Don’t miss your greatest adventure by trying to be an expert
Yesterday, my sons told me with unrestrained glee that if you hold your hand behind your bottom and fart, you can actually feel the air coming out. I share that disturbing true story to prove I’m no Parenting Expert. If I were a Parenting Expert, I would have Nazi’d that kind of gross fascination right out of them.
I’m no Parenting Expert because I’m desperate and overwhelmed far too often, leaning far too heavily on the wisdom and courage of others while my boys lean heavily on me. (And sometimes fart.)
I’m no Parenting Expert but I do have the insight of Mr Incredible. Right near the end of the movie when Elastigirl is still mad at him but he’s dreadfully sorry, he says to her and the kids,
‘You are my greatest adventure, and I almost missed it.’
I’ve been thinking about how I might really miss it – this grand adventure of launching small humans into the riptides of real life – unless I practise what I’m calling Big Picture Parenting and Small Picture Parenting.
These have nothing to do with Expert Parenting, from which I would (obviously) be disqualified. Also, they have nothing to do with whether you’re a working mom, stay-at-home dad, single parent or divorcee. You have the freedom, as the parent God chose for your child, to play this gig with the wisdom He gives you.
Big Picture Parenting is about perspective. Vision. Small Picture Parenting is about proximity. Nearness.
Big picture parenting: Get perspective
Keep the Big Picture stuck up on the bathroom mirror of your mental landscape and glance at it every day.
Get perspective on where you are. The parenting season you’re in may feel unending and all-consuming. But very, very soon, it will be over. You’ve still got a huge chunk of life to live post-sleep-training, post-Junior-Primary-homework, post-Friday-night-youth-group-angst.
Get perspective on legacy. You’re leaving one.
Get perspective on your kids’ journeys. A decade or so from now, you’re hoping they’ll be confident, content grownups who love God and others. Pray big prayers and dream big dreams with that in mind.
Get Big Picture perspective on your fear of immediate confrontation. When my boys were toddlers I would resolutely repeat inside my head: I’m not scared of your tantrum I’m not scared of your tantrum I’m not scared of your tantrum. (Because I was scared of their tantrums.)
Big Picture Parenting knows: your kids won’t like you when you draw clear lines or dish out consequences for misdemeanours. But they’ll get over it and one day you’ll be excellent friends.
Small picture parenting: Get proximity
Unfortunately, the Parenting Experts don’t have time to hang out with you in the trenches where you’re up to your knees in mud, blood and Barbies and even though they’ve told you Don’t worry! We win the war! you’re not convinced you’ll make it out the trenches alive. (Right?)
Small Picture Parenting helps me remember that when my boys ask me to play hockey in the garden and I snap at them – Not Now! – that’s all they see.
They see a Small Picture of what’s really happening in my day. They haven’t just read the email with the news that sent my head spinning. All they experience is the Not Now!
Sure, they’ve got to learn that life happens and I can’t always drop everything to frolic on the lawn, but in the here and now of their small-ish life experience, I want to get better at explaining that.
Small Picture Parenting is deep-breath slow-down in-the-moment – in-the-trenches – parenting. It’s responding instead of reacting. It’s remembering that, if you have a six-year-old, then today you only have to be the parent of a six-year-old. You haven’t yet met the sixteen-year-old version of your kid, so don’t worry about him.
Small Picture Parenting is about routine, and spontaneous non-routine, in the small spaces of ordinary life. Routine isn’t boring; it’s calming. And occasional change in routine isn’t unsettling; it’s stimulating. Pray for wisdom to know how to – mostly – manage a healthy balance of the two.
I’m praying that you’d glimpse moments when perspective and proximity align: when the momentum of a bunch of intentional Small Picture decisions begins to steer the ship towards Big Picture shores.
You are not alone.