Happy Plates

Recently our two year old son, Colton, learned what a “happy plate” is. In case you don’t know, a happy plate is a clean plate. I just learned this myself a few years ago when our daughter was about his age.

Happy Plates

If you ask me, a clean plate is a sad plate…especially if you’re eating cake.

Obviously with kids though, a happy plate is considered a good thing, and when our children are in possession of one, we applaud them!

So, in order to get some kudos, Colton has learned a quick way to accomplish this feat…he dumps all of his food on the table and yells, “Happy plate!”

(If we’re having spaghetti…it’s not a pretty sight.)

When he does this, my wife’s and my first reaction is “noooo!”

Yet, the more I think about this, the more I become impressed instead of upset!

I mean, to my knowledge, we’ve never actually told him he had to eat everything on his plate. He just sees his sister getting a high five when hers is absent of any food.

So, he has found his own way to get in on the action! Brilliant!

And is having his own way of doing something really so bad?

You know, bad choices aside, I think it’s easy for us parents to fall into the trap of wanting our kids to be just like us.

After all, we have expressions to reinforce this as an accomplishment.

“Like father, like son!”

“He’s a chip off the ole block!”

I mean, having our kids turn out to be just like us is a good thing, right? Because well…we’re awesome!

As a result though, we often push them into things that don’t fit. We sign them up for football when they want to play guitar. We make a five-year old wear flats (did I use that right?) when she just wants to wear boots for crying out loud!

Remember this, though, if your kids don’t walk, talk, and act like you, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent and they don’t like you. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to associate with you or that you’re doing things all wrong.

In fact, maybe it means the exact opposite.  You see, I don’t want my children to be just like me…I want them to be better!

And I don’t want to miss out on something really special in their lives because it doesn’t match my vision of who or what they should be.

I’m saying this, but I don’t know if I’m really ready to live it. Actually, I entered into this parenting thing thinking I was going to have a mini-me or two running around. But even though my children are only two and five, it’s happening already. They like things I don’t…like soccer!

I confess…I want Colton to play baseball and basketball. And, I want him to get Saturday Night Fever with me every fall.  Geaux Tigers!!

But those are my happy plates. And, whether or not I like it, he will again find a way to make his own. And I need to be okay with that…because it’s my job as his dad to meet him where he is, not the other way around.

Unless, of course, he wants to be an Auburn fan…

What about you? Do you struggle with wanting your kids to share all of your interests?  How do you feel when they don’t?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Brian

    I can totally relate. I wanted a boy so I could teach him how to be “Just Like Dad’. I wanted him to be fast, and strong, and play All of the major sports. I could teach him everything I did on the field so he could follow in my footsteps…And then I had a girl. Wait…What? What was I supposed to do with that?

    We coached basketball and brought her to every game. Maybe somehow the sounds of the gym would rub off on her little self and she would be the next Diana Taurasi. Well, she hates basketball. That’s ok, right? I mean, she won’t want to play football of course, or baseball, or basketball. But I watched her play soccer and cheered as loudly as I could at every game. I could live through her! She was pretty good, but I could never get her to play like I did. I learned to appreciated her for who She is though and not who I wanted her to be.
    And then, along came the second child. I got this girl thing figured out. I couldn’t wait to have another girl. We had all of the cloths to hand down, and all of the girl toys. Yup, the boy was born. I remember saying, “Little girls are so cute. I don’t know how to relate to little boys and their not cute? But wait! I could name him after my favorite basketball player of all time, Jordan Michael. He would be sure to love sports and be able to play just like me. I played soccer too and his big sister played so he would love it. Nope. Baseball…Nope.
    He does like basketball and football. But I learned to let him be who he is on the field.

    Then came #3. Bless her little heart…She Hates sport all together!

    I say all of this because I tried so hard to wish for a certain gender. Then I tried to wish for a child that could play my favorite sports just like me.

    At this point, I’m just so thankful for healthy, smart, beautiful gifts from God. And rather than forcing them to grow up to be like me, I want them to grow up to be like Jesus.

    • Stephen

      Brian, thanks for sharing your story! It’s funny how we often make room for all of their trophies before they are even born!

  • I tend to want mine to be far better than me and imagine these crazy standards that I would be unable to live up to. I pray every often that God will help me guide them to grow-up to be the adult He has in mind giving them direction without squashing their spirit.

    • Stephen

      So true! Why do we try to hold them to standards we’ve never lived up to ourselves?

  • Gary Baker

    That just ain’t right. I’m in a great mood, just minding my own bidness and trying to be uplifted by my (so I thought) good friend Mr. Jones. And out of the blue he takes a cheap shot at God’s own people (the sky is orange and the water is blue). Mr. Jones should be proud that the cajuns whipped up on Auburn last year when nobody else in the SEC could. I digress. Regarding those little angels we call children – for some reason I seem to want to drive them to become what I WISH I had been (not what I really was). It’s interesting to me that the weaknesses in my children (whatever they are) – that were also weaknesses in me – are the ones that I desperately “want to fix” in them. It’s like they have to be a better me than I was (how deep is that?). OH well. God has taught me MUCH with the 3 children He gave me. The main thing is humility. Other than that He’s taught me that they are His creation and He made them with special gifts and interests that may very well be things I never cared about before. But once your child “loves” something, it changes you and you start to love it in your own way. I have learned to love academics, music, crazy bands I never heard of, brewing beer, the University of Michigan, singing, acting, and dancing to name a few. I already loved basketball so that one wasn’t new….

    • Stephen

      Oh, I thought I had edited out that Auburn line. Hmm. I guess I have to leave it now…

      “It’s like they have to be a better me than I was.” – Very insightful! Thanks for sharing!