Parenting is not for the weak. It is not for the mean. Parenting is not for the selfish and not for the spoiled. It is not for the lazy, not for the jealous, not for the short-tempered, and NOT for the impatient. Neither is parenting for the bully or the perfectionist or the know-it-all or the nanny. Did I miss anyone? This past weekend, I was actually sane and prayerful during a parenting crisis, but much more often I am one of the above. Lord help us.
I was following Amy (driving with her mom) back from Thanksgiving in Alabama, and my 8 year old son was sad because he had finished the book he was reading and we had a 4 hour drive ahead. I’ve got a few audio books on my iPhone he could listen to, so I offered that to him. He was stoked and immediately immersed himself.
Over the course of 2 hours, the phone rang once, and then later I needed it a second time to make a call. When I asked him for it a third time, to call Amy, he groaned. “Dad,” he said, “when are you going to stop asking me for the phone? It’s getting really old.”
He handed me the phone and I wanted to croak, “What? It’s getting old? You, getting to borrow my phone is getting old?” That would have satisfied my frustration, but instead I said, “That’s cool. I’ll just keep it for a while.” And he started to get upset… crying a little at first, then big. Then really big. I just kept driving.
Both cars pulled into Cracker Barrel and everyone went in except me and my boy. He’s still crying, but I stood outside the open sliding door of the minivan and asked, “Do you know why I kept the phone?” He didn’t. Then I asked him to remember what he said right before I took it. He remembered, and said it again… but he didn’t see the problem.
Then I told him this story… Imagine two professional baseball players are playing catch, and your little brother comes up and wants to play. They are nice men, so they throw him the ball a few times, but then they go back to playing catch without him. This makes your little brother mad. He throws a tantrum and yells and wants the ball again, so the baseball players go somewhere else to play.
I told him gently, “Buddy, I let you use my phone, which is a privilege and a treat. You were disrespecting my kindness and generosity towards you, by complaining like you did. So I kept the phone. Do you understand now?”
He did understand. And he cried again, but they were sorrowful tears. He didn’t know he had been rude, and he was upset at himself. He didn’t know. Thank God, instead of lashing out at him, I loved him and respected him. This time, all the circumstances alligned to allow me to think things through and show grace. But there’s usually not that much time. We parent in real time, and it’s a mess. This weekend I lost my cool while we were all writing letters to our Compassion kids! Are you kidding me? Lord help us.