It’s all about building up lots and lots of calluses.
There is no way someone who has never played the guitar could pick up one and start playing for hours as if he were Jimi Hendrix. And it’s not just because there are years of musical training required to get to that point. Even if science found a way to magically ‘download’ Jimi’s guitar playing skill to your brain, you still couldn’t do it.
Why? Because you haven’t built up the calluses on your fingers yet.
Spending years playing a stringed instrument not only hones your musical ability but it also causes calluses to build up on your finger tips that will allow you to play longer, faster and harder than you could when you started. Without those calluses, any attempt to play difficult pieces of music for hours on end would cause your fingers to end up as bloody stumps.
You have to slowly build up those calluses in order to take your craft to the next level.
Same goes for parenting. I don’t mean that you get callus over time and lose interest or feeling for your job as a parent. I mean these parental calluses toughen you up and give you the wisdom and courage to take on the more difficult parental tasks/decisions as your kids grow up. Reading books about parenting are great but having the knowledge to do the right thing is not enough – you have to put in the work and build up those calluses. Experience can’t be learned, it must be endured.
My wife and I are parents to a 12 year old daughter and a 9 year old son and while I’m only half way through the process of rearing them to adulthood, I’ve learned that parenting is really about intentionally entering into the struggles of parenting so that these stronger calluses can form.
On Friday my daughter is leaving for a weekend choir competition at the beach and this is the first time we are not chaperoning her. If you told us two years ago that we’d allow our 12 year old daughter to go on a weekend trip without one of us tagging along we’d have thought you were crazy and there would be no way we’d allow that.
But we’re staying home this weekend and we’re doing this for two reasons – 1) Our daughter asked us to let her make this trip on her own and 2) We agreed that she was mature enough to take this next step.
And don’t think that I’m some cool, hip father who is comfortable letting my kids be free spirits. I’m not!
When my daughter was born I was the typical doting father who was very protective of my little princess. I hovered over people who wanted to hold her and made sure they sanitized their hands before they touched her. I cried like a baby when we first dropped her off at daycare when she was 3 months old and I remained stressed about leaving her at daycare until 3 years later (once our son was born) when my wife quit her civil engineering job to become a stay-at-home mom.
How did I get to this point? How can I watch her leave the house for a weekend and not break down?
Because of the parental calluses I have received over the years from:
Wiping away my tears after watching her get wheeled into surgery as a baby,
Dropping her off at daycare for the first 3 years of her life,
Driving her to spend a week with the grandparents every summer,
Watching her walk into the middle school gym for a Friday night dance,
Rushing her to the hospital after she broke her arm and
Waving goodbye as my wife and I leave her home to babysit our son so that we can have a date night.
All of those events (and countless others I can’t remember) slowly, over time, built up calluses that allow me, as a parent, to reach the next level. It’s not that I don’t care but more that I’ve lived through prior stressful situations and seen my daughter come through the other side as a stronger and more mature girl who is on her way to becoming a woman. I had to live through those experiences to gain the wisdom to make the tougher choices now.
I’ll be honest; right now the thought of my daughter pulling out of the driveway in her car to go pick her friends up on a Saturday night turns my stomach to the point where I want to vomit. And dropping her off at college? I don’t want to think about it.
But based on what I’ve seen and experienced over the past 12 years, I know that when the time comes for those major life events I’ll have thicker calluses on my parenting hands that’ll allow me to smile and be proud that she has embraced the next steps she must take to become a woman.
A couple of years ago, the thought of letting my daughter go out of town for the weekend without either of her parents going with her would’ve kept me up at night. But now I’m happy for her. I’m proud that she feels confident enough to WANT to do this on her own. Will I pray like crazy that God protects her this weekend? Heck yea. Will I sleep well this weekend? Heck yea.