Monday, November 17, 2008

On Being a Parent

I’m usually the first one up in our house. I get up in the dark and go to the room where I exercise. On the way, I pass my daughter’s room. I carefully close her bedroom door because I know that before long the house will be bustling with family members getting ready to head out to their various destinations, and I’d like her to have as much tranquility as possible.

Some mornings when I see my little girl sleeping peacefully, I feel such an incredibly powerful surge of fatherly love that it nearly overwhelms me. It is an emotion that seems to exceed earthly realms. It pervades every fiber of my soul. If I’m not careful, tears spring to the corners of my eyes.

In that moment, I don’t think about my daughter drawing with permanent marker on the dining table, the watercolor paint on the carpet, or the handprints that constantly reappear on the screen of the family room TV. In that sacred and transformational moment, I want nothing more than to be the kind of dad that I should be.

I can’t help but feel sorry for those that never have an opportunity to have a similar experience. I pity those that have such opportunities but never have the experience. I don’t know if anyone other than a parent can experience this kind of thing.

It reminds me of the scene in the Disney movie The Incredibles, where Mrs. Incredible finds herself and her two oldest children on an airplane in a life threatening situation. She’s yelling at her teen daughter to employ her super abilities to save the three while mom is furiously focused on doing what she must do. But the daughter is so freaked out that she can’t muster up her powers.

At the very last moment, Mrs. Incredible leaps out of the pilot seat and sacrifices herself to shield her frightened children from fatal harm. If you’re a functioning parent, you can feel that moment viscerally. Probably more so if you’re a mom. It’s only a cartoon, yet you feel it intensely.

Back when we first watched the movie as a family, our kids were doing the ‘wow’ thing during that scene. They couldn’t quite understand the tears my wife and I had in our eyes. But if you’re a parent, you understand.

Raising children changes you, hopefully in good ways. You develop a deep understanding of things of which you only previously had an academic comprehension. You grow dimensionally in ways that cannot happen without the parenting experience.

I think it works that way for most functional parents, but there are certainly exceptions. It utterly blows my mind that there are parents that could abuse their children to satisfy their own lusts.

Lest you think only little girls can cause the kinds of feelings I discussed above, I have had similar experiences with each of my sons. The teenagers provide new dimensions, both positive and negative. But there are times I marvel at the good people my kids are becoming. When I see my own shortcomings, such thoughts are sometimes quite humbling.

It seems that our society has moved a long way over the past generation toward devaluing parenthood, painting it mainly as a burden. The personal development and rewards of good parenting are discounted. You can put up statistics that prove the value of good parenting. But I’m here to tell you that I know it in the depth of my soul in ways that no cold facts can communicate. Every good parent knows the same thing. It’s part of them.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. That is a perfect example of why I argue that non-parents cannot come to understand God in some of the ways that good parents can.

Connor said...

Great thoughts - thanks for this post.