When Melinda and I began discussing the idea of doing a parenting book together one of the first things I said was, “I won’t do it unless we include some of the mistakes we made!” I had read far too many parenting and marriage books where the authors come across as perfect—having never made any mistakes. Time and again I wondered if those authors actually lived in the real world.
Oftentimes, I found my desire to be a better parent or spouse evaporate, as I got frustrated with the unrealistic picture the authors were painting. I want to assure our readers that we made plenty of mistakes (and still are!). We were not the perfect parents—if you want proof, just ask our children. However, it was often those mistakes that helped us refocus our goals and truly stop and think about what our primary job was. My advice to you is stop trying to be the perfect parent—it will never happen. Instead, admit you have flaws—which is why we all need the blood of Jesus—and use those mistakes to help you reprioritize the goal of getting your children to heaven.
What we did wrong
Everything is easier in hindsight. In 1931, Barry Wood, a quarterback for Harvard came up with the term “Monday morning quarterback.” Basically, his definition was someone who criticizes or passes judgment, looking backwards. It is easy to see mistakes in life when you look backwards. It is also easy to evaluate what things you should have worried about more when your children are older and you can clearly see their strengths and weaknesses.
We’ve all probably heard about the first-time parent who boils the pacifier every time it hits the floor. By the time the second child comes along she just rinses the pacifier off with hot water. By the third child she just wipes it off using her shirt tail. And with the fourth child, she finds it hiding under the couch covered in dog hair and lint, and pops it into the child’s mouth without blinking. It’s not that she doesn’t love the third and fourth child. It’s simply by that time she has learned what is important and what to truly worry about.
We were blessed with four children. Our oldest son, Will is married with two children of his own. Son number two, Reese has earned his associates degree in communications and is working full time and spends most weekends doing fill-in preaching work. Our only daughter Claire, has graduated from high school and is working on furthering her education in homesteading, while working at our coffee shop. Son number three, Luke is in high school and is also working at the coffee shop. We share that so you know most of our children are adults, and so we are now looking backwards—in hindsight, at what we could have done better at.
Because our children are grown, (and because we know they will likely read this book) we want to start out by saying our kids turned out to be extremely good people. They are all faithful and active Christians. And by the grace of God they all seem to be pretty squared away and happy. But there are some areas looking back that we would change.
#1. Don’t introduce screens and smartphones too soon.
Our oldest son was fourteen years old when he got his own phone. He was involved in basketball and youth activities, and we found it convenient to coordinate transportation. When Reese came along we followed suit and gave him his own device around that same age. But we kept feeling pressure to back it up even earlier. By then we were texting with our older children and it was just so convenient. And so, the next two got their own phones even earlier. Our family was never really big on television. We didn’t sit around binge watching Netflix. But those phones became a part of their everyday life. Several times we found ourselves frustrated at just how much time our children were spending on their devices.
We monitored everything and even put filters on their devices. But the real struggle was the “addiction” to devices—and the way they found their identity in those devices. If we could go back, we would not introduce phones until much later, and those phones would come with strict screen time limits.