Thursday, April 20, 2017

Which Comes First?

We all watched in fascination as the newest member of our household spun and swam around his new dwelling. His home is small and slightly terrifying for the fact that he has found himself in the belly of a shark, he doesn’t seem to mind. Pops of color contrast the white glitter of his scales as he swims, neon blues and pinks fill the space.

One of the crew has been asking for a fish for a year or so, begging, pleading and working it into many conversations. I have toyed with the idea for many months going back and forth between desiring them to earn this pet and also just wanting to see the look on their face when they get this fish. I love surprising my kids, it’s one of my favorite things to do. I turn anything and everything into surprises, a common conversation in our home.

“Hey Crew, let’s load up.”

“Where are we going?”

“It’s a surprise, I am not telling.”

“Mom, we hate when you do that just tell us.”

“No, it’s going to be so fun (*goes to Target to buy toilet paper)!


I love it, I think surprising them was born out of our early years together when I didn’t tell them things would happen in case they didn’t. My surprise skills were born from one too many meltdowns and broken hearts.

So Tuesday, I went to the store a gathered all of the supplies for our new member, Baby Guy went with me, we decided on the most magical looking fish. We went home and set up the habitat so it would be perfect. Upon arriving home from school I sent the crew upstairs to put away laundry (there was in fact, no laundry but a fish waiting to be discovered) the response was just what I had hoped.

A little back story, I have spent the last year shrugging off the request for a fish with the response, “when you show me you can handle the responsibility of a fish, you may have one.” I had in my mind that they must prove it before I would allow it. Then one night like a ton of bricks hitting my logic, I was challenged in my thought process of the earn it before you get it mindset. I realized that I was setting up my child for failure, showing them that I didn’t in fact think they could do it. Would they ever actually achieve the list of must dos to achieve this prize? In my mind I had put such a focus on performance that it was crushing and defeating the purpose of the exercise.

I shifted my view, what would happen that if instead of achieving the checklist I allowed them to do it, even if they failed. The stakes of failure is a living creature but the lesson could be great and the reality is I could be way wrong in my assumptions. So far a week in I have found myself surprised by the pride they have in this little creature.

It costs me roughly $4.99 to teach this lesson and really the ripple effect of this lesson could be priceless. If my child can learn to believe in themselves and to learn how to care for the small price tag of a bit more work for myself is it worth it?

As a parent I sometimes struggle with how inconvenient for me parenting can be (hello tiny baby who literally needs everything from me). Sometimes my mindset gets off and fixates on the fact that they should do this, be like that or accomplish all that I think they should through osmosis. Only to remember that my number one job as a parent is to teach. In teaching them well I need to not raise children who are perfect but children who are brave. I must show that the risk is necessary and maybe the fish dies (which it did, not because of their choices but a water issue) or maybe I get stuck with extra responsibility of reminding (nagging) my child to take care of their fish.

When those inconveniences happen we make some water changes and buy another one and try again. In childhood grace should be abundant, we should allow them to make mistakes and learn lessons. They should get dirty and stay up late. The goal is not to make robots who are perfect and do what I ask, the goal is the celebrate and invest in them so they know they are smart, capable and brilliant, uniquely and so wonderfully made. The goal is to raise a crew of humans who see the world through a different lens, who love well, laugh loud and go on adventures. A crew who counts the cost and sees the risk but does it anyway.


  1. Somehow missed this one; as always, your writing is delightful and I love your lessons and the glimpse into your lives

  2. Thank you Lisa, you are always such a source of encouragment!

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