What helps me be a better parent
Today’s contributor shares how a more spiritual perspective of fatherhood has helped him become a better dad.
I always knew I wanted to have a kid. Then, when my wife and I were expecting, I did my best to keep my thought filled with good examples of fatherhood, such as memories of my own childhood and men I admire in my life. I felt as ready as I could be to meet this new little one! And I was certain my wife and I would meet any challenges with calm, joy, and inspiration.
So the first time my son was disobedient, I was shocked. Even worse, the first time I got truly angry with him, I was deeply mired in guilt and shame. How could I, who had wanted a child for so long, have gotten upset at him?
In the heat of the moment – and, if I’m honest, those moments still happen! – I felt so overwhelmed that I just felt completely at a loss.
And at those times I am so grateful to remember that it is not all about me. In fact, I’ve come to realize that it’s not about me at all. If we are seeking strength purely from our own hands and selves, then there comes a time when it runs out. But if our sense of parenthood is founded on something greater than us, then we can always turn to that higher source, whether the immediate moment seems bad or good.
My study of Christian Science, undergirded by a strong and growing love of the Bible, has shown me that God truly is our divine Father (and Mother!). For instance, the Lord’s Prayer Christ Jesus gave us starts with a loving declaration and acknowledgment of God as “our Father.”
We can trust this Father; we can turn to Him whenever we need help (and even when we think we don’t). I’ve learned from the Bible that we are the children of God, who is Spirit, and so we are created as the expression of God’s unending love, strength, and care. We can rejoice in patiently expressing these qualities toward our children and others.
It’s so heartening to consider that these ideas are true for everyone, including our children, who are in perfect relation to God as their Father, too. We don’t need to fear for or try to improve others’ relation to God, because it is unbreakable. Instead, each of us, male or female, can let our expression of fathering qualities represent something of the Fatherhood of God. It is a privilege and pleasure to wholeheartedly accept this role while affirming that our heavenly Father is the true power and foundation of everyone’s being.
Sometimes in the midst of a challenging moment with my son, a verse from a poem by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, comes to mind. She wrote:
From tired joy and grief afar,
And nearer Thee, –
Father, where Thine own children are,
I love to be.
(“Poems,” p. 13)
If we are feeling tired, angry, or just bewildered, it’s so calming and healing to reflect on the fact that it is natural indeed to love to be with God’s children and that each of us is in fact His child.
One evening, my son had a total meltdown. I, too, was feeling near meltdown stage, and I stormed out of his bedroom. But I didn’t want just to wait it out till he fell asleep; I wanted to see healing, to see more of God’s goodness manifested.
Suddenly this clear, peaceful thought came to me: I love this child, and we can just start over. God’s relation to us is always intact and harmonious, and it’s natural for our relationships with each other to reflect that harmony instead of being based on anger and frustration.
Feeling moved by a divinely impelled sense of love, I walked back into my son’s room and said, “Let’s start over.” He immediately stopped crying and said, “OK,” and we had a perfectly smooth bedtime routine.
If our steps are ordered by a humble confidence in God and the desire to honor Him as transparently as we can, then we are better prepared to respond when situations arise. God, who made us all as the expression of His Fatherhood, created us to shine and to reflect His goodness, never alone but always the beloved children – reflection – of our perfect Father.