Learning to Appreciate Your Kids for Who They Are

Too often, I use social media to show you the picturesque version of my family, smiling for a selfie followed by the hashtag #DadLife. What you don’t see is the unrelenting effort that it took to capture that picture, and that’s not fair to you. You only get to see the facade. Truthfully, I spent all of my time trying to capture the moment that I missed the moment altogether.

Social media has done a great job of connecting us. But it has also given us the unique platform to present what we want everyone to see, not what’s really going on. And that’s incredibly damaging, especially for parents.

Today, I’m dropping the curtain and giving you a glimpse beyond the well-produced selfie. If you feel like you’re losing the battle of parenting well, here are a few honest observations from the trenches.

The Gold Medal in Parenting

Most days, our home feels like a rendition of Animal House for four-year olds, complete with costume parties, nakedness, and attempts at using our plants as a Port-O-Potty. Last week, my sons broke a measuring tape. It was the extra durable type too, coated in heavy plastic and reinforced with steel. It was like discovering the aftermath of an angry construction worker who had gone off the deep end. The metal tape was strewn about, torn from its casing.

I laughed as I picked it up from the floor. The sticker read, DURABUILT.

Talk about false advertising.

In hindsight, our twins were two before my wife and I emerged from the fog only to realize that we now had three little humans living in our house. By then, they had already begun to cultivate challenging habits.

Our younger twin, Greyson, was extra sensitive about what he’s wearing. His independence in selecting an outfit was often buffeted by fits of dissatisfaction, which led me to a breaking point.

Do I make him obey or give him the freedom to choose?

Our oldest son, Matthew, loved to take the pillows off the couch to recreate the Bat Cave. In a world of forts and fortresses, our furniture was the perfect decor for his latest hideout.

Do I chastise him for tearing up the house or praise him for his creativity?

And our older twin, Wyatt, well, he was the crafty one. I still have this growing suspicion that he’s the mastermind behind our three-ring circus. One day, he climbed the closet shelves to retrieve a hair dryer that sat on an out-of-reach shelf. After plugging it in, he found that it burned perfect circles into the bedroom carpet.

Do I punish him for burning holes in the carpet or praise God he’s ok?

We lovingly joked that his design resembled the Olympic rings—his attempt to give us a gold medal in parenting.

A Loving Father

Sometimes, my only defense is to escape to the bathroom to avoid losing my cool in front of everyone. In these moments, I want to scream, “God, are you serious? How am I supposed to be loving and patient and kind? I did ask for all of this!” But after I cool off and get my emotions in check, I begin to see clearly, God is teaching me through the chaos.

Instead of focusing on what my children aren’t, I’m learning to embrace them for who they are. I have to deeply value them, their gifts, their talents, and their personalities before I have any hope in helping them grow.

My boys have an adventurous spirit—they are wild at heart. They sing loudly and enjoy dance parties, they like to climb things and build towers, and they love going fast and dressing up like superheroes. That is their normal.

And God, as a loving Father, reminds me:

You like singing loudly and dancing wildly. You love climbing mountains and creating. You go a hundred miles an hour and think you’re a superhero. You are wild at heart. Why should your boys be any different?

The gut check for me happened when I was finally willing to admit that I was a lot like my children. And even thought I didn’t have it all together, I had a Father who loved me all the same. As I spent time with Him, He taught me to cultivate my strengths to be used for great purposes. It just took me being honest with who I was before I could become who I hoped to be.

That is exactly what our kids need from us: time spent understanding who they are and crafting who they want to become. Our kids have an incredible imprint to leave on the world, but we can’t shelter that with our own prejudices about who they need to be and restrain them from their own version of awesome.

How absurd would it be to light a lamp and put it under a basket? Our kids are light, don’t put a proverbial basket over their heads. Be mindful of what you’re speaking into their lives—what you speak will manifest itself. Are your words building up or tearing down? Do you stereotype them or pin them in to a persona? Begin speaking intentional blessings into the ether around your children and watch them become.

So the next time I post a selfie with my kids, know that I’m guilty of mumbling under my breath, “I’m not cut out for this.” But it’s in those moments when I hear God saying, “That’s why I’m here.”

We have a loving Father who says, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Even the hairs on your head are numbered. I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, to give you hope and a future!”

May we learn to become that kind of parent to our kids.

MH

Subscribe to Whole Life Matters

About the Author

Matt Ham is primarily a husband and father to three boys. As an author and speaker, he is dedicated to guiding others toward the understanding that “Your Whole Life Matters.” Through his RICH Principles he helps folks uncover fullness, identifying real treasure and discovering true joy and contentment in both their professional and personal lives.

His first book, Redefine Rich, is a journey of uncovering a deeper, more fulfilling life by shifting your perspective. It is available in both Kindle and paperback on Amazon: here

To contact Matt or inquire about his speaking schedule, visit www.mattham.com/speaking

, , , ,

  • Steven Tessler

    So touching and true.

    I have four children. Three daughters and a son. My two oldest daughters are from my previous marriage.

    When I set out way back in 1987 I was going to be the best Dad. I’d just joined the Navy and my wife and I were going to settle down and build a family.

    In 1990 my second daughter was born and the Navy was keeping me from my family…

    In 1994 we divorced.

    I’ve seen my oldest daughter three times since and my second daughter twice.

    I missed almost all of their lives. Was it my fault? Yes and No.

    Today I try my best to be with my son and daughter now so that I don’t miss these precious times.

    You’re an awesome man Matt!!! You’re doing great!!

    • Steven –
      Thanks for sharing that insight, brother!

  • I fill your pain for sure.
    You know we have 7 yr boy, 5 yr boy, 3 yr girl and boy on the way. It is so crazy at times. Each day is an adventure. I ofter have to ask why I am upset, if it’s because of an inconvenience, I take a step back before I react. (That is the goal, in reality it does not always happen :)). What great joy it is to help us grow and be more like Christ each day.

    • Whew, Robby. I was tired after reading your first sentence 🙂

      Here’s the growing!

  • Oh the joys of parenthood. My two boys were exact opposites when they were small. On small spot of dirt on Chris’s shirt meant he had to change his shirt, pants, underwear. Matt we couldn’t keep clean and often had to double check to verify he did put on clean underwear that day.

    The thing is that despite how bad I screwed up they turned out to be fine young men. (soon to be 24 & 22)

    • It’s funny, Jon. Our twins are same way. And the funny thing is, they switch OFTEN!

  • Wonderful post. I could splash in the water-filled drawers and rub my hand on the newly burned carpet circles. I love the life-filled house you live in. Enjoy every moment which will magically turn into a memory you wish you could keep clear. I also love that you see yourself in your kids. Some parents only see the positives the negatives belong to their spouse, of course.

  • David Mike

    Matt, this was too perfect! I relate completely. I am not sure how I my wife convinced me to have a third child eight years after the other two, (maybe I do) but it has been a challenge. She is exactly what you described in this post. So much different than her older sisters. Thanks for making us all feel okay for being real parents instead of the social media versions.

  • Lee Pearce

    I am so thankful I read this post. I have three boys (6, 4, & 2) that are full of energy. I certainly have developed a lot of patience with these kids, but it is never enough. It never fails that I end up yelling at one (or all) of them on Sunday morning as I am struggling to get everyone dressed, hair brushed, shoes on, and in the car so we can make it in time for church. I have to constantly remind myself that God doesn’t care if we are late, He is always there for us.

  • Renee Spindle

    What a great story. Oh those were the days, my kids are all grown up know but I distinctly remember feeling like you and your wife have on many an occasion. I always escaped to the bathroom to call my Mom! Calgon take me away!!!