When Kids Become Parents

Our kids are parents now. Our daughter wanted a girl. She got two boys. Both our sons wanted boys. They have four girls between the two of them. As Mick Jagger sang, “You can’t always get what you want.” Turns out, our daughter is the best boy-mom ever and our boys are the best girl-dads ever! Who knew?

My wife and I both grew up in the ‘60s with stay-at-home moms. I can’t speak for my mother-in-law, but I’m pretty sure if she had been asked what it was like raising my wife, she’d laugh and say, “Oh, it was wonderful! She was our youngest, and she never caused us a minute of grief!”

I can’t speak for my own mother either, but I’m pretty sure if she had been asked what it was like raising me, she would have walked over to the bookshelf, taken down her well-worn copy of The Strong Willed Child by James Dobson and started crying.

It didn’t start out that way. I was a momma’s boy until the day my kindergarten teacher finally had enough of me crying after being dropped off at school. She dragged me into the bathroom one morning as I threw another tantrum and gave me a firm spanking. Ahhh, corporal punishment in the classroom…those were the days.

As I got older, however, I will admit that I caused my parents a few grey hairs, and by a few grey hairs I mean enough to weave them into a king-size, grey-haired quilt. Truthfully, I could write a book about things I did to make my parents wish they had stopped having kids after my angelic older sister was born. Chapter 1: Daniel Pops Gloria Hemme’s Bike Tire; Chapter 2: Daniel Goes to the Principal’s Office, Again; Chapter 3: Daniel Steals a Dollar from his Teacher; Chapter 4: Daniel Throws His Shoe Through a Window; Chapter 5: Daniel Ties his Brother to a Telephone Pole; Chapter 6: Daniel Runs Away from Home. I think you get the drift.

When my wife and I decided to get engaged at the age 19, it took our parents by surprise. My dad went so far as to sit us both down in his office one day. He gave us a lecture about responsibility and asked us, “What in the world are you going to do if you have kids right away?” I think he was trying, or at least hoping, to save us from what he had gone through with me.

We got married at 21 while I was still in college. At 22, my wife was working with a friend who was pregnant. Somehow, this friend made her pregnancy look like so much fun that my wife came home from work one day and said, “Hey, do you think we should have a baby?”

I said, “Sure!” Two months later she was pregnant; nine months after that, we became parents. We didn’t necessarily agree with all of our parents’ childrearing techniques and were anxious to try some of our own. We picked up a few ideas from the Cleavers and the Brady Bunch. We made up everything else up as we went along. We ended up doing a lot of the same things our parents did. We told our kids the same stories we had been told. We taught them the same prayers we had prayed. We made them eat many of the same foods that were forced on us. Somehow, they turned out okay.

I had no idea if our kids would be good parents or not. Our daughter used to wear pajamas to high school and her room was so messy you could barely open the door. My oldest son took four years of college to get a two-year degree and lived in our basement until he was 26. My youngest son flunked two of his first six classes as a freshman in college and lived in a rat-infested hovel with a bunch of his knucklehead friends.

Eventually, each of them met and married a perfect mate. We couldn’t have hand-picked better people had we been able to shop for them in the Ideal Spouse Catalog. Our son-in-law is the perfect complement to our daughter. Their boys are a generous mixture of both.

Our daughters-in-law are strong, beautiful, smart, funny women who are raising strong, beautiful, smart, funny girls. We tell our boys all the time, “Be careful, we like your wives more than you sometimes.”

During this wonderful pandemic, we’ve been unable to see our kids and grandkids, except through Facetime. Those conversations are priceless and often hilarious. We’re encouraged by the fact that our kids are great parents. In fact, it's possible they're better parents than us! They’ve been telling their kids the same stories they heard from us. They’re teaching them the same prayers they learned from us. They’re making some of the same meals that we made for them. Best of all, they’re sharing their Christian faith with the next generations of little believers.

A girl raising boys and boys raising girls. Funny how things work out sometimes. As the rest of the song goes, “But if you try sometimes, you just might find…you just might find, you get what you need!”

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