In the past 24 hours, one or more of my children have lied to my face, ignored my instruction, talked back, thrown a temper tantrum, complained about getting the wrong kind of gift, and intentionally exposed themselves (to relatives, but still…) immediately after having been warned about that.
Having said all that, let me also say that my kids are amazingly well behaved, get along terrifically well, are smart, funny, respectful, caring, creative, and make me exceedingly proud innumerable times a day. But they are normal, very young humans that have not yet become skilled at hiding their self-centered rebellion.
Today, during one of my sit-down, post-trouble conversations with my 7 year old son, Jonah, it occurred to me that he really just wanted to get back to his ping pong game with his cousin. He was going to say whatever I wanted, and he was prepared to let me go on as long as I needed to – to prove he was sorry – so he could get back to his game.
This got me to remembering that the most effective parenting goes on outside those conversations. Do you really remember the content of your parent’s lectures? Do you act the way you do because you vaguely remember what they said to you? Or is it because some part of you remembers how they lived…
Teaching moments happen, I’m sure. Now that I think of it, I’ve experienced a few… but only a few. In parenting, your life is the teaching moment, and that is at once frightening and relieving at the same time. It is frightening because now I’ve got to actually live in such a way that impresses goodness and mercy and compassion and truth and bravery and integrity and that just seems downright impossible. And it is relieving because, well, there’s a lot less pressure to say the perfect thing every time my kid misbehaves.
But it is relieving for another, deeper reason.
If I truly trust Jesus to light my way, it is because without him right in front of me, I am totally lost. And my kids have seen me lost, plenty. If I want them to be godly, I don’t need to display constant godliness as much as I need to display Jesus as the source of whatever godliness I exhibit.
This is relieving because I don’t really fail even when I fail. I only fail if I can’t admit it.