Rite of Passage Parenting: Good babysitter—bad parent
Parenting would be easy if it weren’t for the children. I want to dispel an urban myth: just because you are a good babysitter doesn’t mean you will be a good parent. Growing up, I did my share of babysitting. I was good at it; I guess that’s why I was in demand. In all my years of babysitting, I never once let a child go out and play in the rain during an electrical storm. I made my charges sit out of the wading pool for at least 20 minutes after they ate. I stood guard over a gum-chewing child to make sure the gum didn’t get swallowed. No one on my watch was going to end up with gunked-up plumbing, no, sir.
I didn’t let anyone run through the house with scissors. I checked to make sure the doors were locked when the parents left the house. I kept a list of contact numbers in case of tsunami or other natural disaster. I knew how to provide First Aid if little Johnny tried to swallow a seashell. I could play “Chutes and Ladders,” “Go Fish” and “Old Maid.” I knew when to turn off the television and begin the journey toward bedtime, and I knew how to read a story until sleepy little eyes prevailed. I knew how to clean up the house so that all toys were secured in their appropriate places, all snack dishes stood clean in the drying rack and all trash was properly stowed.
Yes, I was a great babysitter! It seems logical that all these wonderful skills would translate into being a good parent. You would think so . . . but it doesn’t work that way. Or at least it didn’t for me. Something happened when my first child was born. First of all, I learned that children are much more resilient than I thought. Whenever one of my sons asked for a piece of gum, I would ask what happened to the last piece.
“I swallowed it.”
“And the piece before that?”
“I swallowed it, too.”
“OK, here you go.” If his system got gunked up from swallowing an entire pack of gum, maybe it would teach the little booger not to do it again. Yes, something had happened to transform the world’s best babysitter into the world’s worst parent.
No longer did I worry about children playing out in the rain. “Kids, get outside and play, you’re driving your mom and me buggy.”
“But Dad, it’s raining.”
“A little rain never hurt anybody. Didn’t you hear me? I told you to go play outside!”
“But Dad, there’s thunder and lightning.”
“When I was a child, we played outside in the rain for 40 days and 40 nights. We didn’t let a little rain stop us. Now get outside and play!”
There is not a child alive who can make a successful argument against the 40 days and 40 nights ploy. Bill Cosby says that children are born with brain damage. I disagree. I believe they are the cause of parental brain damage. I used to be a bright, articulate young man. Then I had children. Before long, I found myself making up stories, giving them extra pieces of gum to swallow, telling them to play in the rain and to top it off, giving them food to eat as they sat in the wading pool.
Yes, something happened to change me when I moved from babysitter to father. Although I tried to do my best, I realized that my children were not my sole responsibility. They were under the care of a watchful heavenly Father. If He knew the numbers of hairs on my head and the days of my life, then the little details of my child-raising abilities fell under His watch, too.
One day when the brain damage had reached its apex, I confessed to God that my children had turned out to be a mess. “Lord, I can’t believe it. They run through the house with sharp objects, swallow their gum, eat in the wading pool and make all kinds of other bad choices.”
God gently responded, “I know. I gave my children a perfect Garden where they could putter about. They had a perfect Father and a perfect place to live. I did everything right—but they still chose to do wrong.”
That’s when I realized that even an imperfect dad has a Father who understands how hard it is to be a parent. Even when His children make wrong choices, He never stops loving and believing in them. Lord, make me a father . . . like You.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail [email protected], phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827.