Jen Hatmaker, author of 7, must know my life.
This weekend our family (myself, my wife, & 5 kids) traveled to the Columbus Zoo. Our trip last year was successful (meaning no injuries, arrests, or missing children) and we talked about the trip for weeks after.
This year was a different story. The temperature rose to just above 90, with a humidity level that felt off the charts. Add in some personality clashes, a fussy toddler, and some disappointing animal encounters and you have a recipe for a not-so-enjoyable trip to the zoo.
We left early. This, as anyone who knows me will tell you, was agonizing for me. We missed the tigers. We missed the lions. We missed the ELEPHANTS! How do you go to the zoo and not see the elephants?
But two of our children felt sick, probably from the heat. Reluctant but understanding, we left the zoo early and retired to our much-awaited dinner at The Cheesecake Factory.
Dinner was excellent. We laughed, we devoured deliciously expensive food, we talked the employees into singing “Happy Birthday” to my now 13-year-old daughter. Then, stuffed and content, we retired to our hotel for an evening by the pool.
Jen Hatmaker recently posted on her blog about the difference between “sweet” families and “spicy” families. She goes on to share photos of her family and confess (she’s good at that) that the Hatmakers are a spicy family.
I knew the Lilly’s were a spicy family in the first paragraph. But as she described her family further, I blushed at the familiarity:
“We are a spicy people. We love obnoxious humor and sarcasm and we are very, very loud. The lot of us suffers from Big Feelings About All The Things, which makes us a passionate, emotional bunch. We don’t really do gentle. We don’t actually know what that means.”
Hatmaker goes on to express her grave concerns for her family’s well-being, concerned that her children will turn out to be criminals. She mimics a question my wife and I ask ourselves all the time:
What did I do wrong as a parent?
And spending time with a “sweet” family just makes things worse. I grew up watching Married With Children and Roseanne. My parents usually changed the channel when Full House came on because just five minutes of that show would send shivers of envy and guilt across the entire household. I feel that way sometimes when my kids turn to the Disney Channel and I unconsciously compare my family to the ones on screen.
We are a loud family. We bicker every day, several times a day, usually about something silly that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. We have so much personality that just oozes from our pores and sometimes these personalities don’t blend well.
But mostly there are moments of sweetness. Like when my 13-year-old commented on how adorable her sister was because she said that God uses balloons to paint colors in the sky. Or when we are in the middle of an argument and the toddler passes gas as if she knows it will get us all rolling until we forget what we were even arguing about.
The truth is, no family is perfect. And Jen makes an excellent point when she says, “If you are worried about being a bad parent, then you are probably a good one.” As a teacher, I see the sad truth that there are a lot of absentee parents out there who aren’t involved in their child’s life and aren’t even aware of it.
And I would even be bold enough to say that to compare my family to others is sinful and judgmental. In the grand scheme of things, we are all sinners saved by the grace of God. We all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory as fathers and mothers and sons and daughters.
As Jen Hatmaker puts it, “Every parent blows it. Every kid comes unhinged. Every family goes off the rails. That doesn’t mean we are ruined; it means we are ordinary.”
I am grateful that my family is full of spark, spunk, and spice. There is never a dull moment and when we mess up, we have the privilege to experience forgiveness and grace and unconditional love.
For more about Jen Hatmaker and her book 7, check out her blog: