Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Real Pro

I regret that I haven't had much active participation in this family blog, but I think that it is time. For a while now I have encouraged Megan to blog more frequently partly because she skillfully illustrates the nuances that make life in our family a sweet pursuit. But the main reason is that she possesses wisdom in the field of family that is not common. So, I will do what real bloggers do, and expound on observation. We sat at the table tonight with new acquaintances and introductions led to inquiries about home and career. In her typical response, Megan informed our new friends that she was educated as a pediatric intensive care nurse, but now stays home with our children. That is a true statement, but the pretense is false. I resent any need to qualify her status with explanations of advanced degrees and demonstrations of past expertise in technical and high stress professional roles. My wife is a professional if ever there was one. There are things in American society that are simply off-limits to talk about. Unless you want to instantaneously complicate your life, then never make observations about differences in racial culture, never suggest that someones obese child is a byproduct of an unhealthy home, and never criticize someone's performance as a parent. In the same way that teacher's unions behave as if there are no bad teachers, many people act as if (in the absence of physical or sexual abuse) there are no bad parents. As long as you provide love, and attempt at the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter, then you are a good parent. Anyone who suggests differently is way out of bounds and has no right to criticize. It's the postmodern slant on parenting that says that there are only different parenting styles, and whatever works for you is right. Of course it is true that not every parent has access to the same resources. Many people didn't have good parenting examples themselves, nor wise mentors in this discipline. Many haven't benefitted from education or been exposed to a large worldview of varied life experiences. Of course, financial constraints and time constraints can limit the opportunities and mentorship that a parent can offer a child. With those thoughts in mind, allow me to relate my observations on what makes a loving parent a good parent, and what makes a good parent a great parent. Megan Shirley is the best parent that I have ever seen, and I have had a front row seat to the action. First, a great parent wants the job and loves the job. It's not an easy position. In fact it is frustrating and constant (and sometimes constantly frustrating). Children will be defiant and destructive. They will lose control of their emotions and embarrass you in public. The job starts on day #1 and continues unabated at least until adulthood. My observation of my wife was that when our infants cried at night she wanted us, their parents, to comfort them. It made no sense to her to relegate such a centrally motherly task to someone else so that she could catch up on sleep. This is the time of year in which you will undoubtedly hear a parent remark on how relieved they are that school is starting back. Of course, the insinuation is "these kids are driving me crazy!" Perhaps you have heard of well-off families in whom more children don't make financial sense. A great parent wants the job, especially the hard parts. Second, a great parent has talent. This is intuitive, and, of course, true. Years of education and a white coat don't make you a good surgeon. Answering questions on the bar exam doesn't make you a great trial lawyer. A podium and a lecture hall full of students don't make you a good teacher. And a baseball bat doesn't make you Mike Trout. Just try to tell someone that they don't really have the makeup to be a great one. A great parent is more than love and its more than effort. Of course those things are part of it, but great parenting takes wisdom, judgement, patience, intuition, and a host of other intangibles. It also takes a willingness to humble yourself and learn from the greats. Third, a great parent works at her craft. My wife has a BS nursing degree, and she absolutely has expertise in childhood education theory. Don't listen to her scoff at this claim; its true. She reads more than 50 books per year, many of which are on parenting and childhood education. She seeks out other talented parents and asks questions. She studies the personality types of our children and strategizes to change their hearts and not just their behavior. She fiercely protects what influences our children, and as they get older she understands that their is much to learn and anticipates the challenges. Lastly, a great parent is Holy Spirit-filled. In our house, Megan focuses our children on what is good, true, and beautiful. Anything less is not worth their time, attention or entertainment. She prays for our children, and discerns false truth. A great parent cannot depend on what the world, or even Christian pop culture has determined is acceptable or even beneficial. As Christians, we believe that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so how can anyone greatly disciple their children without it? I joke that she should have a more lucrative talent, but partnering with Megan Shirley to raise our children is a source of immeasurable riches. Rhett

1 comment:

Katie said...

Dear Megan,
Happened upon your blog as I was searching Kijabe, Kenya. I lived there for a couple short stints as a child and we now have friends about to move there. It's a special place. We also just adopted a little girl from China 7 months ago. :) I will definitely pass along your blog to our friends as they prepare to move to Kijabe. Your thoughtful writing will be a blessing for them. Also if you have any interest I can pass along our adoption blog for you to see someone on the other side of all the adoption waiting. :) Blessings to you! -Katie