On our vacation to Nosara, Rachel and I took turns with our friends to give each other date time. We decided to rent quads, which was an awesome choice. We explored the mountain roads around Playa Guiones and then took a back road to Nosara Centro where we drove farther out into the country, up a dirt trail that quickly became too steep and overgrown, and then across a river until the road finally ended at a remote farm. On the way back, we stopped at a jungle honey farm where the beekeepers poured fresh honey into bottles for us. It was a really fun and adventurous time with Rachel.
When we got back, I took the kids out for rides. First I took Charlotte, planning to take Jacob on the main road all the way to the gas station. Charlotte, that tiny little girl with the squeaky voice and the gapped-tooth smile, loved it and kept wanting me to go fast. Jacob on the other hand, from the minute we got on, kept telling me how to drive and to slow down because it was dangerous.
Jacob wants to be in control and has a really hard time letting go and trusting; he wants things to be his way and on his time frame. He doesn’t want me to give him instruction or to push him; he wants to figure things out on his own. But he’s also creative, inventive, full of ideas, and an independent thinker.
Charlotte is different. She is usually very willing to accept correction, and she is happy-go-lucky in play and amenable to others’ ideas. She’s sweet, caring, and tender. Where Jacob is hesitant to try new things, she dives right in. Literally. We’ve been swimming in a friend’s pool, and Jacob always has to touch the side or the bottom. Recently, he has gotten to the point where he’s starting to practice lifting up his feet from the bottom. But Charlotte. That girl will leap right off the edge and try to swim to us. Before she jumps, she’ll look at us, make peace signs out of her fingers, and then motion with them at us, saying, “Farther! Farther! Farther!” And then she jumps with no fear. Last time she was even loving having me throw her high into the air so she could splash down into the water without me catching her. But Charlotte’s exuberant energy has a hard time being constrained when her heart wants something that she’s afraid she won’t get, or when she’s, hot, cold, hungry, tired, or in pain.
It’s so interesting to get to know our kids. I always thought that kids were largely a product of their environment, until I had my own. Ever since they’ve been born, I’ve been realizing that there are little people, behind those eyes, that I get to meet every day and get to learn about and to know.
This sounds so silly and obvious, but it’s something that I have to rediscover all of the time. And it’s actually really challenging. I want to be a really good dad. I want to love spending time with my kids. I want to love teaching them. I want to help them grow up into happy, healthy, and successfully independent individuals, lovers of God, and lovers of other people, and I want to have a good relationship with them in this process. But that’s really, really hard to do. And unfortunately, there’s no formula, despite what parenting books and other parents would have you believe. What works for Jacob doesn’t work for Charlotte, and vice versa. I don’t get to choose who my kids are, how they operate, and who they become. I think life would be easier (not necessarily better, but easier) if I could.
I get frustrated when I’ve gone over the same thing for the thousandth time, when Charlotte starts crying because she doesn’t have the ketchup even though she’s never asked for it, or when Jacob starts running away when we’re crossing the street and he sees a car coming a mile away. I want to teach them something and have them get it right away. But the reality is, they’re not blank slates to just accept my teaching. They’re individuals, and growth is a process, just like it is for me and for everyone else. And who they are now is not who they are becoming.
I pray that in this parenting process, God will fill us with wisdom as we teach and correct and encourage and inspire our children—as individuals—in their lives and in their walk with God and fellow man.
And to remember that our “present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed” (Romans 8:18).
And that in this process, in the struggles and the joys, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39).
And that is the kind of love that I want to have.
By the way, the second ride I gave Jacob was so much more fun. He ended up trusting me a lot more, giving me smiles when we went fast, and we even visited another beach to explore some tide pools, just father and son.