So when does the age of innocence end? It has been a priority of my wife and I to protect the innocence of our children for as long as we can. In so doing, we have been described as conservative and fundamental and I suppose I'm okay with that tag. Whenever I think about what kind of decision to make as a parent I always think back to when I was a child and I wonder what would my mom and dad have done in a similar situation. That gives me a lot of comfort, in that I feel like my parents did an outstanding job with me. They were honest and to the point. There was no asking the kids twice to do something. There was a sense of accountability we kids had as children in our household. Each of us was responsible for our own actions. So I suppose my style hearkens back to a bygone era where Father did know best and Mom was there to throw her two cents in as well. And if you thought her two cents were any less valuable than Dad's, then Dad would be there to enlighten you with his belt.
When I was working full time at the hospital, I found myself in the extreme of the above thinking. I was short of patience and swift in my punishment when it came to my kids disobedience. I held onto a zero tolerance idea of it. I also found this idea further ingrained in my mind because I was at work around adults who, for the most part, only had to be told one time to do something. Adults are great that way; they understand what all the words mean. They know what the consequences are if they take the wrong action. I now know that children are much less black and white and they have numerous interpretations to the declarative statement, "Go pick up your room!"
It's interesting because my wife is now the one with the lesser patience in this area and I'm the one helping to translate what it is she wants the kids to do. It's funny because we talk all the time about how we now have a better understanding of where each other was coming from over the past seven years, since we've swapped roles. We realize that if parents can afford to, they should switch roles for at least one year. You would be amazed at what insights you would gain. Obviously though, not everyone can participate in such a grandiose domestic experiment, but I guarantee you, your eyes would be opened in a way never before imagined.
As my good friend used to tell me at my work, "So you're saying your 4 year old had the audacity to behave like a 4 year old?" His point was that my kids weren't going to act like the employees I was responsible for, but rather they were going to act like what they are, kids. That can be sobering advice if you feel like you want to fire your kids day in and day out when you get home from work. Even though I understood what he was saying at the time he said it, I could never truly put into practice that kind of thinking until now.
So count this as yet another lesson in my education as a full time parent. It's great for me to set expectations with my kids and it's great to have first time obedience. I just don't have to be a jerk about it. So fathers, don't be how I used to be. Don't manage your kids or be their boss. Just love them and guide them and maybe someday they'll say that you knew best.