right. I promise this is not an excuse for poor, lazy or irresponsible parenting. It’s simply the realty of this world of limitations. Some things are just more important than other things. Call it prioritization, call it picking your battles, call it only-so-much-time-in-one-day, but everyone has to choose. Sure, you can draw whatever line you want in the sandbox. You can battle with a two-year-old over broccoli; you can require you eitht-year-old to be perfectly compliant on your three-hour trip to Target; you can scream at the top of your lungs to your teenage son, "don’t pee on the toilet seat!” But you’re never going to do it all right and you’re never going to win all the battles.
Psalm 145:8 says these words describing God, our Heavenly Father, "The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” This is a simple sentence (literally 13 words) that perfectly describes the character of our God. Throughout the Bible, we see a pattern at work with God. His actions are sourced in His character. He is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. These four character traits are more important than everything else. This is what we focus on. That’s a radical thought—focus on God’s character more than your child’s behavior. WOW! If we allow our focus to be where the real impact is, we would give greater attention to allowing the character of God to shape our character.
I’ve made it no secret that I struggle with the “slow to anger” bit over the last several years. I assure you, from countless attempts to “do this better,” it’s a battle I’m not gonna win with putting forth more flawed, human, Andy effort. I need to take my weakness in parenting to my Heavenly Parent. I need to get close to Him. I need His ways to rub off on me and become my ways.
Where does that leave me? Definitely not perfect. Always learning. But confident as God changes me, the parenting that falls out of me will look more like my perfect Heavenly Father tomorrow than it does today.