Raising young children has been the most difficult job I’ve had. I know that’s not exactly a newsflash for a lot of people. But I was an only child who was consistently told by my family that I would one day make a great father. Somewhere along the line their reassurances translated into a simple equation in my mind:
Raising Children = Moderately Hard/Mostly Fun.
Oh, the bliss of ignorance . . . until the moment of truth arrives.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a father of two young kids, but I was quite naïve about the lessons parenting would bring. I’ll call these lessons “virtues” in an exercise of cognitive reframing, rather than what they often feel like: grueling events that, if not respected and studied carefully, could suck one’s very will to live.
Who knew I’d learn so many virtues from my kids?
Here are my top five:
- Enthusiasm. This one’s easy at first, especially when you are eyewitness to the birth of the most beautiful baby in the history of mankind. That’s an adrenalin rush I’ll never forget.But when the sleep deprivation kicks in, parental enthusiasm begins to peter out. You begin to ask yourself hard questions, like “What was I thinking?” and “Why won’t this thing stop crying?!” But then she falls asleep on your shoulder and you are in awe of a sleeping angel. All of a sudden all the sleepless nights become worth it, and your resolve as a parent moves forward, stronger.
- Patience. I thought I was a patient person . . . and then I tried teaching my three-year-old how to tie his shoes. Make one bunny ear . . . make a second bunny ear . . . no not that way . . . oh, hell. Let’s buy the kid some Velcro! But these small, teachable moments (for me, not my kid) have helped me understand what is important and what isn’t. It’s a lesson I’m still learning.
- Assertiveness. Ever tried feeding a 6-month-old a jar of strained peas? Yeah, that’s not happening, no matter how many times the choo-choo approaches the tunnel. But there’s something refreshing about the black-and-white nature of a kid’s likes and dislikes, and their innate belief that their opinions matter. I’m trying more often to make my preferences known so I’m not Mr. Wishy-Washy. I believe God gave each of us unique gifts and talents, and a unique point of view that needs to be heard.
- Imaginative. Storytime with my kids is my favorite. To see the look on their faces as they let their imagination enter the story I’m reading is inspiring. I’m starting to better understand that we can each write our own inspiring story through the life we live and the memories we make.
- Acceptance. My kids didn’t get to choose their dad, but the way they light up when I get home at night makes me feel as if they did. Unconditional love is a powerful thing, though I don’t doubt the power of a well-timed ice cream cone as well. My kids seem to accept me for who I am, and I’m trying the same response with the people in my circles as well. We’re each a work in progress.
Well, there’s my Top Five.
What other things your kids are teaching you? Please let me know in the comments below.
by Chris Epstein, Clinical Director of Innovation360 Dallas