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