As much as I wish there was a way to clone myself and Ann in the lives of our children, it is ridiculously impossible to do so. At least it has been for us.
We recently cleared out a bookshelf that had 8 or 10 parenting books - "How to" guides for raising children that are confident in themselves, that are responsible, helpful, and spiritually grounded. We read them all. We attempted with prayer and lots of energy to implement the strategies of the experts. But it hasn't worked yet.
Twenty years into this parenting journey, anyone just looking at the lifestyle of our children would wonder about what went on in our home during their early years. Most would say if kids get into behaviors that are illegal and dangerous, it must have something to do with the parents. I know, because I used to think such thoughts. It's simple. "If parents do the right things A, B, and C, then the children will end up with character traits X, Y, and Z."
Now I realize that either Ann and I have been lied to by those closest to us and we're blind to our own parental ineptitude, or that formula is simply false. To rewrite it according to our own parental experiences it goes more like this: "If parents follow the best advice of the experts, it is still quite possible the children will turn away from the path they have been shown."
We thought it was difficult when they were babies and toddlers. Those sleepless nights. Those long bedtime routines and fixing special food and cleaning up all their messes. But we long for those times now. And when friends have the tired circles under their eyes from all the work of caring for young children, I want to somehow help them to just breathe it all in, to soak up every moment.
Parenting is much more complex than I could have comprehended when this journey began 21 years ago.