" 'Are you parenting the right way' is not so much the question, but rather, 'Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?' " (Brene Brown)
Earlier this Summer, James and I joined a group of dads and sons for an overnight camping trip, the first for many of the kids. From hot dogs and s'mores to exploring a dry river bed, a nighttime park ranger talk to a bee sting, it was worthy of the designation "camp-out".
Those times of collectively living out this messy parenting journey, especially among just fathers and sons, are few and far between. That night, as we sat around the bonfire under a canopy of stars with our sleeping ones tucked in the tents, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. We are not alone in the struggle to be something more for our sons than we know we are.
After 12-hours of mosquito spray and sleeping bags,
we packed up the mini-vans and thought, "That was so great; we should do
it more often...in like, a year or two". Maybe that simple, little jaunt will actually communicate something deep to our boys, that their Dads are explorers, just like them.
Dads are caught in a strange tension--we know our huge influence on the well being of our kids but we don't know how best to exert that influence given our own limitations--our lack of patience, our lack of time, our lack of worthiness. As a Dad, I feel so burdened to set up the right parameters for James and instill the right ethics. Ironically, sometimes in the process, I fail to demonstrate those same parameters and those same ethics in my own life. Maybe, in sort of a reverse logic, I should focus my highest efforts not on James' behaviors but on my own. Then perhaps I will have done something really transcendent for him--I would have given him a flesh and bone picture of the man he might want to be someday. Rather than a list of rules, I might have given him a far more enticing model for living...a flickering reflection of his heavenly father, a life-long exploration of goodness and love.
This is all fine in theory, but most of the time, this intention snaps like a twig in the face of 5-year old irrationality, messiness, and, bad moods, not to mention my own 31-year old irrationality, messiness, and bad moods. And yet, as in all relationships, we get to experience something altogether undeserved in the process...grace. As parents, we are offered not only a chance to uniquely connect our children to God but a chance to really see how God experiences us. Ultimately, we should come away humbled and changed but are we? And that is where we should explore.
(BTW, Katherine was also "exploring" while we were camping--here)