Parenting is a deeply rewarding and relentlessly restless journey. If you are anything like us (Melissa and me), then you have often experienced times of immense parenting joy as well as seasons of unending parenting angst. Who among us hasn’t felt deep love for our children one minute and wanted to shake them into oblivion the next?
Put simply: parenting is as rewarding and wonderful as it is costly, complex and confusing. It’s no wonder many of us feel like failures, from time to time. It’s no wonder parents carry bucketfuls of missed opportunities, or I want that one back shame and regret that constantly weigh us down. Melissa and I have our share too. Frankly, I lug around a few bucket loads of it, compared to Melissa’s half bucket – if that.
You see, Melissa is a better person than me. Seriously! Our oldest child – Jacob – knows that her parenting shielded him from my parenting in the early and formative years of his sweet life! He is a stronger man because of his mother’s herculean efforts and unending desire for his good. Don’t get me wrong: she is not perfect. She is just better than me when it comes to parenting with patience, kindness and a generous heart. Thankfully, being married to her for nearly 20 years has made me a better person (of course, I believe she would say the same of me).
This reality – of diverse strengths and weaknesses – is likely true of all marriages. One of us is typically better than the other regarding essential and shared roles and relationships. Neither of us, of course, is perfect at any time, in anything, in any way! These two facts (our imperfections and divergent gifts and strengths) tend to make marriage and parenting even more difficult to navigate. In other words, if one is better than the other, yet neither are perfect, how are we to manage – with any effectiveness – the complexities of raising children? Especially our children – who carry the best and worst of each of us in their DNA? As we continue our journey toward a Parental Porn Watch Protocol, Melissa and I would like to offer a couple of life lessons we have learned on our journey to this point.
Lesson #1: We share our leadership efforts based upon individual gifts and strengths. When possible, we work together and strive for harmony. Sharing leadership in the home is no easy task. Most of us have an innate sense of personal rightness. Typically, this innate sense is neither related to facts nor connected to reality. Rather, it’s hooked to pride, insecurity, and manipulation. When faced with a situation – particularly regarding our children – we tend to double down on our sense of personal rightness; refusing to give an inch. Melissa and I have learned – and continue to learn – to defer to one another’s strengths in certain areas. Such deference enables us to grow together toward God, one another, and our kids. Sharing leadership has helped us savor this journey and celebrate the joy of co-laboring.
While many marriages may not function in a capacity of shared leadership, we believe this is how we function best. Indeed, we believe shared leadership is sacred; established in the Genesis narrative of Creation. In Genesis 2, Adam seems to have everything a man could want! He experienced magnificent surroundings. He engaged in meaningful work. He enjoyed a majestic relationship with God. In this marvelous environment something – someone – was missing.
In the poetic narrative of the ancient Hebrews, God slumbers Adam and creates one who would complete him. When Adam discovers this treasured gift from God, he exclaims “At last, I am home.” The text tells us that God created Eve as a helper for Adam. The term more appropriately corresponds to, one who complements or completes. One study interprets the term to mean, a power or strength corresponding to man.¹ Indeed, the Hebrew terms for male and female (ish/isha) are so similar that it appears the words are extracted from and depend upon one another for their fullest, most human meaning.
Some see subordination or the establishment of hierarchy within human relationships in Genesis 1 and 2. They would argue that Adam named Eve, thus establishing authority and order. We suggest that no such thing happened until the Fall, in Genesis 3. In Genesis 2 Adam doesn’t name Eve, as much as he proclaims his wonder and awe in her presence. In Genesis 3 we note actual naming. Indeed, subordination seems to be more germane to The Fall than it is to Creation. In Creation, life as it ought to be, we see a beautiful gift of different yet like humans – male and female – joined to co-labor with Yahweh in His world.
Therefore, it is our firm – yet humble – conviction that God designed male and female to co-labor as equal partners with one another. Together we co-labor with Him as His minor partners! Further, we affirm sexual differentiation (alike and unlike) as presented in the biblical narrative. We believe, however, this differentiation is not one of role distinction as much as it is one of relational completion. As we serve and love together, we taste of this relational completeness that God offered so freely to the initial couple and extends lavishly to us all.² This lesson of shared leadership is a well-spring of life and love in our home. The practice (yes, it takes practice) of shared leadership provides space for each of us to flourish. As we share leadership, we lean upon one another’s strength in a way that the context of our home is one of hope and encouragement, rather than distortion and strife!
Lesson #2: We have learned to parent from a place of hope for the flourishing of our children, rather than a place of fear for the future of our children! Fear based parenting, we have found, leads to frustration and causes unseen but ever growing fissures in the fabric of our children’s hearts. We have discovered, over time and through trials, that we have a tendency to parent from fear, worry and anxiety. This emotional engine comes from, no doubt, our desire to protect and safeguard our children. It, however, often invents outcomes that are not real.
The emotion of fear gravitates toward a host of non-existent realities that we often conjure up in our head. When we parent from fear, we tend to create frustration in the home and perpetuate fear in the hearts of our children. Often, our need for affirmation is the fuel in the engine of fear-driven parenting. When we care more about how we look as parents, than the health and flourishing of our children, we are parenting from fear, worry and anxiety. Rarely, if ever, is such parenting in the best interest of our children. To quote Nanny McPhee, It’s rather sad, really, but there it is.
When our children’s flourishing (the Hebrews called this, shalom or peace) becomes the magnetic north of our parenting efforts, we naturally build bridges toward and for our children. These bridges become communication highways that foster love, health, and wellness. They encourage and enable us to hear our children in moments of pain and despair; particularly when they get trapped in a hidden habit or ensnared in a problem bigger than themselves! These bridges also provide opportunities to celebrate both the joy and victory they experience in life! As parents, Melissa and I want our children to know – ever and always- that we are on their team! Yes, we are often coaches. But we are always on their team!!
Such bridges of meaningful connection further encourage Melissa and me to remember and reveal our pain and brokenness. In some ways, Melissa and I attempt to build these bridges because we believe that we all are on a journey together. We are growing, as our children grow, toward grace and hope as well.
These two lessons enrich the fertile soil from which our PPWP (Parental Porn Watch Protocol) has grown and continues to grow. With this foundation laid, we believe we are now able to share some specifics. So, our next post will offer – for your consideration – 5 ever changing and always challenged components of our PPWP! Stay with us!
Disrupting to Renew!
¹Kaiser, W. C., Jr., Davids, P. H., Bruce, F. F., & Brauch, M. T. (1996). Hard sayings of the Bible (pp. 599–602). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.
²Because of the nature of this post and our experience as husband and wife, we are speaking primarily of marriage and family. However, this reality is equally offered to single men and women as they engage in meaningful community.