Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken
Remember when I gave up on the NFL? Well…
I really hate you, NFL, you scheming minx. You let me go for the entire regular season. I was content as a box score follower (It’s something you have to do to be a NORMAL MAN in our modern sports-obsessed world). Then you had to go and screw it all up. The stupid Patriots had to make the playoffs.
The Tom Brady and Bill Belichick-led Patriots, much maligned by sportswriters, fans, and the NFL itself, will be playing in the AFC Championship game this weekend, opposite the Denver Broncos, led by
Peyton Manning and Peyton Manning John Fox and Peyton Manning.
While the Patriots are often involved in the playoffs, this year has been remarkable, as they are operating on a shoestring roster due to one notable player being arrested (Aaron Hernandez) and multiple key players being injured in the course of the season (Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Brandon Spikes, Rob Gronkowski, etc.). Despite the team losing many of its top performers, the Patriots have played to a 12-4 record and find themselves in the championship game for the 8th time in 13 years.
This morning Mike and Mike (ESPN radio’s Golic and Greenberg) were talking to Jon Gruden (former Tampa Bay head coach) about championship weekend. Gruden noted that the Patriots have lost some players during the season, but seemed to emphasize the issues the Broncos have experienced this season. This is the standard commentary on the Pats these days: “Oh, the Pats, again. Well, it really will not be a big deal unless they win the Super Bowl. And if they do win, we will only talk about how evil Belichick won again. And we will run more photos of Tom Brady’s wife. Besides, once a cheater – always a cheater. The NFL really should have punished them more…” On and on it goes.
Thinking on this treatment the Patriots have received for several years, I started to think about how similar the behavior of the sportscaster/sportswriters is to the way I parent. I am lucky to have three great kids, who I often treat like they are the worst kids on earth. Achievements are made, behavior is good, but I am still thinking (and spouting off) about the toys that did not get picked up or the ‘please’ that was not said. The regularity of their success has numbed me. Only the highest levels of perfection are noticed more than the tiny flaws of ‘ordinary’ good behavior.
It is a wonderful thing to have high expectations for our children. An increased scale of expectation and a focus on achievement can help kids grow in their abilities. I am sure the Patriots have used this sort of treatment as a motivation for their success. But when is great good enough for me? And at what point do my kids stop saying ‘I want to get better at this’ and instead start thinking ‘I am not wasting my time anymore – nothing is good enough for Dad.’
Oddly enough, this is where we start with God. Sin is pervasive and the Law certainly is impossible to navigate. What great fortune God’s parenting is so much better than ours.
Is good parenting found at this intersection between expectations and failure? I am still figuring it out, but I am starting to believe a large component of good parenting is knowing our children well enough to know when to hold the line, when to encourage, and when to help pick up the toys.