I know there are two sides to every story. There seems to be two sides to the parenting story: The working parent and the stay-at-home parent. First, go read this well-written blog post with a perspective on the stay-at-home parent.
If you didn't bother to open the web page above and read the content then there is no use in reading below so just do it. now.
Since Kendra is not the blogger type I enjoyed reading her perspective and response to the comments she receives. Let me start by saying I can understand why she feels that way. Her story wouldn't be different if she had one or 10 kids and it wouldn't be different if she had singletons or quads. It seems to be unique to stay-at-home parents though. I'm curious to know if the women who gave her all the "carpe diem" advice were career women who felt bad about missing those years of their own kids?
I can understand how she would feel that way, but I am the "carpe diem" kind of dad. I am in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy even during difficult times. Parenting is not treacherous or exhausting if it's done right. It's not like climbing a mountain at all. If you didn't enjoy climbing a particular mountain then you can choose to climb another one at a later date. If you did enjoy a particular mountain you can climb it again and again and again. You get multiple chances and have multiple choices. However, parenting is a one-time, one-way roller coaster ride where you don't get to pick the ride or the occupants that join you along the way. You either enjoy the ride by choosing to have a happy heart or you struggle.
My opinions only apply to the working parent. I'm not taking anything away from the stay-at-home mom who wrote the blog. I get about 3 hours every day of the week with Easton and Layla. 1 hour out of each day is sucked up by dinner time. That leaves only 2 hours each day to be a part of their lives in a meaningful way and develop their character. They are a reflection of Kendra and I. Not a perfect mirror (thank God), but a reflection none the less. They help me understand God. For example, Matthew 7:9-11 says, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! "
Before having a son I could roughly understand the concept. Now I get it. completely. Literally hundreds of Godly concepts are on full display day in and day out as I interact with Easton and Layla. It's more than just a show where I am in the audience. As they grow, I grow. I learn patience and grace and unconditional love and innocence and obedience...
As the working parent I consciously choose every day to intensely focus on those few hours we have together. One day very soon the cement will be dry and their personality will be forever imprinted. Our family won't be the center of their life forever and that's the time when I'll re-center my life more on Kendra and the house and my hobbies and life.
For the working parent who is doing it right, this is best described as "effort". She describes one scene with the swiped bra arranged over her daughter's sweater and lollipop undoubtedly found on the ground and three shop-lifted clip-on neon feathers stuck in her daughter's hair. To me that IS a moment to enjoy. I capture those moments on camera and display them here for all the world to see because even though those moments require EFFORT, I cherish them. Maybe, unlike her, I was not disillusioned with promises that this would be easy? Missed expectations will lead to disappointments. Some days are long and I spend 10 hours straight with them, but I keep a few key things in mind that lead me to a vastly different experience of parenting :
1. Parenting is temporary. The childhood difficulties will only last a few years, but so will the precious time together and chance to mold their lives. This journey is a marathon with a finish line (a.k.a. college graduation) so keep your eyes on the prize.
2. Parenting is what we were made for. God didn't design us to run 26.1 miles but people do it every day for some strange reason. We were, however, made to be mothers and fathers. This is God's design and he will not put more on us than we can handle. We don't get to choose our circumstances (excluding birth control), but we do choose our attitude.
3. I've never heard a single person say, "I wasted so much of my life raising my kids and I wish I'd have taken more time to play Xbox." There is a REASON you never hear this... It's because regrets only come when we squander our time and talents on things other than what we should.
4. Take time for parenting. It is impossible to "make time". We're finite beings with a finite number of hours we are alive. We don't get to make time out of thin air. However, we can TAKE time from one thing and focus it on another. I'm not talking about taking a 30 minute break in your day to stretch. I'm talking about taking the first five years of your child's life and prioritize the family over everything else.
5. Order determines priority. Facebook is not important. CSI Miami is not that important. 10 years from now an NBA game or afternoon mountain bike ride won't be missed. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with those things, but if they are ordered higher (more important than) my kids then I will have regrets and children who weren't fathered correctly. If the order is wrong then kids will seem like a nuisance for other things in our life which we deem more important. Here is the order in my life:
-everything else including myself and friends
Sometimes I ask Easton and Layla, "Who is the most important person in the world to Daddy?" They quickly answer (correctly), "Mommy!"
Now that I'm done with my rebuttal and probably reduced my reputation to ruble, here's what's new in our world...
Each day I love coming home from work. When I walk in the door they scream, "daaaaaaad!" and knock me over with their twinpact hugs. That happens unless they are watching TV. In that case I hear, "dad, you're in my way and I can't see the TV." Can you guess which one I prefer? We are spending an extensive amount of time outdoors now that the sun is staying out longer and temps are cooperating.
Easton is working on his plumbers crack, but i'm not sure that's the career path he'll enjoy the most.
Daily he asks "can I be a _____ " (fill in the blank with a career). However, he's never asked if he can be a plumber. Astronaut, pilot, volcanologist, weatherman, race car driver, and trash man are the top requests.
The kid-sized basketball goal is next to the full-sized goal in our backyard. Rather than use the kid-sized goal they attempt to hit the plastic ball return hanging from the full-sized goal. We only have one rubber ball and some miniature traffic cones. Use what's available, right?
A most wonderful change has come to the Webb house recently. For the past 4 years, one or both of us bolt out of bed like firemen responding to an alarm. From birth until we moved Easton and Layla into their big-kid beds they would wake up and yell for us to come get them. Even after they moved to the big-kid beds they still waited patiently in bed until we arrived to get them up. However, recently they started getting up on their own and would come into our room for a good morning cuddle under our warm blankets. That was a much more pleasant wake up than the fire drill.
Yesterday was even more glorious than the new normal wake up. Easton woke up, threw his diaper in the trash, put on big-boy undies and slippers, and sat quietly at the kitchen table coloring on his over-sized drawing pad. I walked into the kitchen and cheered like a Dallas Cowboy cheer leader (except I was in my Forever Lazy).
Each day the independence increases. For now that is a sigh of relief for Kendra and I. They are almost old enough to get their own cereal and turn on the TV. That'll be the most amazing Saturday in years whenever that happens.
See you soon!