When our first daughter was born almost six years ago, I was the better parent. By a mile. Not to brag, but I was more prepared, more excited, and more skilled. That’s just the truth. But somewhere along the way, either before or after our second daughter was born, Olive caught up and then passed me. This is less of a story of what makes a “better” parent, and more of a story about how grit and effort beat out talent and skill.
Even when I was a 10-year old boy, I had an interest in kids. Growing up at church I loved to interact with toddlers. There was something about the simplicity of kids that I found appealing. Over the past 25 years I’ve spent a lot of time with kids. I’ve volunteered to lead kids’ summer camps, teach Sunday School, and teach Vacation Bible School. I tutored kids. I babysat kids. And I really, really looked forward to having kids of my own one day.
Olive, on the other hand, wasn’t interested in kids while she was single. After we got married and started discussing having children, one of her main worries was that she didn’t know what to do with babies or kids. She didn’t know how to play with them. She didn’t like hanging out with other people’s kids. She wondered if she would like being with her own kids. She felt unprepared to be a parent and was hesitant to become one.
And maybe that’s why Olive worked harder than I did at becoming a better parent.
Over the last six years she’s read countless books about parenting. She’s read so many books, she has a list of her 11 top books for navigating the toddler years as a parent. Not only does she read, she also
experiments on our daughters implements what she’s learned.
The reading she’s done has helped her understand our kids more. She’s read about how their brains are developing and how their bodies are changing. She’s read about numerous potty training techniques, advice on how to discipline kids, and how to coach our kids to handle their emotions. She’s learned about how to develop good relationship between sisters, grace-based parenting, and how to make sure she, as a mother, has enough time to recharge and rest. All this understanding and learning from others has helped Olive become a better mother.
Me on the other hand, I’ve read three books about parenting (and listened to a few TED talks). It’s not that I didn’t want to be a good parent. And it’s not that I didn’t learn and get better (I’ve actually learned a lot through Olive, because she shares what she learns with me). It’s just that I thought I already had the skill, natural talent, and plenty of experience to be a good parent. So I didn’t need to work very hard. And I haven’t worked very hard at it (at least not as hard as Olive).
Here’s the thing: effort, grit, and perseverance beat out skill and talent over time.
I have so much admiration for my wife. She went into parenting with fear and trembling, and with feelings of inadequacy. But she had a desire to become an amazing mother and the belief that she could become one. And she worked and worked and worked at it. She is now an amazing mother and improving by the week.
Now I need to get working to catch up to her.
PS – If you want a cheat sheet of what Olive’s learned about parenting, she’s written a blog post titled, “7 Tips and 11 Books for Navigating the Toddler Years“