If I could do it over again…
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have been re-reading Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. Last night I was struck by a story that Kimmel tells in Chapter 7, ‘The Freedom to Be Different’, and I want to share it here.
Whenever I read great or interesting magazine articles, I file them away for future reference. I’ll never forget the impact one article had on me as a father.
The writer had penned one of those “If I could do it over again…” type articles about being a dad. He listed various things that he wished he could go back and do differently with his children, who were now grown. One of the things he said went something like this: “If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have made such a big deal about my son wanting to go to sleep with his desk chair on his bed.” There was an explanation that went with this incredible statement. Apparently, his son (in the three- to four-year-old range) really liked the desk chair in his room. Every night, he wanted to have his mom or dad put the chair on his bed—near hs feet on top of the bedspread. When they asked why, he’d say things like “I really love it” or “I just enjoy going to sleep with it.” When they asked what was wrong with the chair staying where it was since it was still close by, he’d tell them how much he preferred having his desk chair on his bedspread as he fell asleep. When they resisted his requests, he’d get teary-eyed or actually start crying. His parents would scold him, and he’d cry more. On those occasions when they accommodated his wild request, he’d always tell them how thankful he was. What was most amazing about those nights was how easily he would fall asleep.
For the most part, however, his parents (especially his father) would make a scene about putting the desk chair on his bed, which always led to the tears and the shouts. When they did let him sleep with his desk chair, they’d stop by the room before their bedtime, and invariably his sleep movements had already knocked the chair to the floor. They’d roll the chair back to his desk, wish their son sweet dreams, and close the door. Every morning, their boys was fine.
As this father looked back on those months of nights that their son had cried himself to sleep because of their refusal of his simple request, he was overwhelmed with regret. He realized after the fact that his son’s request, though weird… was not evil. There were no moral issues at stake, and any parent who would try and make one is simply not willing to see the obvious. This father, with the advantage of time and the wisdom gained from years of foolish decisions, wondered why he hadn’t gladly picked up the chair, set it gently at his son’s feet, and not made the least little issue of it.
…. This was a father that wished he could go back and exhibit more grace in his son’s life. (pp 143-145)
I teared up as I read this story. Then I sputtered and cried as I read it aloud to Jon. What am I keeping my boys from doing that would make them happy and, in turn, make me happier, too? In what ways am I letting my OCD tendencies take over and run the show?
If Matty wants to bring his penguin AND his puppy to pick up Elijah and Brady from school, what’s the big deal? Why do I feel the need to insist he brings just one or the other (or on occasion, none)? Yes, there is a 75% chance that he will end up dropping one (or both) of them. And with Mattias there is a 95% chance that he will fall and they will be wet and muddy by the time we get home. (Oh, and that means that my jeans will also be wet and muddy, as they have become the place to wipe all things dirty.) But there are worse things. And so what if he insists on wearing a Thomas shirt EVERY SINGLE DAY! (He and Jesse do share 5 of them, after all!)
I want love and acceptance of my boys and their unique qualities to over-ride my selfishness. My personal desires. My “good sense”.
In twenty years, I want to be able to say, “If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing!”