Over this Christmas break my family has taken to puzzle building. When I say my family I really mean me. What started as a family activity has quickly developed into an activity that I do in the family room while they're sitting next to me watching a movie and complaining that the lights are so bright. We started gaining puzzle steam during the first few days of the break with an easily conquered 500 piece puzzle. I'm fairly certain that we allowed our success to blind us and create a feeling of invincibility since our second puzzle purchase jumped to a 2,000 piece puzzle. The hike in puzzle pieces and the abandonment of my family in this endeavor has left me with some time to think as I sift through an endless sea of puzzle pieces.
I've always struggled with patience. When I see something that needs to change, I want the change now. I want direct and immediate results after one visit to the gym. I want to see immediate change after one tough conversation. I want the dog to be house-broken after one swat with the newspaper. I struggle when I have to tell my kids more than once to pick up their stuff - I struggle a lot.
Countless times thus far in my puzzle endeavor I have been fully convinced that I am missing a puzzle piece. I've searched the floor, I've scoured the table, I've even eyed the dog convinced that she is up to no good and out to get me. What's been interesting about all of my missing puzzle pieces is that to date, all of them have turned up. After a careful and patient search each and every piece has eventually been right in front of me. What's been frustrating about my puzzle piece search has been that when I eventually do find the needed piece, it looks so different than what I assumed it would look like. I spent hours searching for a particular color and texture and in reality the needed piece was much different. Even with looking at the top of the box, I'm often way off in truly discerning what's needed.
Sometimes in life we too can become convinced that there are missing puzzle pieces. Relationships seem incomplete. Something is off in your relationship with God. Things at work are askew. Maybe you've convinced yourself that you know exactly what you need and all the while you're overlooking the needed piece that's right in front of you. Allow me to challenge you with this thought: what at first may appear as a missing piece to the puzzle is often just a lack of patience and perhaps more often, a lack of discernment.
Since becoming a father in 2001 I have learned a few lessons and this morning I was reminded of a few of them that I thought I would pass along.
1. Laugh with you kids, even if they're not funny. There is tremendous power in laughter. It builds relationship. It creates memories. Have fun and be goofy. When our kids see us as humans and not only as power figures in charge of dispensing food and clothing, we become real and approachable.
2. Admit your mistakes. Don't be afraid to say, "I'm sorry". Let's be honest, that's a tough one for many parents because we think it puts us in a position of weakness. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Your ability to say, "I'm sorry, I was wrong" is a powerful lesson for your kids. You are literally teaching them what it means to be humble.
3. Ask questions and be prepared to wait for answers. Sometimes when we ask our kids questions we're met with silence or we're met with, "good", "fine", "same", etc. If you allow those answers to be satisfactory, then that's all you'll ever get. Insist on more, insist on names, locations, details but be prepared to wait. Sometimes our kids become convinced that they can wait us out on the answers. If they wait long enough, you'll give up. Prove them wrong and wait patiently.
4. Talk about the awkward stuff. The only awkward conversation is the one that doesn't happen often enough. The "birds and the bees" conversation is only weird the first few times and then it becomes normal. Our kids will always take their cues from us as parents, if we act weird about it, they'll act weird about it.
5. Stay connected. Check their phone, I mean your phone. You are paying for it right? "But that's an invasion of their privacy." That's crazy talk. As parents our primary spiritual responsibility is to shepherd our children and yet we tend to allow them to spend a vast amount of unsupervised time on social media. What are they texting? Who are they texting? What social media feeds are they frequenting?
Hopefully, you're way ahead of me on the learning curve. If not, let's work together to be better parents.