The thing about children is that they are children. I know this sounds obvious, but I have to remind myself of it continually. My children are children. When they are little, of course they hit. Of course they don’t share. Of course they pitch fits. They are young, immature, and must grow into adult abilities such as compassion, empathy, and the basic capacity of seeing outside of one’s self. These are skills that we teach as parents just the same as we teach things like toilet training and tying shoes. We don’t expect our children to master these things before they are ready, and the same should be true with these “emotional” skills. It is a long, continuous process to train a child to display these behaviors.
But then there are times when they surprise us with a depth of spirit that is not characteristic of a child, flashes that make the challenging times of parenting worth it a thousand times over. We had one of these times with Caleb when he was in first grade, sister Emily in kindergarten.
Caleb and Em were scheduled to spend part of their spring break at their grandmother’s home, a five hour round trip to meet her. Travelling to Grandma Vida’s is a huge, fun, much-anticipated adventure for our kids. We try to get them each out there at least once a year for these trips. However, Emily had come down with a serious bug and needed to be taken to the doctor. Rusty and I were discussing the logistics of this at the dinner table because I could not both take Emmy to the doctor and drive Caleb to meet his grandmother (I’m good, but I’m not that good). We went back and forth about him taking off the afternoon, and who would travel with Caleb and who would go to the doctor. I think Caleb misunderstood and thought we could not accomplish both, because he piped up and said “Wait a minute, you guys, wait a minute…. It’s okay. If Emmy needs to go to the doctor…” he broke into sobs “… then I will just stay home from Grandma Vida’s.”
Oh, my sweet boy. We reassured him that we could do both, that mom would take Emmy and dad would take him. These are the flickers of the man he will become that make parenting so worthwhile. Parenting is hard. But it is also its own reward. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.”