If you knew me, you would know that “sporty” isn’t exactly an accurate description of my athletic abilities. I have taken lessons in a wide variety of sports with less than stellar results. One thing I vaguely remember from tennis and golf lessons though, is that your follow-through is very important.
If I understand correctly, follow-through has to do with physics. To get power behind the ball, you need to keep your speed fast and consistent, never slowing down. If you drop the bat, racquet or club as soon as you make contact with the ball, your ball will not go nearly as far as it could have. Follow- through is the result of continuing to play even after you have made contact with the ball. You may think you are finished when you hit the ball, but unless you follow through, your efforts won’t be rewarded.
Follow-through is also critical in parenting. Frankly, I think it is one of the hardest things about parenting. A baseball doesn’t care what kind of day you have. All it knows is that if you don’t follow-through on your swing at it, it isn’t going to go very far. Now as much as we delight in our wonderfully caring and loving children, there are times when let’s face it, they just need their needs met by us. How our day is going is of little importance to them at the moment.
A crying baby doesn’t really understand you are sleep deprived. She wants her diaper changed and now. A toddler whose dad has been out of town on business doesn’t understand her dad has been stuck in an airport for two straight days. She just wants the hugs and attention she has been missing from him. A teen with a shiny new learners permit probably won’t ask if you have had a good day, before begging to drive for the first time. That permit needs to be broken in as soon as humanly possible.
Parenting has more rewards than you can ever imagine. Nothing is more soothing than a child patting you on the back and comforting you when something terrible has happened. Nothing is sweeter than those baby kisses that aren’t really kisses at all yet. And what parent doesn’t delight in seeing the wonderful human being their child is becoming.
On the other hand, let’s be honest. When the hot water heater has burst all over your now flooded basement, your car is in the shop and your baby has kept you up all night, the last thing you are thinking about is follow-through. Survival is crucial at that point and some things just have to slide.
The problem is that for many parents, the crucial becomes routine. Or should I say, the routine becomes crucial. The spiritual and emotional needs of our child get pushed aside so we have more time in our days to close deals or clean bathrooms. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those things, we need to be aware if our children have needs that aren’t being met by us.
Our congregation had an award winning high school principal (and Christian) speak to us this past Sunday. He has realized one of the biggest mistakes parents make is signing off way before they are finished parenting. The rationale is that since they are teens, our children are capable of handling things themselves without parental involvement.
The principal went on to share how the teen years are perhaps the most important time for parental follow-through. Teens are taking all of that information they have been given over the years and are starting to put it into practice. They need and want feedback, suggestions, tips and support from us. Many times, they just need a listening ear while they try to talk things through out loud. Instead, many parents celebrate their new found “freedom” and begin to live the lives they lived before children. The teens are left to finish raising themselves with sometimes less than positive results.
Unfortunately, it’s not just teens who aren’t getting parental follow-through. Children go un-disciplined, because when you are tired, the last thing you want to do is go through that hassle! Children have so much to share and work through that goes un-heard by the adults in their lives. I can’t tell you how many children I have never met, come up to me in public places and tell me everything that is going on in their world. It becomes painfully obvious that they are just thankful to be around an adult who is actively listening to them. Unfortunately, child predators know this too. Many a molester has succeeded by just giving children the extra attention they needed and gaining their trust.
Now, I know some of you out there are telling yourselves that your child is just a “talker’ and will talk anyone’s ears off. As a “talker” myself, I can tell you that your child needs an extra dose of attention. I know I often talk through what more introverted people think through in their heads. I may not always appreciate feedback, but I probably want it and need it more than a more introverted person. Sometimes, even as an adult, if I find myself short on dependable listening ears, I will start thinking out loud to cashiers and other strangers I meet during my day.
Thankfully, as an adult, I have a little better idea of who the “safe” people are, but your child may not. Even if the person giving them advice doesn’t physically harm them, it doesn’t mean that the advice they are giving is what you want your child to learn. Children will get their answers and attention somewhere. With so much internet access, the sources available to them are unlimited. Unfortunately, the sources are of questionable value at times and are no substitute for their parents.
When an athlete is too tired to continue, they may be tempted to cheat on their follow-through to reserve some energy. My guess is that more than once their coaches have told them to “dig deep” and find the energy to complete the task at hand. Parenting can be exhausting. Add in the trials of life and some days feel like you are sloshing through quicksand. The next time that happens, see if you can’t dig a little deeper and give your child the follow-through he needs.
Often, my extra reserves come through prayers to God for that little bit of extra strength. Sometimes advice from a godly parent or re-reading the scriptures about parenting, give me the extra burst I need. Our speaker said the parenting job is done when your child no longer needs you. I have been told by my friends with adult children, that day never really arrives. So when you have a minute, join me in practicing our follow-through in parenting. It sounds like we may need it for years to come!