Recently I sat around the table with a group of people and as we were introducing ourselves, the conversation turned to parenting. One couple in our group had a 2-year old and a 1-year old. Another couple in the group had 4 kids whose ages ranged between 11 and 16. I mentioned that my children range in age between 31 and 40. One other person is expecting a baby very soon. We discussed parenting at different stages and debated which stage of parenting is harder and which is easier. I was then asked which part of parenting I would say has been the easiest.
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It’s unpredictable. It’s challenging. It’s joyful. It’s fulfilling. It’s contradictory. Good parents have children gone astray and vice versa. It is basically on-the-job training.
When our babies enter this world, we greet them with all sorts of expectations, don’t we? Sometimes, we consciously or unconsciously expect them to fill a need we have. If we need love, fulfillment, purpose, or desire meaning or status in life we can transfer that responsibility to our children. They are clueless about our expectations. Actually, they can never live up to them. Sometimes we become parents because other people need us to. I’m a grandmother, so I understand that one. It’s often said that we parent the way we were parented or parent how we wish we had been parented. I have parented from both aspects.
As a teen mom, my husband and I didn’t have a vision for parenting our daughter. I tried to parent how my parents parented me and he did the same. Never the two shall meet. It was a disaster. We didn’t agree on discipline, bedtime rituals, religion, holiday celebrations, schooling, daily activities, etc. It’s tough when there is little or no agreement/understanding on how to parent. Parents must communicate with one another. We must decide how to plan and follow through on a plan to raise our children for ourselves.
What will be the mission for our families?
What values do we want to instill in our child(ren)?
How will we go about instilling these values?
One of the values I tried to instill in my children was respect for me and my life. I grew up with a (teen) mom who made her children her all-in-all. Sometimes it felt loving. Other times it felt like I was suffocating. As a woman, I wanted and needed my own friends and purpose in life. I knew that having various interests in my life would be beneficial to my children as well. They needed to trust me on that. I tried to teach them that I was not a servant to answer every whim or need they had. I tried to teach them how to do things for themselves. Sometimes I was successful. Sometimes I wasn’t. I wanted to be a mother who was balanced. A mom who was both stern and loving. Both a confidant and their authority. A giver and a receiver. Goofy and wise. Oh my. Just thinking about that now makes me laugh. I was so hard on myself trying to live up to my own expectations!
As parents we have a long list of things that we believe make a great parent! But, we should ask ourselves if these expectations are consistent with the only Perfect parent we know. God Himself is the ONLY perfect parent! Because of that, I need to stop trying to be perfect and get that disclaimer tag out and hang it around my neck: ‘I’m Not Perfect’. Neither are you. His parenting skills are the ones I want to embrace and emulate. How about you? I need to rely on Him and His wisdom because He loves my child more than I ever could. He knows how to love perfectly. He knows the totality of their lives. His values are the ones I want instilled in them because they are true and just.
I want to embrace both the success and ‘seeming’ failures I’ve experienced as a parent. My failures, you see, aren’t really failures at all. Not at all. When I embrace what I’ve learned through them and allow them to shape my character as a parent, they become triumphs. If I believe that God knows my beginning and end as well as my children’s, then I can ‘give myself a break’. I can lean into Him and know that He’s writing all of our stories.
Back to the original question: Which part of parenting would I say was the easiest? “None of them”, I answered. Every age/stage has their purpose. They all require a different parenting style from me. They all develop in me what I need to shape my character. Do I need to learn consistency? Do I need to learn patience? Do I need to learn to love sacrifically? Do I just need to relax? Parenting is a great teacher and transformer. It becomes difficult when I don’t make the shift in my parenting. Every child, every age and stage has been used by God to make and mold me into the woman I am today. It’s still molding me to this very day. Do I wish some things had turned out differently? Absolutely! But the only Perfect parent I know is writing my children’s stories as well. I trust Him enough to write it!
+First Look: Take a look at how Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Mary and Joseph parented their children. What can you as a parent learn from them?
+Through The Looking Glass:
~~How is God shaping me as I raise my children?
~~How does the way I was parented affect the way I parent my children?
~~Have I sought wisdom from the Perfect Parent?