Life Lesson Letters to Finley: On being a parent

Dear Finley,

Mother’s Day was last Sunday. You were sick as a dog–feverish, coughing relentlessly, exhausted. Daddy and I suffered alongside you, having lived through two worry-filled days and sleepless nights. This certainly didn’t make for the Mother’s Day we had planned. We didn’t go to a nice brunch together. I didn’t escape my duties in favor of fun–a Mother’s Day wish made by many moms. Instead, I worried incessantly. I kissed your warm forehead as my heart broke for your suffering. I napped with you (and your drool and snot). And none of these things felt like a sacrifice on my day because I spent the day being your mom.

Shannon and Finley napping on couch

An afternoon nap with my sick big (baby) boy on Mother’s Day.

One day, you will become a parent and you will understand this firsthand. As a parent, there are many things that will surprise you and many lessons to learn. To give you a running start, I want to share some of what I now know on the subject.

Mommies and daddies often have different ideas about how to be a good parent. For that matter, every other person on this planet may have different ideas. Just take a trip to the bookstore–God, I pray they still exist by the time you’re of marrying age–to see the number of books espousing different advice on how to be a good parent.

For this reason, you should have an honest, heart-to-heart conversation on parenting with any woman you plan to marry. What parenting behaviors make your lists of dos and don’ts? How do you feel about different methods of discipline? How do you view the roles of each parent? This conversation may cause you to realize that you aren’t compatible with this woman. Or you may realize she will make an even more perfect partner than you previously thought. Either way, you’ll be better prepared.

Let’s say you follow my first piece of advice. The next step is to accept that some of your ideas about parenting will change after you’ve had a child. There are some things you simply can’t know beforehand. With your newfound perspective, you and your wife should openly discuss any shifts in thinking. Most importantly, cut each other some slack. Being a good parent is a tough job; it can make being a good spouse even more difficult.

Never forget how lucky you are to have a child. Some people endure incredible heartbreak in pursuit of being a parent. Whether it’s a difficult or easy process for you, you should maintain a sense of gratitude. It is truly a gift.

Accept that you will make mistakes. It comes with the territory.

Remember that you’re raising someone to be an adult–you aren’t simply raising a child. This knowledge should make your choices clearer, but it won’t make them easier to carry out. In fact, this will create much of the conflict between you and your child because the wants of a child (and the tantrums that ensue when those wants aren’t accommodated) often run counter to the skills children need for adulthood.

Love your kid(s) like crazy. Tell them. Show them. Give them your heart. (When you were born, I thought to myself that I would give you my physical heart if you needed it.)

Let your child enjoy being a child. While you’re at it, revel in the joy of being child-like with them. You will connect with your child and a part of yourself that you may have forgotten.

And that’s all there is to it! Of course, the devil is in the details (and every three-year old).

With all the love in my heart,


5 thoughts on “Life Lesson Letters to Finley: On being a parent

  1. Thank you so much for these beautiful lessons. I am learning from them as well and I am really learning a lot. I enjoyed your blog post so much and I am so glad that I had the chance to read it. Wonderfully written and I love it!:)

    • Having returned to work recently, it’s been very difficult to continue posting. However, writing these letters to my son is one thing I can’t give up. It’s especially encouraging to know that in addition to sharing knowledge with him, I’m writing something useful or enjoyable for others. Thank you so much for your comment.

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