There’s a story attributed to the baseball player Harmon Killebrew about a time he was playing in the front yard with his father and his brother. His mom came out to tell them it was time for dinner and admonished them for tearing up the grass. “We’re not raising grass,” his father replied, “we’re raising boys.”
Is this story true? Does it reinforce some tired gender norms of nagging moms? (Aren’t dads the ones who usually care way too much about the yard anyway? And are boys the only ones who play in the yard?) Has any husband ever actually delivered such a perfect retort to their spouse? It doesn’t matter.
Whether the story is apocryphal or not, the essential truth at its core is unmistakable. It’s very easy to forget what we’re actually doing as fathers (which is to raise healthy, well-adjusted, happy children). It’s easy to get way too protective over stuff, when the whole point of our stuff is to be of service to the goals we have as parents.
Success as a parent is not to have a car with spotless backseats. It’s not to have a perfectly decorated house filled with fragile things that never get broken. A kid’s room should look like it was played in. It should be messy! Is your job to raise a kid who never talks back? Or is your job to raise a kid with their own opinions and the confidence and the ability to articulate them?
The yard is there to be played in. The bike is made to be ridden, not kept in the garage in pristine condition. Your floors will be scratched too. Food will be spilled. Messes will accumulate. Disagreements will be had.
Good. That means your children are engaging with their world. They are stretching to find the limits of their abilities and to push past them. All of which is a great sign that you’re raising your kids instead of your stuff.