To find happiness as a parent requires the humility to learn from your children.
As a dad, I sometimes can’t tell if I’m parenting or being parented. At different stages of our relationships, it’s hard to tell who’s growing faster.
I fondly remember one fall evening soon after my two sons had moved to a new elementary school. As I was rushing them to an evening concert, I told them, “I left my office early today, mom had dinner ready for us, but we’re still going to be late. So whose fault is that?”
“Kind of yours, Dad” said my older son. “Mom doesn’t drive this way to school.”
Parenting requires patience – with your children, your spouse and yourself. As young parents, we have total responsibility for a helpless newborn but we don’t start off as experts. As we gain experience, we can become more humble and continue to learn.
Each child is a unique combination of you and your spouse’s qualities. This can feed back on your own vanity. When my son was putting on muscle and pushing heavier weights than his football teammates, I realized that those were my genes he was expressing and I was inspired to work out even harder myself.
When one of my sons was especially set in his ways, I attributed his stubbornness to my wife. She blamed it on me. We finally agreed that he got a double dose.
I’ve come to realize that when one of my children is being especially infuriating, I might just be seeing a reflection of myself. Accepting your children can be like accepting yourself.
The learning never stops. It continues in both directions.
Last week, I again told my daughter, “You’re so lucky to be a kid.”
“You were a kid before” she answered.
She meant that I already had my turn to be a kid and have fun. Now it’s her turn to enjoy being 12 years old. And it’s my turn to enjoy being her dad.
Your happiness exercise for today: To be happy in life requires the humility to be forever learning from it. As long as we’re alive, we are changing, growing and learning. Think about this past week. What has life taught you? Be thankful for your teachers.