Permission to Enjoy

Every parent has heard the phrase, “Enjoy this time with your children. It goes by so fast.” However, sometimes in the midst of the late nights, long talks, dirty diapers, or scheduled practices, parenthood does not feel very enjoyable. There are moments of pleasure that pop up in the quietness of a day, resembling a cute smile, a deep laugh, or milestone reached. But, far too often, enjoying parenthood gets lost in the mundane tasks of any given day.

In the book, The Collapse of Parenting, Leonard Sax describes an overarching cultural phenomenon that he calls “parenting gone adrift.” The symptoms of this crisis across our culture include increased disrespect, students increasingly falling behind academically in comparison to other countries, and overall fragile teenagers as they enter into adulthood. As I was reading his book and came across his observations, I thought I could predict where he was going. I expected his solutions to be more discipline or the end of helicopter parenting.

However, I was mistaken.

The solution Dr. Sax recommends for these types of struggles among the young adults of our day are wrapped up three concepts; teaching humility, understanding the meaning of life, and lastly, enjoyment. I hope to discuss the first two at a later date, but when I read his charge for parents to enjoy their children more, I immediately went on the defense. “Of course I enjoy my children! Being a mom is my God-given purpose. I devote every day to them either directly or indirectly. I love them with every ounce of my being.” Then, when I came off of my defensive reaction, the Lord spoke to my heart. Do I really enjoy them? Am I more likely to immediately discipline or to spend time with a wayward child to get to the bottom of the heart issue? When was the last time I did something with my family out of sheer enjoyment, not for education, but for simply the pleasure of being together?

As I thought about how I need to enjoy my children more, two specific obstacles came to mind. These are things I decided I need to lay down in order truly enjoy my family in the way God intends.

  1. The habit of Multitasking– Moms are masters of multitasking. It’s our superpower. However, it is hard to enjoy playing games with your child when you are working out an issue with friends over text messaging. We have a dance party, but feel we need to clean the house while we do it. Being “in the moment” is a cute catchphrase, but it really is important to focus on one thing at a time to truly enjoy what we are doing. Electronics are the blessing and curse of a multitasking mom. There are numerous helps with controlling electronic usage for yourself and your family, but it primarily takes the sheer will to cut back and have a change of habit in the home.
  2. The belief that we are what we do – Even in our Christian sub-culture, this mindset is becoming more and more prevalent. I believe this is what drives us to over-schedule our lives and the lives of our kids. If we are super busy, we feel we are more important. If our children’s calendars are full, that must show we are nurturing their talents and gifts. However, we all know in our hearts that this leaves us stressed out and leaves our interactions with our children based on not who they are but what they do.

I see that the heart of Dr. Sax’s charge to parents to pursue enjoying their children is rooted in the concept of relationship. God enjoys a relationship with us. He is never too busy or too distracted to speak to us through His Word. Also, God’s relationship with us is not based on anything that we can accomplish.

As a parent, I should enjoy my children in the very same way.