There is a lot about parenting I expected. I had been tipped off to many of the joys and many of the sorrows. I knew it would require long days and late nights; I knew it would draw out both strengths and weaknesses in my character; I knew it would expose a part of my heart that would love with a unique tenacity and fierceness; I knew it would help me better understand why God relates to us as Father; I knew it would deliver a special kind of satisfaction that I could be involved in something as incredible as forming and training a person made in the image of God.
Lately, though, I have been reflecting on one blessing of parenting that I had not anticipated. It took some time to experience simply because it depends upon having children who have grown past the toddler stage, past the little kid stage, and into the older kid or teen stage. An unexpected blessing of parenting is that eventually your children become your friends. You wake up one day and realize that you enjoy your son not only as a child but as a friend. You look over at the passenger seat and see someone sitting there who is as much a friend as a daughter.
This has been a sweet realization. It has been a joy to see that, in time, the parenting distance increases and the peer distance decreases. It has been a joy to learn to relate to my children not only as their father but as their friend. It has been a joy to add to the relationship that has always existed—father/child—one that has been forged out of our shared time and experiences. We no longer want to do only those things that fathers and sons or fathers and daughters do. Now we want to do the things that friends do, to relate in the ways that friends relate. We enjoy one another so much that we would spend time together even if we weren’t related.
What I am learning is this: Ultimately, the great joy of parenting is to come to love and enjoy your children not only for what they are (your children) but for who they are (your friends).