The Parenting Manual

Y’all, I think I’ve done it.

I have written the best, most accurate, fail proof (though not fool proof) parenting manual of all time.  And it’s only two, three-worded chapters!  Are you ready for this wisdom I’m ’bout to drop on y’all?  Here goes chapter one:

Figure it out.

Whoa.  I just heard all of your minds being blown.

My generation is popping out babies right and left these days.  The church small group I was once a part of has produced 13 babies since the fall of 2011 – with another one on the way in the next few months!  That’s a lot of kids.  One big sweet, precious, sleep-siphoning pumpkin patch of kids.

Just scroll down your Facebook timeline.  Birth announcements seem to pop up every other day, some for first time parents, and a lot for repeat parents (including adoptions).  They make me happy.  I love newborns…I mean LOVE.  Those little tiny brand new babies swell my heart so, and I love that expectant parents are feeling the same things I felt when I learned of my little bundles.

I also feel slightly sorry for them, because they have no idea what they’re getting into.  I am not trying to call them ignorant – oh no, not that in the least – but they actually have absolutely no idea what they’re getting into.  I was the same way: having cute little nuggets in the house is such a novel idea.  After having survived two newborns (“survived” being a term that I can use as a father, because what their mother has gone through far exceeds mere survival), I know now what it means (mostly) to parent small children.  Now I see that what I thought I knew before having children was hardly a fraction of what I’ve learned.  It’s an impossibility to understand it unless you’ve been there, and I figured that out pretty darn quickly.

I mean, I always heard “they don’t sleep at night.”  Ok, so you mean, like, I don’t get to sleep in anymore because they get up at 5 AM or something?

Ha.  Hahaha.  Nope.  (And I didn’t even nurse!)

“You will literally have to give up your life for your kids.”  I mean, sure, I won’t have as much free time as I do now.


Then there’s the biggest “I mean, duh” statement of all time: “You guys (parents) need to be sure to make time for yourselves.”  That’s cool, yeah.  Sure.  If not we’ll just bring the kids with us.

Rrrrright.  You go right ahead and have your relaxing dinner with your toddlers.

You have to figure it out.  Almost any parent that has ever lived is a wealth of information and advice.  Even then, it’s not enough.  I can’t deny that it’s helpful; my wife and I have sought our fair share of help and advice from our parents and in-laws, but it’s not enough.

I know I’ve thought this to myself many times, which is also why I know that other young parents like me are thinking it too: “Nobody told me.”  Nobody dang told me.  I didn’t know, however, that they didn’t tell me because they actually couldn’t tell me what was to come.  The handbook is that there is no handbook.  You will know when you get there, but there is very little that I or anyone else can do to prepare you for the nitty gritty, day-in day-out, no sleep, no money, no time, no sanity, sometimes harsh reality of being a parent.  It is the hardest thing you will ever do.  I don’t care what you’ve done before.  Listen to me:  It is the hardest thing you will ever do.  And you have to figure it out.

But y’all, thank God for chapter two:

You got this.

You’ll see.

There will be plenty of times that you’re going to think you’re the worst parent in existence.  It’s a guarantee; it comes with the territory.  You will fail your children.  Repeat after me: “I will fail my children.”  For the amount of times you mess up, you’ll have at least one victory.  Rest will come, you will sleep again.  I promise.

But YOU GOT THIS.  And you know why YOU GOT THIS?  Because you WILL figure it out.  And you know why you will figure it out?  Because of the fierce, stubborn, foolish, indelible love you have for your children.  Trust it.  Y’all, that love is a well, and it is deep and full and teeming with exceedingly more than you ever thought it could produce.  It is a well that will never dry up.  You got this.

And you got this because you are going to rearrange.  The most precious thing you have on this earth is going to be replaced real quick, and it will happen with the blink of an eye.  When you hold your newborn, the thing that you think will hurt immensely to let go of is going to fall so far down the list without you even noticing.  I’m telling you, you won’t realize it.  You’re going to pore over every inch of your baby in such amazement and wonder that you’ll forget about what you thought you loved before holding that little tiny life in your arms.  And that prioritization will, by default, lead you to figure it out.  (Whatever form “it” takes at the present time.)

And you got this because you’ll change.  My kids love to wake me up in the morning with mirrors held up to me.  Are you following me?  They’re experts at drawing out the dirtiest parts of me and, quite honestly, won’t relent until I start to clean some of it up.  This is the single most difficult thing that I can say I’ve endured as a parent: those little buggers have waged war against my flesh.  When I am awakened by a knock on the bedroom door at an hour that is earlier than I’d like it to be, standing right behind that door is my 3 year old with his dang mirror.  If I open that door and it is anything but a smooth start to the day, it will NOT resolve until I look in that mirror and make a change (props, MJ).  After all, I’m the adult here, so it is my job to die to myself a little bit so that my kid can start the day off on the right track.  He doesn’t know that I’m exhausted or stayed up late the night before, nor is it his problem.  In those moments is when you find success.  Although I fail at this more than I’d like to admit.  It’s offensive, in a way, because being Mommy or Daddy to your little one is a sure-fire way to reveal your flaws.  You just aren’t as awesome as you thought you were.  You thought you were patient, honest, calm, gentle, etc etc etc.  This part is tough, y’all.  Parenting forces you to let go and change, because really, you don’t really have a choice.  The stakes are high, because the responsibility to guide them in their first, formative years rests on your shoulders.  So you have to fall in line, because those beautiful babies are exceedingly more important than your pride.  There is no other option.

You’ll see.  You’ll see that you got this when your baby latches on for the first time, when nothing seems to keep him from crying until you stand up and bounce around, when she sits up and stays, when he successfully puts food from hand to mouth, when you wake up in a panic after she slept the night through, when the doctor confirms your instincts about what his sickness is, when she laughs at you, when he says “mommy” or “daddy”, when she takes her first steps, when he sleeps successfully in the toddler bed, when she hugs you at the end of a day that seemed like you were her worst enemy…you’ll see.

I promise you got this!  And you got this because you’ll figure it out.  And you’ll figure it out because of the undying love you have for your babies.  And that’s the long and short of it, my friends.

Any publishing inquiries for the aforementioned manual can be directed to the comments section of this blog.  Thank you.