I’m on my third parenting book in two weeks. My brain hasn’t hurt this much since college. I texted my mom a couple weeks ago and asked if she had any of Kevin Leman’s books. Mom has been in ministry helping parents for nineteen years now, so I knew she would have something for me. She brought me several classics, one with a cover featuring some sweet early 90s hairstyles. And one that was published the year I was born.
We are entering a new season of parenting, one with new joys and struggles. Charlotte is now old enough to hold her own with her sister, and while she might be smaller she is no less powerful. They love each other fiercely and also fight fiercely, sometimes both in the same 60 seconds. The questions are getting harder, the emotions more complex. And I can admit that parenting feels largely like trial and error. I can also admit that I have a lot to learn.
I remember studying for organic chemistry summer of sophomore year. An entire semester’s worth of work crammed into five weeks with a test every Friday. We went to class for two hours every morning, then lab for five hours four days a week, and finally to the library to study after that. (Do not ever take organic chemistry over the summer. But if you must, make sure your chosen college is within close proximity to a Cheesecake Factory.) My brain literally hurt that summer and not just because I was living on caffeine, Aleve, and cheesecake. But this parenting thing is a million times harder. (Also, I do not live near a Cheesecake Factory.) (And I no longer have the metabolism of a nineteen year old.)
But as hard as it is, I won’t stop learning. I won’t stop trying or growing or adapting. I will keep reading and listening and seeking out mentors. I will keep pestering those further down the road with a million questions. Because this matters. They matter.
In his book Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down, Kevin Leman tells the story of managing a local city league softball team. They were playing for the league championship and the game was close, one run down with men on second and third and two outs.
“Striding to the plate was Murph, our second baseman, who hadn’t had a base hit in his last five games–in fact he hadn’t even gotten the ball out of the infield … Our feeble cheers soon turned to groans as the opposing pitcher put two quick strikes past Murph, who stood there, bat on shoulder, as if frozen by fear.”
Leman then got the idea and went over to the guy and told him he had one pitch, “Hit the next pitch or I’m pulling you out of the game and sending in a pinch hitter.”
Murph hit the ball, the team scored two runs and won the game. Leman continues the story, “Later Murph stopped me as I headed for my car and asked, ‘Why did you tell me to swing at that next pitch or I would get pulled out of the game? How did you know I’d hit it? ‘I didn’t,’ I told him. ‘But I had to do something to wake you up. I’d rather you went down swinging than stand there with the bat on your shoulder and lose the game for sure.'”
Leman concludes the story with this parable for parents, “Raising children is a lot like being at the plate with two outs and everything riding on the next pitch. You can stand there with the bat on your shoulder, hoping to draw a walk. You can even ask to be pulled for pinch hitter, but the truth is, you get only one swing at being a parent, and you might as well make it a good one.”
A couple book recommendations, both by Dr. Kevin Leman–Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours and Bringing Children Up Without Tearing Them Down. He also has a podcast that I just started listening to during runs. Search “Kevin Leman” on the podcast app. And there’s a newsletter you can subscribe to at birthorderguy.com. I’d love to hear your favorite resources for parenting.