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Art of Parenting Author: Matt Lybarger

On a drive together in 2015 in Zimbabwe, a friend of mine, Davis Mumbare, shared an African proverb:

If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.

I have found these words of wisdom applicable to everything from leadership development and team building to friendships. But when Davis shared them with me, my wife was back home in the U.S. pregnant with our first child. Eight years later, and now with three children, I had no idea how much this proverb would have meaning for my parenting.

Recently I finished (well just about finished) a raised garden bed. And by “I,” I mean “we,” as in me and my two boys and eventually my daughter and wife. The project should have been completed in an afternoon. And it could have been, had I done it alone. But I didn’t. I included my family thus transforming this afternoon project into a week-long endeavor.

Had I gone fast on my own, much would have been missed, such as the joy of working with my 5-year-old, who is mechanically inclined, on drilling, measuring and using a speed square.

And no, it wasn’t all roses. Mixing concrete with a 2-year-old and 5-year-old is not only incredibly messy but challenging (and frustrating) when you are trying to get things level and little hands can’t help but keep fussing with stuff. Then there were all the interruptions: I’m hungry, I have to go potty, let’s play with a skink. Though despite all the sidebars we still managed to get the bed level.

The most rewarding moment, however, came towards the end when my wife and daughter added their artistic flair. My wife free handed a drawing for the kids to color in (I’m always impressed with her skill, especially since my artistic ability caps out with stick figures). My daughter then drew a cross with the words “I love chiky, Jesus, my family” (‘chiky’ is her little chicken pencil topper she pulled out of the treasure chest at her school, towards which apparently she is quite fond). When I saw the cross with the picture of Jesus, her mom and me and two brothers, in a moment of gratitude I thought, “This is what it’s all about.”

Sure, I could have knocked out the raised bed in a day. But I would have missed out on a lot. I would have missed out on the memories together and seeing the joy on my kids’ faces when it was all complete, as well as the ownership they took in it. I would have missed out on what’s most important: the relationships. I recently heard someone say that what our kids want most is a good relationship with their parents. Of all the things we think we need to give our kids, what they most desire is time spent with us on the journey together.

It’s in the going together that we not only impart skills and values to our children but show them what’s most important in life and how loved they are. They don’t care about how fast you go. They do care about being together. And together, you can go far in the things that really matter.

So perhaps the next time you find yourself bogged down and frustrated with a task because of those little intruders we call kids, instead of lashing out in aggravation towards them, accept the gift of the opportunity to invite your kids into the task of participating in the moment with you. And may you discover the hidden gems of joy in living the wisdom shared by my African friend:

If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.

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