I remember as a kid walking into an arcade for the first time.
I loved just looking at the machines and taking in their lights and sounds. One day I remember walking up to a Back to the Future themed pinball machine. I dropped my quarter into the machine and watched as a shiny new ball appeared.
One pull on the spring launched the ball. Suddenly I was frantic, smashing the two small buttons on the side of the machine to keep the ball from falling down the hole at the bottom. I did this while also trying to launch the ball into various areas on the board to rack up as much points as possible. However, the ball quickly fell into the void and the game was over. It seemed to me that getting a high score required more luck than skill.
Things don’t always go as planned.
Parenting feels a lot like pinball.
There’s excitement in the beginning as the shiny new ball launches into play. The baby delights, amazes, and makes my eyes light up all day. Then the doling babe develops opinions and preferences of their own. Suddenly it feels like any points I rack up, any wins, any successes I achieve, have more to do with luck than skill. It feels like a frantic pinball game and I’m trying not to lose.
Here’s how this plays out in my home. My kids don’t always play nicely with each other. At times they seem completely dissatisfied with the toys they’ve received. And some days I can’t get them to eat a carrot without covering it in chocolate.
There are many battles. Some we win, and the children learn or take our advice. We also lose many battles. This initiates patterns of frustration and stress.
We start doing the bare minimum. We make sure they don’t drink the Draino under the sink. We stop them from running into the street and getting hit by a garbage truck.
Basically, we’re just keeping the ball from falling into the hole.
Here’s the thing I eventually learned about pinball. I kept playing. With a bit of time, I actually started to get better. I never became a wizard at it, but I eventually learned that there actually WAS some skill and technique to get a high score after all.
Joy in Parenting: A New Perspective
The biggest lesson pinball taught me was that learning something new can change my experience. Growing my skills at the game can actually grow my enjoyment the game.
That lesson, I’ve discovered, applies to rediscovering joy in parenting too.
If the routine – of life, of parenting – never changes then you shouldn’t expect much else to change either. Including your joy. In order to experience continual joy with God we can’t rely only on spiritual moments strictly from the past. We can’t expect any different for breakthroughs with our kids either.
We need to ask God for new goals and challenges to overcome just like we did in the beginning of our walk with God.
We need to ask God to grow our skills in pinball parenting. Joy will follow.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalms 37:4
Practical Ways to Grow Your Joy in Parenting
Here are a few practical ways to start building parenting skills and the joy that follows:
Start with a goal.
“Without a vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18
We need a goal if we’re going to get anywhere. But, unlike pinball where its objectives are neatly contained within a box, life doesn’t have such easy parameters. You’ll have to dig a bit and bring it to prayer.
Goal setting can be hard because usually the reason we’ve stopped setting goals is because everything already feels too difficult. If that’s the case, scale things back. Focus on just the first logical step. And then give yourself ample time to accomplish it.
Finish what you start.
How often do you start things without finishing them?
Like the time you initiated family mealtimes but somehow it stopped after a week? Or the time you began reading the Bible and praying with the kids, but you abandoned that too?
Follow through is a team effort. Align your desires with your family as well. Discuss your goals and explain why they are important for the family. Your family is also going to have suggestions of their own which will make things more challenging. But this is exactly where you need to exercise this skill set of not being afraid to learn something new.
Remember balance and rest.
Balance and rest are an essential part of your family’s rhythm. It is also key to a healthy relationship with your kids.
Parenting – and life, for that matter – is about more than just staying alive. It’s about following the example of Jesus and putting meaning into everyday life. It’s not easy, but just as Jesus was able to face the cross despite his own fears we can also overcome our fears and resist sinking into ourselves.
Thankfully we have a God who is on our side and wants you and your family to succeed.
As you fix your eyes on God and submit your parenting (and willingness to learn) to Him, you’ll find that slowly, surely, as you practice what He’s giving you to do, that parenting IS a game of skill, and you’ll find joy in it again.
Share this Post
Kevin has been married to Jerrah-Lee 11 years. They are currently raising one human girl and one human boy. He loves spending time with his family, traveling and seeking out mildly life threatening situations. Although his wife does not fully support this last hobby, he hopes to raise kids that do.