Parenting is a marathon, not a 50 yard dash. Why has it taken me so long to understand this? Logically it make so much sense, but when I entered into parenting, I didn’t even believe this concept.
Of course, I would never have articulated that I thought parenting would be easy, but I did. With my background in education and youth ministry, I thought I had the riddles solved. My desire was to be a stay-at-home mom. I was made for this.
Both my husband and myself had great role models in our own parents. We had been educated and researched about best parenting practices. Before even having kids that could speak, we were attending parenting conferences. “We got this!” was our mentality.
Parenting is a Marathon
Then the weirdest thing happened, we had kids. They could think…and rebel…and challenge everything we thought we knew about parenting. My mentality was “If we do AB and C, they will do XY and Z.” But then they didn’t.
Each one was different. Each one responded to praise, consequence and their environment differently. When you are raising a child who is wired differently, it adds a whole new level of complexity. A reader shares about her experience here.
Walking into parenting I thought, “If I work on this struggle with my kids for a bit, we will extinguish the unwanted behavior.” Give it a year or two of training, and voila – magic – we have obedient, pleasant, and successful children.
If I just focus on building character, I will have such great kids.
When I am a parent who is authoritative, following the qualities of the box in the upper left corner in the graphic below, I will have wonderful, productive children.
Mentally, I was prepared for a bit of hard and intense training in the beginning, but they’d turn around quickly.
The lies I believed.
Because I put my faith in those lies, I didn’t work on building up the perseverance and mental stamina needed for the lifetime marathon of raising kids.
After the one or two years of intense effort (OK maybe a bit longer than that), I had to come to the realization, that my kids are a work in progress. They will be until the day that they die. This is not a sprint. Parenting is a marathon.
When I stop to think about it, why did I EVER believe any differently? I am still a work in progress. There it so much that I still need to work on in my own life. My patience, negativity, selfishness and pride are just a few things I am still in the process of eradicating. It will be this way the rest of my life. The rest of my life.
Why did I believe it would be different for my children?
We are sinful people. Period. We don’t come into a relationship with Jesus because we are good enough. The reason we recognize a need for a savior is because we recognize our brokenness. We see that we are so off the mark from a holy God, and we always will be.
Yes, when we enter into a relationship with God, our lives are constantly being transformed to be more like Him as we continue to submit to His will. However, we will always be a work in progress. So will our children.
Why were my expectations for my children different than the expectations I have for myself?
Part of the problem, I believe, is that I forget.
We need to remember what it was like to be 5 or 13 or 16. Our kids aren’t mini-adults. They are children whose brains are still developing. Waters are being tested. They are seeking independence. Their worldview is still being considered. Each comes with their own unique struggles.
Some will wrestle with lying. Others will struggle with responsibility. An unhealthy sexual appetite will be the sin that some will battle. Others will find their jealous nature as the thing to overcome. The list could go on and on.
Some of these sins will be a thorn in the side for a long time. We will not see perfection this side of heaven.
Yes, they need discipline. They need teaching and amazing role models – in their parents and from others in their lives. Know what they also need? Grace in the journey.
Of course we will see growth as we practice good parenting habits, are intentional and pour our love into our kids. However, anticipate the marathon and the disappointments.
I can be so results driven, that I forget about the beauty in the process. “The road would be better if it was easier and faster,” can be my perspective.
I too often forget the words of God that say, “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint.” – Romans 5:3-5
While in the moment, I think I want a life of ease, I have to remember that we are all beautifully refined in the hardships. Our kids are too. They haven’t arrived. They will struggle and wrestle and fail, and that’s good. It’s part of being human. It is also a part of realizing our need for a loving, grace-filled God who has His arms open wide waiting for lost sheep or his prodigal son.
Life won’t be a 50 yard dash for us. It won’t be one for our kids. It’s a marathon. All of it. We are encouraged by this: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24
Parenting is one of the races we have a privilege of being a part of. Let’s keep running the race to God’s glory, recognizing that we will encounter hills, shin splints, falls and exhaustion. Don’t worry! There will also be beautiful views, amazing milestones, encouraging friends along the way and an endurance built that couldn’t be constructed any other way. Keep running!