Welcome to Stuff I Learned Yesterday. My name is Darrell Darnell, I once caught a small field on fire and then got called a hero by the fire department for calling it in, and I believe that if you aren’t learning, you aren’t living.

In case you’re wondering how that happened, when my friend and I called the fire department to tell them the field behind his house was on fire, we simply failed to tell them that we were the ones that had accidentally set it on fire. And it wasn’t that bad. We called them before the fire spread and they were able to put it out in less than 10 minutes. But it is the reason I learned why our parents told us not to play with matches. 

I’ve had several jobs during my 48 years on this earth: grocery bagger, burger flipper, cashier, assistant manager, general manager, buyer, director, even president. Some of those, like grocery bagger, came with excellent training and little responsibility. Others of them came with less training and lots of responsibility. Whether a grocery bagger or a president, I’ve tried to work hard and with integrity at each job. I’ve not always succeeded at working hard or with integrity mind you, and there are decisions I’ve made that I regret.

As much as I’ve loved the work I’ve done during my lifetime and tried to grow from each experience, there are two jobs I’ve held, not mentioned previously, that are my all-time favorites. Those jobs are being the husband to Kari, and the dad to Addi and Colby.

These jobs are not only my all-time favorite jobs, but they are my hardest jobs, and the jobs I’ve failed at the most. Today I want to focus on my struggles as a parent.

You can go to the library and read every book in the parenting section or ask every parent you know for their best advice, but nothing can prepare you for the real deal. I remember when I was in high school having a conversation with my friends about what we wanted for our futures. At that time I wanted 2-3 kids and I was excited by the idea that I was getting closer to the time of my life when I would become a father.

However, once I got married and we started talking about having kids, it freaked me out. I put it off for a few years because I didn’t feel like I was ready. Eventually I realized that I wasn’t going to wake up one day and magically be ready to become a father. I realized that I just needed to go for it. 

I had no idea how right I was. In fact, NOTHING can prepare you to become a parent. Of course, that doesn’t mean we disregard books and advice from others. It just means that being a parent is a process. It’s a job that requires a lifetime of on-the-job training.

I’ve tried very hard to be a good father and I’ve had several people tell me that I am. I hope they are right. I know sometimes I can be a good father, and I know I’ve tried like crazy to be a good father, but I also know I’ve made a ton of mistakes and missed so many opportunities to do something better. 

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my kids are now 19 and 21. I also said I was mostly an empty nester. What I meant is my son, Colby, just finished up his sophomore year of college last week. He’s lived outside of our house now for nearly two years. We talk or text with him pretty much every day and we see him in person about once a month. 

Our daughter, Addi, is still living with us. She’s 21, working a couple of part time jobs, and finding her way through early adulthood. I look back and I don’t know how I ended up with 2 adult children! What I’m realizing is, parenting at every stage of life is hard. Newborns: hard. Toddlers: hard. Pre-teen: hard. Teens: hard. Young adults: hard.

For me, the hardest thing to deal with is when my kids completely ignore my advice. There have been several moments in each of my kids lives where they heard the advice I gave them and hearing it was enough. They understood it, accepted it, and applied the wisdom I shared. Colby has always had the benefit of being the younger sibling. This means that even from a very young age, he would look at the mistakes of his sister and choose to take different actions. That is, actions that led to better consequences.

Addi has not only had to be the sibling that doesn’t benefit from the mistakes of an older sibling, she also has a personality that is more stubborn and independent. She hates to be wrong even to the point of sticking to a lie or holding on to a mistake even when it’s obviously in her best interest not to. Fortunately, that’s a trait that she’s matured a lot with over the last couple of years.

It tears me up when I see my kids making mistakes, passing up on opportunities, selling themselves short, or being lazy.  One day last year I wanted to have a heart to heart with Addi. We picked her favorite restaurant and decided to have lunch there after church one day.

I brought up some areas where I felt like she was making mistakes and some other things that I felt where she was selling herself short. It did not go well. As the conversation progressed, each of us got more frustrated. As she got more frustrated her voice got louder. I tried to get her to talk more quietly, but that just upset her more. People from other tables started looking at us. 

The conversation could not have gone worse. I’d hoped I could share some fatherly wisdom with her, but my words feel totally flat. No, it was worse than that. My words seemed to do more harm than good. She wanted me to stop giving her advice and let her be an adult.

I was devastated. I broke down crying right in the middle of the restaurant.  Once I’d gathered myself, I told her that I was sorry to have upset her. In all of my life, I’ve never had a parent sit me down and give me life advice, I’ve never had a parent try to pour wisdom into me, and I was simply trying to do something for her that I’d never had.

She broke down. We finished our meal in silence.

Here’s what I learned.

My daughter is the way she is because she has my DNA in her. I wish she would have only inherited my good stuff, but that’s not the way it works. I’ve realized that I get most frustrated with her when she’s making mistakes that I made when I was her age.

Sometimes it’s something involving her friends, other times it’s the way she spends her money, and sometimes it’s mistakes I see her making with her boyfriend. It could be any number of mistakes really. When I talk with my wife about it, I usually end up saying, “I remember the time I did that.” I want so much for each of my kids to heed my advice and not make the stupid mistakes I made. I want to spare them the pain.  But I know that’s just not the way we humans operate. To err is human is painfully true.

I love my dad and I think he did a great job raising my brother and I. I have several episodes dedicated to him that I’ll be sharing down the road. The man I am today is largely because of him, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. 

When I step back and look at the people my kids are and the people they are becoming, I’m proud. They are both great kids who care about other humans, love God, and have a great relationship with all of us in our family unit. Sure, I want them to make fewer mistakes, be more disciplined or mature, accept responsibility, study harder, not stay out so late, choose better friends, make better choices, eat better…STOP.  Remember the time I was that age? I looked a lot like that, and probably even worse. 

My kids know I’m here for them whenever they need me. They know I love them. They know they’re giving me more gray hair by the minute, and they know I’m ready to share wisdom with them at the drop of a hat. And I know they are two great kids doing their best to find their footing in this mad, mad, mad, mad world.  Me too, kids. Me too.

I’m Darrell Darnell, and this has been Stuff I Learned Yesterday.

I want you to be a part of the next Monday Mailbag on July 29th!  Monday Mailbag is your opportunity to Share what YOU’VE learned, so that other listeners and I can learn from YOU.  It can be a message as short as 30 seconds or several minutes long.  It really doesn’t matter just as long as it’s something that will benefit others.  You can send in questions or responses to my SILY episodes, and I’ll respond to them via Monday Mailbag episodes. You can participate in Monday Mailbags by visiting the Golden Spiral Media listener feedback page at goldenspirlamedia.com/feedback.