Parents, STOP letting your kids compare you to other parents!
My wife often shares with me pictures from her Instagram account. There are some incredibly talented people out there with some great ideas. However, my wife and I have learned to become realist, which means we have realized we don't have the talent of many on Pinterest or Instagram. I am creative, but most of that time my creativeness ends with paper and pen or my vocal chords. I am growing to understand my limits and what God has given me. My wife has incredible talents also, but we couldn't match the work of many others. So, we quit trying, not because we are defeated, but because we are good with what talents and gifting God has giving us.
Would I love to give every kid an iPad who comes to my kids birthday parties? Yes, yes I would, but I don't have the finances for that, nor do we throw big parties for our kids. My kids go to birthday parties so they can be with their friends and celebrate their friends special day. When did we make it acceptable that kids coming to the party get as much as the kid we are celebrating?
The problem, as I see it, is we have become parental wimps. I know that's hard but let me encourage you that you can say "no" and that we can teach our children a better way? Many of us allow other people's gifting to push us around. We have also failed to live in contentment to what God has provided us through our jobs and journeys. We have bought the American Dream "make a better life for our kids" and fail to it often. If there is anyone who wants a better life for my kids (i.e. more stuff) its me. My brother and I grew up with little, although I did have a beach and mountains and the freedom to ride my bike across Oahu at any time. My problem was that I compared my lack of not having cool toys, big birthday parties or grand wardrobes with happiness. When I began working full time in college, I put myself in debt trying to attain everything I didn't have as a kid. Then when I got married, I continued this trend and it almost brought us to the brink of major hurt. I was not content with what I was given for too many years. When my wife and I said yes to church planting in Hawaii, it was revealed to me that I had invested too much time in stuff and money. We sold 3/4's of our possessions and bought 700 cubic feet to move what we believed was necessary for us to live in Hawaii, only to purchase too much stuff and move 750 cubic feet of stuff back 2 years later(200 cubic feet was different than what we brought). When we got to Hawaii, I cried that I had sold some things I needed and brought so much I didn't. Every time we have moved we have sold a bunch of stuff that we decided we didn't need. I too struggle, with contentment.
Even this month, I have struggled with it. I bought Caleb and I some really cool Star Wars flying toys for Christmas only to find out they were junk. We got back our money on a gift card and still have that gift card. He and I have talked about a ton of different options but we keep landing on the Xbox One game "Star Wars: Battlefront. Problem, we don't have an Xbox One nor a PS4. It would require me to come up with another $300 to purchase it and the other controller we would need (stinking Microsoft, you knew we would want that game and need another controller and Xbox live gold). I have lost some sleep on this and started listing things I could sell (anyone want to buy an Xbox 360 and games for $100 or a Fit Bit Charge HR for $100 also). Meanwhile, Caleb has shifted to wanting Anki Overdrive (this really cool and better version of Tyco slot car racing). He and I have lost joy over not being to have either of those. Every time I lose my joy, I am met with the same reality that I am sharing with you. I don't need it and if God wants me to have it (guess what) He will provide it.
This is where I think many of us are failing. We seem only be content in having what we don't have or producing something for our kids that they really don't need. I read an article recently from a mom begging other parents to stop (and I agree with most of it) because it was disappointing her kids that she couldn't provide. I want to applaud her for not caving to the pressure, but I also want to encourage her to teach her children through their disappointment.
The good of Disappointment
Disappointment brings limits and these limits are good for us. The problem with our lack of contentment and teaching it to our children is that we preach to them they have no limits. We need to embrace our limits and our dreams. I want my children to dream and I want them to shoot for incredible distances, however, I also want them to be content with the journey God is taking them. When they become disappointed in not receiving something they wanted, I want it to challenge their wants and their work ethic. If you want Anki Overdrive and need an iPad to play it, then its time to work hard for both. Better yet, is there something better you need or want. I want my kids disappointment to be used for good. This is where I have to change and be okay with their pain.
Every parent wants to relieve pain in our kids. I don't want my kids to suffer needlessly, but pain is good. It reveals there is a problem and we need to take action. Disappointment brings pain but what is the action? I believe it is for parents (you and I) to help our children evaluate the want and if it is worth wanting. It is a great opportunity for me to teach my kids to reorient their wants and character. If I fold to pressure, I will make them to be ill content and selfish kids. I cannot fall to this kid centric society we are currently in. I need to be courageous and bold. Someone needs to model it for my children.
As a christian parent, I embrace the scriptures. The ten commandments tell me not to desire what God has given to others or what they own that I don't. If I fail to teach my children to be content with what we have, I will create a lusting heart in them for what they do not have. I will also fail to teach them to fill their cup of love, acceptance, worth and security in things other than God. Lust after things will not stop at those things. My mentor Tom Pendergrass has always said, "sin doesn't stay in its original form". Lusting after things will turn uglier and get bigger. I have to lead my kids to be content in the journey God has for them and the provision He has given. To fail in this is for me to teach my family that God is not enough for us.
If I fail to lead them in contentment, I also teach them that they know better than God. If God has a journey for them, then He is better at providing for them and guiding them in that journey. To fail to teach this, allows them to believe that they make their journey and they are smarter than God. Besides, I believe God gives us better things than we could ever give ourselves. If I teach them not to be content, I teach them that God's gifts suck! Yeah I said it, but they don't suck, they rock! God has time and time again provided so much more than I ever could for myself and my family. The journey of blessings are too much to list on this writing, but we experience those blessings and they continue. God has not failed to out give whatever I could or my kids could produce.
Here is my help to you after saying mean things to you. Stop trying to be another parent. God created you with some really cool talents. Most of us are really cool to be around (even if our teen says otherwise). We are smart and talented. With that smarts and talent comes limits. Some of us will never be millionaires (especially most of us who are in the Gospel Ministry not named Creflo Dollar). Some of us will never own fancy cars or have huge houses, but God will provide everything we need. Are you okay with God giving you what He deems you need? If we have a hard time with that, the problem is not other parents but is within us. We need to go to God with honesty and tell Him we are having a hard time being content with Him. Allow Him to change that in you and please stop beating yourself up when your kid wants something someone else has. Use those times to teach (and you will have to remind them of that teaching a bunch). Lead them to be good with their limits and help them to dream awesome dreams that are laced with contentment.
I know we don't like that word, but if we can embrace it and learn from God to be content; we will get out of debt, enjoy our marriages and children more, spend more time doing things that matter and give us joy, be able to teach our kids some really cool things and we will live a life worth something great. You are talented and you are a good parent, you just need to be okay with being what God is creating you to be. Be content and pass that to your kids.
And for you so called over the top parents, Keep being you! Don't feel bad that my kid is disappointed. I will teach my kid and eat part of that goodie bag you sent home (dad tax). I will eat those extra cupcakes you made through Pinterest with joy! But if you are doing this to one up me, then have fun losing sleep at night. I am going to bed content that I don't have to outdo you and that God has given us everything we need, even if it brings pain every now and then!