It was a year ago yesterday that I wrote my first post on this blog. This will be post #64, so I’ve averaged just over one a week since then… though I was a lot more prolific in the early days, before I started an actual job. Anniversaries often lead to reflection, so it’s probably not surprising that I’ve been thinking for the past few days about perspective.
Like most things in life, the way you feel as a parent often depends on how see things in a given moment. It’s been a season of many activities and responsibilites lately—it seems like they’re ALL like that lately, but the last few weeks have been particularly crowded. When I’m tired or stressed in other areas of life, I find I fall into the bad habit of trying to manage my children more than I parent them.
By that, I mean I just want them to behave and get along nicely and entertain themselves quietly and not cause me any stress. Unfortunately, none of our kids excel at quiet, unquestioning obedience. So when they don’t give me what I want, it’s easy to feel like a failure.
But I got to watch the older boys in a couple of different contexts this weekend that made me feel better. On Saturday we went to an outdoor community block party where there were games, bubbles, face-painting and all kinds of fun activities for kids. And on Sunday afternoon we went to a park for a picnic with Xander’s home-school co-op.
In both settings I enjoyed just seeing the boys run around and be happy. Oscar is in his element when he’s outside: he chased bubbles and explored the park and dug a canal in the sand and carried the perfect rock about 200 yards just so he could throw it in the ocean. Xander ran around like he was in a chase scene from a Bond movie, taking death-defying leaps off playground equipment as he shot at invisible enemies.
But both of them also lined up for games and took turns and played relatively nicely (for the most part) with other kids. Xander carried on eloquent conversations with grown-ups and Oscar managed a few sentences that didn’t have the word ‘poop’ in them. They did things they never would have done a year ago, like actually playing picnic games that involved organzation and structure and other people’s rules.
On top of all that, I was playing keyboards in church on Sunday and I looked up to see Xander pulling off some killer breakdance moves in front of the stage. (Fortunately, we go to a church where it’s perfectly OK for six-year-olds to execute 360 backspins during worship.) Watching him actually take part like that made me really happy, even if it took a lot of effort not to laugh when I was supposed to be singing.
These little moments remind me that my kids are OK. Sure, there are times I wish they weren’t quite so… chaotic. There will always be things we could do better; they’ll never be perfect little angels, any more than I’ll be the perfect father. But they’re vibrant, and creative, and happy most of the time. When I can see from that perspective, it’s easier to laugh over the not-really-life-or-death stuff, like the fact that our four-year-old still hasn’t grasped basic outdoor peeing etiquette.* In the long run, he’ll be fine. They all will.
Just remind me I said that the next time I’m losing my mind.
*For the record: Secluded bushes = OK. In front of a picnic table in a crowded park = not OK