Originally created 04/12/98

Fatherhood improves theology

It's a good weekend to admit that parenthood has improved my theology.

I made this observation quite suddenly last week when an old friend called and politely asked about the latest antics of my 4-year-old son.

"I have begun to realize," I blurted out, "what the good Lord is up against with the rest of us.

"How else can you love something so much, yet have it so often confound you?"

She hummed agreement on her end of the line.

"How often can you experience the comfort of reaching back to feel that little hand reach yours when you walk through a busy parking lot, yet feel it suddenly try to tear away when the direction indicated is not the one he wants to go?"

"Praise be," she said in a louder tone.

"How often," I asked, "can you get down and stare deeply into those familiar little eyes and shout, `When I say NO, I mean NO!"'

"Amen, brother!" she answered.

"Verily," I continued on my ecclesiastical roll, "there is a certain tail-bone which often deserves smiting for not obeying my commandments, and I feel righteously justified in doing so!"

She paused silently for just a moment before saying, "You know, I feel the same way about my puppies."

OK, she made her point.

Children aren't pets. And while they're aren't adults, either. We have to handle them with the aptly named kid gloves.

For example, a study came out earlier this month that cast doubt on the practice of spanking.

The experts suggest that paddling sends the wrong message.

I'm not convinced.

Having been spanked early and often, and having reached this stage of my middle ages without once spending a night in jail, I would have to say spanking worked.

I don't spank my son, however, for a simple reason -- I tried it, and it didn't work.

He was committing the same transgression within 15 minutes of me airing out his seat-pants.

I repeated the instruction.

And likewise, he repeated his action, and I was forced to an alternate method that proved more effective.

I know I have to keep him on the straight and narrow, but I also know that if the parental solution was simple, our jails would be empty and our colleges full.

I followed him on a recent Easter Egg hunt and couldn't believe that he would bypass some easy eggs to hurry on toward the promise of those hidden up ahead.

"Pick up that one!" I'd yell, pointing out the obvious. But he disregarded the suggestion.

You can show them what to do, I concluded, but in the end they have to do it by themselves.

The only way you know you've done it right is when you reach back for that little hand in the crowd, and find it reaching forward for your own.

And for just a moment you're not sure which hand is holding the other.

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