We all have our ups and downs, our good and bad days. But I am sometimes stunned, as a parent, how the pinnacle of happiness can abut the valley of discouragement. Because sometimes there is no transition. If parenting is an emotional roller coaster, and it is, then sometimes there is no slope to the descent, it’s like Demon Drop (Cedar Point) or Tower of Terror (Disney World). It can be a free-fall, and there’s something really disheartening about that.
I had one of these Demon Drop moments with Sam this week. On Tuesday, we were at the pool after swim practice. Will and Nate left to go home with friends, and so it was just Sam and me there to enjoy a beautiful afternoon.
I swam laps during adult swim and Sammy patiently watched, even though he could’ve played with the toys that we brought along. When the whistle blew he jumped in with me and we swam some more laps. He likes to “race” me, and even acts like he’s letting me win some of our races. We were playing and just having a great time. He can be such a sweet and affectionate child, plus he has a winsomely contagious laugh.
At one point I said, “Let’s go under water and I’ll say something, then you have to guess what it was.”
He wasn’t sure what I meant, but he complied.
Under water I said, “Francesco Bernoulli,” which is a character Sam loves from the movie, Cars 2.
Sam thought this was about the funniest thing in the world. He could barely tread water he was laughing so hard. And indeed it is incredibly difficult to laugh and swim at the same time. Yet what better picture of a magical summer moment is there?
I said a few other things under water and each time Sam cracked up like I was the funniest person on the face of the earth.
Then he decided he would take a turn, and he made some sounds under water which I don’t think was intended to be an actual word.
Then I took a turn again. Well, that was a mistake, a big mistake. When we came up for air, Sam was livid. He started yelling at me in the most viscous tone a five-year-old could possibly muster.
“I told you I was going to say something! Why did you say something? Don’t ever do that…”
It was such an unexpected fading of the magic that it was almost hurtful. I got him out of the pool, wrapped him in a towel and made him go sit until he calmed down. A few minutes later he apologized and we went home.
It was a stark reminder that disciplining isn’t really any fun. I am all about playing with my boys, teaching them, and ensuring that we take advantage of the opportunities and experiences around us. But I pretty much dread disciplining them. I don’t want to give consequences and follow through with them. Honestly, what I want is to warn and warn and warn, and then warn some more. But that’s not wise.
The Bible says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
May I be willing to discipline, and may I know that beautiful harvest of righteousness and peace.