Monday, May 6, 2013

May 6: On Parenting

I am the first to admit that I have no idea what I am doing most, if not all, of the time as a parent.  I parent mostly by trial and error, and there seems to be lots of error in that process!  I have very little confidence that I am doing anything correctly, and my greatest fear is that my kids will end up totally screwed up because of something I did as their mom.

I know of parents, and have read books by parents, who seem to have great confidence in their ability to raise children into kind, loving, well-adjusted, successful adults.  They seem to be able to discipline in a loving manner with ease.  They know what to say in each and every situation, and they don't doubt their parenting skills.  I am jealous of parents like this, because I am nothing like them.

However, I am also skeptical of parents like this, because is it really possible?  I am pretty sure the perfect parent doesn't exist.  Does anyone really have it all figured out?  I like to tell myself that I am in good company.  I hope and believe that there are plenty of other parents floundering around in this confusing world just like me.

Randomly, I've stumbled across some interesting thoughts on parenting this week that have encouraged me and my parenting abilities. So I thought I would share them here in case there is anyone else out there struggling with parenthood.

I'm the kind of person who likes to read and research everything before I do it.  So with parenting, I want to read every book on the topic so I can learn the right way to parent.  It didn't take long for me to realize that many people have views on how to parent the right way, and no one seems to agree on what that right way is!  Especially when it comes to babies and sleep.  When my girls were babies, I read way too much on this topic, and I was left feeling much like this mom, who posted an amazing and hilarious piece on the conflicting advice about getting babies to sleep.  My favorite line is:  "Using the "Cry It Out" method (CIO) will make them think they’ve been abandoned and will be eaten by a lion shortly."  Too funny!

Discipline is the other area where everyone seems to disagree on the right way to do it.  Since my kids have mostly outgrown the sleeping through the night problems, discipline is the new issue for us now.  And wow, there is so much advice out there!  Everyone seems to have an answer on the best way to discipline their kids...except for me!  I just don't know what to do sometimes (a lot of the time!).  Again, I have read books on the topic, but trying to implement some of those techniques in real life is so much harder than they make it sound in the book!  Then I read this post by Kevin DeYoung about parenting this week, and I loved every single word.  Specifically this exchange about disciplining according to a book's guidelines:
I really do believe in gospel-powered parenting and shepherding my child’s heart. I want conversations like this:
: What’s the matter son?
  Child: I want that toy and he won’t give it to me!  Me: Why do you want the toy?  Child: Because it will be fun to play with.   Me: Do you think he is having fun playing with the toy right now?  Child: Yes.   Me: Would it make him sad to take the toy away?  Child: I guess so.   Me: And do you like to make your brother sad? Child: No.   Me: You know, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That means loving your brother the way he would want to be loved. Since Jesus loves us so much, we have every reason to love others–even your brother. Would you like to love him by letting him play with the toy for awhile?  Child: Yes I would daddy.
 I try that. Really I do. But here’s what actually happens:
Me: What’s the matter son?  Child: I want that toy and he won’t give it to me!   Me: Why do you want the toy?  Child: I don’t know.   Me: What’s going on in your heart when you desire that toy?  Child: I don’t know.   Me: Think about it son. Use your brain. Don’t you know something?  Child: I guess I just want the toy.   Me: Obviously. But why?  Child: I don’t know.   Me: Fine. [Mental note: abandon "why" questions and skip straight to leading questions.] Do you think he is having fun playing with the toy right now?   Child: No.   Me: Really?! He’s not having fun? Then why does he want that toy in the first place?  Child: Because he’s mean.   Me: Have you ever considered that maybe you are being mean by trying to rip the toy from his quivering little hands?  Child: I don’t know.   Me: What do you know?   Child: I don’t know!   Me: Nevermind. [I wonder how my brilliant child can know absolutely nothing at this moment.] Well, I think taking the toy from him will make your brother sad. Do you like to make him sad?   Child: I don’t know.   Me: [Audible sigh.]   Child: He makes me sad all the time!   Me: Well, I’m getting sad right now with your attitude! [Pause, think, what would Paul Tripp do?  Thinking . . . .thinking . . . .man, I can't stop thinking of that mustache. This isn't working. Let's just go right to the Jesus part.] You know, Jesus wants us to love each other.   Child: I don’t know.   Me: I didn’t ask you a question!   Child: [Pause.] Can I have some fruit snacks?  Me: No, you can’t have fruit snacks. We are talking about the gospel. Jesus loves us and died for us. He wants you to love your brother too.   Child: So?   Me: So give him the toy back!
That second conversation is totally how things go in our house!!  You should go here and read the whole article, because I thought it was spot on and something I needed to hear.  He ends with this statement, which is something that really resonated with me and my desires as a parent:
I want to spend time with my kids, teach them the Bible, take them to church, laugh with them, cry with them, discipline them when they disobey, say sorry when I mess up, and pray like crazy. I want them to look back and think, “I’m not sure what my parents were doing or if they even knew what they were doing. But I always knew my parents loved me and I knew they loved Jesus.” Maybe it’s not that complicated after all.
 (Source)  Don't you just love the random pig in this picture??  =)

One more link that really clicked with me this week:  20 Things Every Parent Should Hear.  A few that I particularly liked:
The crazy, the crying, the cuddles. The screaming, the sacred, the scared. The minutes, the magic, the mess. It’s all part of it. And it’s all worth it.
 You will never regret parenting. Except for the teeny, tiny tons of times when you secretly wonder if you maybe regret it just a little. But, overall, never. And overall is what counts in the end.
If you pay attention, kids will teach you how to laugh loudly, how to love deeply and how to live fully. They will also ruin all your stuff.
Parenting will bring you face to face with yourself. It may be terrifying. It may break you. But it will also rebuild you, and you will be stronger than you ever thought possible.
Okay, so this was a really long post (mostly made up of other people's words).  But reading through and thinking about all of this stuff this week, I've come to the conclusion that it's okay if I don't have this parenting thing figured out yet.  I'm thinking it might be a good idea if I get at least a few things figured out in the coming days/weeks/months/years.  But I don't think I ever will have it all figured out, and that's okay.

I really love the idea that parenting is more about who I am rather than what I do.  (Another thought from Kevin DeYoung's article.  Seriously go read it if you haven't!).  Rather than focusing on the techniques and rules of parenting, I want to focus on being the best person and Christ-follower that I can be.  And I think that good parenting will come as an outflow of that.  Hopefully.  =)


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