Parenting is one of the few institutions where brainwashing is not only allowed, and a given, but it’s also sort of the whole point. Like a duo-dictatorship, two people (the parents) have so much influence over another human being (the child) on so many levels. Freedom of religion? Nope. Freedom of speech? Not so much. The rules that matter are enforced by the parents and accordingly, the child learns his or her moral code and adopts his human culture largely from how the parents choose to raise him or her.
Will I be a strict parent? “Strict” has such a negative connotation these days. It evokes thoughts of having rules for the sake of having rules, yielding a teenage kid that is either so nerdy that he thinks getting to stay up until 11:00 at night to watch Battlestar Gallactica is an idea of a good time, or he’s so rebellious he gets a DUI and a huge tattoo by the time he graduates high school. So I’d rather not use the word “strict”, but instead “consistent and practical”. Like my parents were to me.
I have always been very close to my parents; I knew I could talk to them about anything and they would listen, without being judgmental or condescending, yet still guiding me in the right direction. They gave me a little responsibility at a time, and when I proved I could handle it, they gave me more. I never had a curfew, nor did I need one. But had I responded differently to the responsibility I was given, I know for a fact the rules would have been stricter, as they would have needed to be.
I think it’s funny when I hear parents of young kids say, “Well my Brayden won’t eat what I cook him. He only eats chicken nuggets and pizza, and he only drinks Coke from his sippy cup.” I smile and laugh with them, shaking my head like I know how it is, when really I’m thinking, “It’s not up to your kid! It’s up to YOU! YOU’RE the parent!”
Just like I’ve heard other parents say, “I’m not going to force any religious beliefs on my kids. They need to figure out what they believe on their own.” (Which is always a clear indication that parent has no solid religious beliefs, otherwise they would pass them on to their children.) It will not be the case for my kid. He will know who Noah and Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Peter and the Apostle Paul are. He will know the importance and relevance of John 3:16. Just like my dad read to me from my kid’s Bible every night, so will I do for my son.
And when he grows up, I will have influenced who he is. Yet still, he will have his own personality and make his own decisions. Truly though, that’s how it was for all of us. Even if one or both of our parents were out of the picture, they still influenced us- negatively or positively. So I am choosing to make a conscious, solid, positive influence in his life. And I will be very deliberate in doing so.
Here’s what The Bump says about Baby Jack this week:
Baby’s energy is surging, thanks to the formation of white fat deposits beneath the skin. (Have those kicks and jabs to the ribs tipped you off yet?) Baby is also settling into sleep and waking cycles, though — as you’ve also probably noticed — they don’t necessarily coincide with your own. Also this month, all five senses are finally functional, and the brain and nervous system are going through major developments.
It took me 12 straight days to teach myself to solve the Rubik’s Cube; it was during this time that my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby. Of course, we didn’t tell anyone until over a month later, but during my “learn to solve a Rubik’s Cube” phase, I had several people crack themselves up with this joke: “If you’ve got the time and patience to solve that thing, it’s time for you to have a kid!” And they were right. My instincts were making it obvious that like so many actors, the time eventually arrives when it’s time to dabble with directing.
(Cue the song “In My Life” by The Beatles as the proper soundtrack as you read the rest of this post. It’s officially my favorite song ever.)
I can look back on my life with satisfaction, knowing that my accomplishments have outweighed my failures and regrets. I have met all kinds of interesting people from all over the world (most of whom are facebook friends). I understand the meaning of life. I am solid in my beliefs on the afterlife. I have married the woman I am meant to be with. I can now solve the Rubik’s Cube in two minutes and twenty-five seconds. And though this paragraph may resemble a goodbye letter to the world as I prepare for my life to come to an end like I’m 90 years old, I recognize that in some ways life as I know it will end, as it transforms into a new one. A more meaningful one. From “me” to “dad”.
On top of all this, I’m about a half a year away from turning 30, so yeah, I’d say it’s time for things to stop being about me so much and more about someone else. I have been the protagonist, but soon I will become a full-time director. All of life has prepared me to this new role. The cynic could see it as circular reasoning- that you spend your youth learning how to become a responsible adult, and then once you do, you just do it all over again with modified little reruns of yourself running around.
But I would say the cynic is still under the assumption that life is all about him- that life either simply ends when he dies or that hopefully when he dies, he’s been “good enough to get to Heaven” or that at least Hell won’t be that bad, but instead just a big party where the temperature is slightly hotter than desired while Jimmy Buffett plays an eternal concert and the margaritas are never-ending.
If anything, I could see how raising a kid will be a redeeming and cleansing process, helping me to see how little I truly know, helping me to appreciate my family and childhood teachers more, helping me to straighten out my priorities even more, helping me to ultimately give more than I take. I could see how this baby will ironically make me a better adult. And how the humility of changing diapers is only a small part of this evolution of my life.
And yes, Baby Jack will probably already know how to solve a Rubik’s Cube before he gets to Kindergarten.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography: