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September 25, 2012

Parenting Is Like A Giant Stuffed Pig

My family and I were visiting the theme park a few years ago while on vacation. We were walking past the boardwalk section where all the games were, where you can win the big prizes. This huge stuffed, pink pig grabbed my daughter’s attention. She said, “Daddy, can you try to win me that pig?” It was the biggest stuffed pig you’ve ever seen in your life. I explained to her, “Honey, no one ever really wins those. There is no way you can win at this game.” This was the game where you have to throw the softball into the milk can, and the hole in the milk can is about the same size or a little less than the softball. I told her that was just like lighting three bucks on fire. No one ever wins at that game. That’s why these pigs are so giant and so appealing.

She said, “Oh, but please try.” I said, “Okay, I’ll give it a try.” So, I plopped my three bucks down, took the softball, threw it up there and BOOM, the ball went right in the hole! I couldn’t believe it. It felt so good as that guy took that huge stuffed pig down and I handed it to my daughter. She’s hugging this pig, and then hugging me saying, “You’re the best dad in the world, Dad. Thank you so much.” I felt so great. Then a crowd started gathering. People were saying, “Hey, a dude won that big pig. Look at that. Someone finally won that thing. Who won that pig?” “I won the pig. Right over here. It was me. I won it.” It just felt so good hearing people say, “How’d you do that?” I was eager to show off my knowledge and newfound expertise in boardwalk games, “Well, it was really luck, but it’s mostly in the flick of the wrist. Most people kind of throw the underhand throw, but if you are a really good athlete, you want to try the flick of the wrist.”

Then Steven, my nine-year-old son said to me, “Dad, I want a pig. Win me a pig.” So I said, “Okay, Steven, I’ll win you a pig. Does anyone else need a pig? Give me three bucks.” I’m feeling so confident, and my wife knew this was heading nowhere. She got worried and said, “Oh, honey, just quit while you are ahead.” I said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll win Steven a pig, and if Ryan wants a pig, I’ll get him a pig too.” So, I put my three bucks up there, used my little flick of the wrist, and… it was an air ball. I missed that milk can completely. Undeterred, I put another three bucks up there and tried it again, and just barely missed this time. 24 dollars later I still hadn’t won a second pig, and my wife was dragging me away saying, “Honey, you should never go to Vegas. You’d definitely be a gambling addict.” I kept saying, “Just one more chance. One more chance. I can do it.”

Now isn’t that just like parenting? There are times when I feel like I am on top of the world, that I’ve got this parenting thing down, totally connected with my kids. My kids are saying, “You’re a great Dad.” I’m feeling totally loved by my kids, and they are feeling totally loved by me. I start to think I’ve got it all together and I’ve got this parenting thing down. Then there are other times when I feel completely clueless when it comes to being a dad.  I feel I have absolutely no idea how to connect with my kids in certain situations. Isn’t that just like parenting?

I may have helped raise four kids but I’m definitely no expert when it comes to parenting. It always kind of bugs me when the parenting experts and authors say, “If you will do these ten things, it’s guaranteed your child will turn out perfect.” That bothers me because the only perfect parent is God. And even God has rebellious kids, doesn’t He? Some of His kids don’t even choose to follow Him. Maybe you have children that are now grown who have made some wrong choices along the way and you’re still feeling guilty over all that and blame yourself for the decisions they made for themselves. I just want to relieve that guilt from some of you parents who are giving it your best, because every child has free will. You can be the best parent in the world but kids ultimately make their own choices.

Even though our children have free will the Bible says that it’s still our responsibility to teach our kids how to make their way through the carnival culture of our world today. It’s our job to teach them how how to step on to the ride of life with confidence and maturity, knowing there is a reason why they are on this earth. Our job to remind them that God created them uniquely for a reason. That they are not just taking up space, but God has a plan for their life. The Bible gives us some powerful principles that our children need in their lives. But it is also our responsibility to let our kids raise us. You see, I’m definitely raising my kids, but my kids are also raising me at the same time. My kids have taught me how to love more deeply. They’ve taught me how to live more fully. They’ve taught me more than anyone else, how to grow in maturity, to become a mature adult. Sometimes we get so caught up in winning as good parents that we forget to pause and see what our kids are teaching us.  That’s what kids do for us. You see, we are raising our kids, but our kids are also raising us at the same time.