I have two children, age 10 and 8, both boys. I think they are wonderful, and I feel that it is an honour and a gift that God has granted me the privilege of looking after them.
This hasn’t always been the case though.
When I became a father I had no idea what it meant to be a parent. In fact looking back, I would go as far to say that emotionally I neglected them. I provided for them physically, but beyond that I expected their mother to take care of everything else. I went to work 5 days a week, played golf on the weekend, and my lifestyle didn’t really change that much once my children came along. And to be frank this was the way that I liked it.
My journey into becoming a better parent started when my marriage dissolved, and I became a part-time single parent. I always felt like I had a responsibility to look after the boys, and so the arrangements were always that the boys would be between me and my ex-wife. However what I hadn’t realised was the amount of work and responsibility that actually goes into being a parent. Suddenly I became aware of the physical things that I had been not doing like, bathing, bedtime, meals, school lunches, playtime etc etc. I was suddenly on a very steep learning curve.
However, parenting is not just about providing for the physical needs of our children. I have always felt a sense of responsibility for my children. They are simply a product of everything that they have been taught since before they came into the world. Their behaviour and attitudes are a direct reflection of my own behaviours, attitudes and feelings. Hence if they are upset, or in pain, it is because of something that they have picked up from me. If my child does something ‘wrong’ or ‘naughty’, it is because of what I have taught them.
If we are to be responsible parents, we must learn to be responsible for what we have created. Children learn primarily through the feelings that are projected at them. Whether or not we are even aware that we ourselves are projecting those feelings towards our children is irrelevant. They are showing us clearly what we have taught them.
I found this very confronting, and it took me some time to work through some of the emotions that the boys were reflecting back to me. At times I refused to believe that this was the case, I stubbornly and arrogantly refused to concede that they were showing me what was inside of myself. There are times still when I simply do not want to see the truth of what is inside of myself. However, the truth is right in front of my eyes.
I felt that is wasn’t fair that my children were suffering because I what I had taught them. They had no choice that I was their Dad. And so, I started to pray about being a better parent. I began the process of emotionally taking responsibility for my choice to be a parent. This was hard at the beginning because I didn’t know what a good parent was. How could I learn when I had no one to show me?
I started working through my own emotional injuries and false beliefs about what it was to be a loving parent from Gods perspective. In the beginning, I had to face certain truths about my feelings towards them including:
- I don’t want to be a parent
- I don’t want my kids
- I don’t want to look after them
- I don’t want to provide for them
- I hate them
I had to honestly feel the lack of love that I had for them, and I discovered a great amount of sadness within me about these things.
However, once I allowed myself to be honest, and feel my way through these feelings, I realised that I was starting to develop a real feeling of love for them. I started to enjoy their company, their personality and innocence. I started to become less of a parent and more of a friend. I started to feel like that they don’t belong to me, and that I am simply a temporary care giver until they go and live their own life.
But the biggest thing that I discovered was that parenting is easy when we love. It is a simple, joyful, fun and effortless adventure. I imagine that I have felt a tiny glimpse of the joy that God must have being our parent. I realised that I don’t need to train them, manage them, or turn them into anything, or force them to be a certain way. I just need to love them. Working through my own emotional blockages to love has been the greatest single thing I have done with regards to improving my relationship with my kids.
God has already created their souls, and all I need to do is to create an environment where Gods creation can be expressed. If I think that I can create a better child than God, then I am going to eventually realise that I am very wrong.
One of the greatest joys in this process is watching the difference in the boys when I have a feeling of love instead of anger, annoyance, frustration, fear, shame or any other non-loving emotion. I have seen them change in an instant when I come from a space of love, rather than a non-loving space. It is a bit hard for me to describe but children bloom when love is present, and shrivel when it is absent. In my opinion, learning about true love, and being a loving parent from Gods perspective, is the greatest gift a parent can give to a child, and I would encourage all parents and carers (and everyone for that matter) to consider learning more about love. Your children will thank you for it!!