There are times, probably more than I’d like to admit, that I feel absolutely overwhelmed at the thought of raising four children. Each of them breezed into our life and I love them dearly.
But there are days when the idea of raising them gives me the chills. What did I get myself into? I feel like I’m in a cockpit full of poorly labeled buttons and switches while the passengers are yelling at me to safely land the 747. Most days I grab the throttle with both hands and pray I don’t jam the nose of the plane into the runway.
There are times when I feel like my kids are the passengers on that plane. And when I look back to see how they are doing, I realize they parachuted to safety shortly after takeoff.
I don’t recall receiving an owners manual when I walked out of the hospital with our first child. No tests, no interviews or drug tests required. I had to meet more requirements to obtain a library card, and I may not possess the wherewithal to raise a couple of goldfish. Yet I can walk into the hospital with my wife one day and walk out with a tiny human being two days later and the only skill I must prove is that I can install a car seat without strangling anyone with a belt buckle. Not exactly setting the bar high.
With no owner’s manual I’m left with the only choice available: I wing it. Like a bottle of Children’s Benadryl I wish Nintendo, Scooby Doo, and Polly Pockets came with a “recommended dosage”. Just once I’d like to look on the back of a Nintendo game to find, “Do not exceed more than 70 minutes of Super Smash Brothers. Doing so may cause player to body slam younger sisters”.
I’m often perplexed when I’m faced with two options. For example, when Lincoln runs off the soccer field to check out the bugs on the flagpole, should I be upset he’s not following the coach’s instructions or do I encourage his curious nature? Do I teach him how to follow instructions or allow him to learn more about nature? I’m afraid that by the time I know whether my decision was correct it will be too late.
When I’m asked to explain my decisions as a parent I never know what to say because I don’t want to admit I’m merely following my gut. There are times when I wish I had an owner’s manual to fall back on. Year’s later I could point to the manual and say, “Right there…on page 25 it says the benefits of learning to play the piano outweigh any athletic endeavor”. I’d have a scapegoat lined up if things didn’t turn out well and I was raising a Joe Montana all this time.
In the meantime I continue to father my children as best I can. There’s no one waiting on the bench to give me a breather. I make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. I play with them. I pray with them. But most important, I make sure they understand how much they’re loved. That means being on the bottom of many dog piles, tying lots of shoes, and wiping lots of boogers and tears off dirty little faces.
And just maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll look back one day and say, “I didn’t need no stinking manual”.