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The Other Side of Experience

Posted by on December 22, 2013

If you want to build something that lasts, you have to have a proper foundation. Building a family works the same way.  If you can start off with a solid foundation the chances are better (though not guaranteed) that whatever you end up building on top of it will be more secure. Start out shaky and you’re going to spend your life shoring up walls and patching things together.

The problem for most of us as first-time parents is that, no matter how much we think we’ve prepared for the blessed event, our children seem to arrive determined to prove just how little we really know. All that preparation quickly evaporates into a fog of late-night feedings, dirty diapers, and desperate attempts to figure out why he’s crying this time!

The Bible teaches us that “the wise man built his house upon a rock,” but the story isn’t exactly clear on how the wise builder acquired his gift in the first place. While we truly appreciate his skill at finding proverb-inspiring real estate, it would really be more helpful if he could just tell us where to get some of that wisdom!

Thankfully, wisdom is available. Solomon was smart enough to ask for it directly, but for most of us wisdom arrives on the other side of experience.

I guess that’s why we tended to relax a little more with our parenting as each child came along. Our first one, Gerrit, arrived like most, without an instruction manual, but we did our best to follow all the second-hand advice we could get our hands on. Mostly we just hoped that we wouldn’t do any irreparable damage. His baby book was faithfully updated. We photographed and videotaped his every waking moment, and lots of his sleeping ones. We documented his every achievement and provided the grandparents with copies of all of it.  We knew they’d be thrilled!

Bless them. They were so gracious.

When Tucker came along, three years later, we were somewhat emboldened by the fact that his older brother seemed to be turning out OK. We didn’t have to consult the experts as often, because we had some experience of our own under our belts. We were starting to be able to rely on our own instincts. Whatever parenting mistakes we might have made certainly didn’t seem to have caused any permanent harm. There was less urgency to document the boys’ every move, and the grandparents stopped dreading the arrival of the mailman.

We began to relax a little bit.

Philip was born four years after that. He’s our undocumented child. We all remember his arrival, and we know that he’s been living with us for all these years, but you’d be hard-pressed to find much photographic or video evidence of that.

OK, that’s an exaggeration, but only a little one. It probably is true that Philip started out as our least disciplined and most well-adjusted child.

The fact is, we learned how to be parents by being parents. Each of our boys arrived with a unique personality and a whole set of new challenges. We tried lots of things. The ones that worked we continued to build upon.

The ones that didn’t will no doubt provide lots of material should our boys ever need something to tell a therapist.

originally published 8/25/11| next post Respect

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