Saturday, August 10, 2013

What is Good

If there's one thing you realize a few days into your second child being born, it's how different each of your children are.

The Dude was born with lighter hair, darker eyes than his big brother. He didn't come into the world angry. He actually soothed to my touch soon after birth.

Not far into his entrance, I discovered how many similarities they had as well. They both had very sensitive stomachs and colicky periods. They both loved nursing much more than sleeping. Both of them threw their pacifiers out of their mouths at exactly 7 months.

Aquaman quickly attached to a blanket when he was weaned, but The Dude still sniffs at the idea of a "transitional object". He accepts no subsitutes. They both prefer to be naked than clothed. Neither of them can ever sit still. Aquaman has the lowest pain tolerance ever, and The Dude can smack his head against the wall and keep right on going.

Parenting two very different people, at the same time, when they are both in very different developmental stages, can be incredibly difficult. Factor in a job, a husband who is often not off on the same days as I am, and well...

I realized yesterday that there is one aspect of it where I have been falling short.

It's been just a little too easy to expect a lot of Aquaman, and very little from The Dude. Some of it is birth order, of course, and that's how I've justified it in my mind all along. There's a reason firstborns become who they are for the most part. Responsibility is a part of their lives from the day their little sibling is born. Developmentally, Aquaman should be held to a higher standard. He's old enough to "know better" in a lot of cases. But it's not all that in our home. Some of it is just that Aquaman is easier to discipline. Probably partly because he had more consistency from the beginning, since there was only one of him. But it's also just who he is.

Losing toy time or time outs have always been very serious to him. He takes himself very seriously, and does not like to make mistakes. As a result, even though he is quite strong willed and strongly emotional,  boundaries have been *relatively* easy to establish.

But The Dude.

The Dude thinks it's all pretty funny. He's awfully cute, and, unlike Aquaman, he knows it, and knows how to use it to his advantage. He has a temper.

 And he's arguably even more persistent than his brother.

It's been easier to give in. Not all the time, but enough times. 

This morning, I took a run on the beach at sunrise. It was amazing.

 I saw a sea turtle who had just laid her eggs heave a sigh of relief as she entered weightlessness again in the water. I thought about how her responsibility as a mother was already done. That was it. It was a long walk, since she came in at low tide, either due to lack of wisdom or just bad luck, but she was done.

Parenthood is so hard. You can do the best that you can, with the best of what you know, and still get it terribly wrong.

You can end up with one son who is hyper-responsible, and perfectionistic, and another who thinks that all rules are just suggestions.

It's impossible to do on your own. It's a really long walk and you can feel pretty heavy sometimes.

You have to take the long view. Use up the last bit of energy and creative mental resources that you have. And mostly, spend a lot of time in prayer, so that you can see the deceptions in your own heart that are leading your children, ever so slowly, in the wrong direction.

When I came home from my run, I read this verse:

"He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?" -Micah 6:8

Of course I have heard this verse a million times, and memorized it. I most clearly remember it being our verse of the week one year when I was teaching at VBS. But I never realized before just what a perfect life verse it is as a parent. It was exactly the reminder that I needed.

-To walk justly. Kids are different, and as a result they will need to be parented a little differently. But standards should be the same for each of them. Long term character goals should never vary.

-To love kindness. You know, most of the time I think I am a pretty kind person, but by 4 pm and 400 time outs and 300 messes later, I mean, I'm not really loving kindness. I'm not really feeling very merciful. Especially to my firstborn, who likes to emulate his 2 year old brother. And no wonder, since his little brother seems to frequently get the longer stick.

-To walk humbly. Because the sin I see in my sons- well some of it comes directly from me. It comes because sometimes they bump up against a boundary, and sometimes they run right through it, and who wouldn't keep pushing on in that case? And even when it has nothing to do with what I'm doing- don't I still occasionally thrill to do the wrong thing? To have things my own way, without thought for the future implications.

He has shown me what is Good. And these requirements- they're not too steep. 

They're life giving, to all of us.

Even the little one, who is spending a lot more time in the penalty box today...

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