Recently my middle son, Eli was sitting and talking quietly with my wife when he asked her the question, “Mom, is being a Dad hard?” My wife wasn’t sure where the question came from or why he had asked but answered anyway. She said, “Well, I guess you would need to ask Dad, but I think that he would say that sometimes it is hard. He went on talking about how Dads do lots of things that seem like they are hard to do. Then he asked another equally interesting question. He asked, “Why are parents nicer than kids? I mean, they don’t yell or tease or pinch or anything like that, like kids do. Is that hard to do?”
His intent was finally revealed. He had made conscious notice that my wife and I haven’t yelled, called names, teased, hit, or showed meanness to him and or his siblings. He knew how hard it was for him and his brothers to refrain from those types of behaviors and wondered just how parents do it. His question revealed that he had a general concept of parents being kind, gentle, understanding and helpful. Now, whether or not I am all of those things all of the time, I don’t know, but at that moment, I realized maybe I was doing something right.
Sometimes it feels like I’m at my wits end with the noise of kids’ rowdy play, teasing or fighting among siblings and like I’m not doing much right at all as a parent. I teach people the TRU Parenting principles all the time and still struggle with first of all, applying them consistently myself at times and second, knowing whether it’s doing any good or not. All the research and statistics in the world that show that certain TRU parenting principles and methods “work” will never completely quiet that voice of uncertainty that sometimes creeps into our heads. It’s moments like this one with Eli that renew our faith and rekindle our fire of confidence that we are actually doing something right. We are learning and growing and so are our children.
Have you ever experienced that aha feeling of “Wow, I guess I must be doing something right” with your kids? Here are 10 of those moments for me that I hope you can relate to:
1. The first time you held them: The funny thing about this is that at the point that you hold your child the first time, you haven’t done any parenting at that point but I can distinctly remember a surge of joy and pride for having brought each of my children into the world.
2. When you calm their cries: I know that in the first few weeks of life, my kids have all wanted mom. I’ve even talked before about how, as a dad, I have sometimes felt kind of useless to my kids in the first days of their life, but I can see the look of “I must be doing something right” in my wife’s eyes when someone else holds them and they start to cry and then she is able to swoop in and save the day for our little one. This generally takes a little longer to happen to me, but when it does, I feel that same feeling that I must have done something right for this baby to trust and love me.
3. When they can do something, anything by themselves: Almost every “first” our children have tends to produce this inner acknowledgement that we must be doing something right. We feel this when our kids start to roll, crawl, walk, talk, recite the ABC’s, read a word or any other useful accomplishment. My oldest son recently learned to play “Heart and Soul” on the piano. The first time he played it for me, I thought, “Wow, he’s really taking initiative to learn new things. We must be doing something right.” Now, the millionth time he played it didn’t have quite the same effect as the first, but I can still appreciate his independence and initiative.
4. When they run to you with open arms: As a father that works outside my home, there are few things that feel better than young children yelling, “Daddy’s home” and running with arms and fingers spread wide to gather them up the second you walk in the door. I can’t imagine it is any different for a mom. That genuine excitement to be with me reminds me that they really love me and I love them and that is definitely something right I am doing.
5. When they tell the truth even when it is hard to tell the truth: Sometimes this one catches parents off guard because what our children might reveal to us is not always pleasant. I remember an instance when one of my clients told his mother that he had broken her glasses by accident because he was playing in her room. A week earlier his mother had misplaced the glasses and had no idea where they were. The little boy could have left them there and his mother never would have known how they were broken. Instead the little boy went straight to his room to figure out what to do. When he emerged from his room he took the glasses to his mom and said, “Mom, I’m sorry I broke your glasses. It’s okay if I’m in trouble.” Thankfully, this mother handled it beautifully and thanked him for his honesty. She acknowledged to me that she knew that was very hard for him and that she was glad that he had learned something about honesty.
6. When they sit down on the couch to read their siblings a book: One of the most rewarding parts of my oldest son learning how to read has been his willingness to sit down with his siblings and read them a story. There are few things that warm my heart like seeing all of my kids cuddled up under a blanket on the couch reading Fred and Ted. I see how they mimic and imitate the reading routines that my wife and I have done with them.
7. When they are sleeping: This is another one of those things like holding them when they are born. It’s not really that I’ve done anything, but they just look so cute, peaceful and angelic as they lay drooling on their pillow. For that period of time, everything is okay and calm. Plus, in some cases, just getting them to sleep may be quite the accomplishment.
8. When they help without being asked: We definitely have to be doing something right if the kids say something like, “Mom, can I help you with that?” My oldest son loves to tease us when he does things without being asked. He’ll say something like, “Dad, you should really take your shoes up to your room.” I’ll go to pick them up and he has already done it for me. My second son often expresses love by serving others and will perform acts of service without being asked. It is always touching to see him do something, whether cleaning up or coloring a picture, for his brother, sister or mother.
9. When they give freely, thoughtfully, or for no apparent reason: A while back I saw a mother and her three children standing in the hall at church. One of them had gotten a small, “fun sized” candy bar as a treat in his Sunday school class. His two siblings had not received anything in their classes. The two other children stood with their eyes fixed on that candy bar and even though I could tell it was all they could do not to whine and complain that it wasn’t fair that they didn’t get a treat, miraculously they didn’t complain. They just starred at the candy bar with downcast countenances. To the pleasant surprise of the children and absolute astonishment of the mother, her child with the candy bar opened the candy and with the most delicate precision broke the bar into 3 almost perfectly even pieces and gave them to his siblings. You’ve never seen a more proud look cross a mother’s face. She had seen me watch the whole exchange and said in passing on the way out of the building, “I guess they are learning something after all.” All the times he refused to share or taunted his siblings seemed to melt away in that moment.
10. When they comfort their brother or sister: There are so many times that our kids go on playing without giving a second thought for a brother or sister that is hurt, maybe they were even the one that inflicted the pain. Every once in a while however, you will see them put there arm around a younger sibling, talk in a soothing voice, try to cheer them up with one of their favorite things, or even try to bandage up their injury. We get a glimpse at times of their empathy muscle growing in strength. We see our own comforting tones come out of their mouths and bless the life of another. This is the kind of stuff Hallmark cards and facebook parenting memes are made of. You can’t help but think, “Maybe I have done something right.”
These “I must be doing something right” moments are happening all the time. They happen every day. It’s important to take pause every so often and say, “Well, look at that. I must be doing something right!” Truth is that regardless of the struggles you are having and the negatives that are so easy to focus on, you are probably doing more right than you give yourself credit for. The trick is to see the positive things that are happening, the things that are going right, and build upon them. Be grateful when those glimpses come and continue to apply the TRU principles that allow them to happen more often and closer together. Your child is learning. They are growing. You are doing something right!
What other moments have made you think, “I must be doing something right?” How can you continue to build on those moments?
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