Successful parenting. What does it look like? Success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
As we set out into the world of parenting it all starts with two people passionately in love. Suddenly your wife is peeing on a stick that reveals – “Hey pal, you’re going to be a dad!” You knew it could happen but are you ready for all of this? And what is “all of this?”
As the reality of another human sharing life with you takes hold, you start to prepare. You set up the nursery, pack the diaper bag, spend three hours making sure the base to the car seat is safely and accurately installed. And amidst all of the preparation you talk about names and the future of your child. The big day comes… and goes. You’re past your due date (and that won’t be the last time you’ll be late because of your pending new bundle of joy).
Finally, the real day is here. Baby day! Oh what a day, for me as a dad. Jennifer, well she did all the hard work! What seems like just a few hours pass, and you’re on your way home with your newest family member who promptly fills his diaper, his car seat, and dribbles onto the car’s back seat more poo than you thought could come from a 7 lb, 2 oz. anything. Now you sit in the driveway, hold each other and cry, wondering how you can possibly pull this off. You close your eyes, wake up, and he’s 18 years old, graduating and heading off to college. Did we do this right? Because frankly it seemed a little messy, just like that car seat.
It didn’t quite go the way we planned it. He wasn’t an honor student, he wasn’t the captain of the hockey team, he doesn’t always make wise decisions, he doesn’t always treat me and his sister well, he hasn’t managed every dating relationship perfectly. It’s been, well, messy. And you know what? I haven’t handled it perfectly either. I’ve made mistakes right along with him. But I’m confident I’ve successfully parented. How? Because I came home the other day to a messy kitchen. How is that success, you ask? Because in addition to a skillet with egg burnt onto the sides, a counter full of crumbs from toast, and the sink with a butter and jelly knife in it sat my daughter with a smile on her face.
No, she hadn’t made breakfast for herself. Her brother, before going to his hockey game, without being asked, made breakfast for his sister. Was my aim an honor student, a hockey captain or other outward things that I could wear as a badge? Truthfully in the beginning, probably so. But I’ve come to realize there is so much more. Am I aiming, mentoring, loving and helping a decent human being with love, compassion and desire to make the planet a better place?
Recently I’ve summed up my aim into these simple phrases. Love God. Love people. Laugh. And don’t half butt anything – whether you’re playing or working, give it your all. Ah… sweet success, for today. The beauty of our messy lives? He needs me, she needs me, I need them… and that makes life beautiful!
Thank you to the Founder of Messy Love, Colleen Pippins, who inspired me to think, reflect and comment on parenting as a contribution to her passion project. Check out her work at https://www.facebook.com/ourmessylove/. I’m sure you’ll find her writing inspiring, entertaining and incredibly insightful as you navigate the treacherous, exhilarating and love filed waters of parenting.