so you'll probably think this is ridiculous, maybe not, but here's the deal. our kids had the opportunity to do a workshop with some pretty fantastic people who we already know, but they hadn't been around all four kids for a chunk of time.
so fast forward to later that day when they came to me and commented how great the kids are and well...one of them asked how we do it. *deer in headlights*
uuuuuhh. to my disappointment, i mumbled something about homeschool and character training and who knows what else. i probably sounded completely arrogant and full of myself. :P
honestly, what i should have said was... i. don't. know.
here's the tricky part. there's this fine line between deciding to do something a certain way, seeing the fruit of it and maintaining a spirit of humility about it all. because honestly in the end sometimes it's just feels like pure luck, but also we're so quick to take the credit for the good stuff.
i mean i know it's not just "luck", we do work hard to invest in the kids character training and exposing them to real world things and not saying yes to everything and practicing self control with money and possessions and restricting sugar and oh a billion other things and trying to wrestle with what freedoms to allow and when and how much and at the same time we make 3 gazillion mistakes along they way and we try to be vulnerable with our children. *breathe* and at the end of the day, sometimes we're just glad we've survived. and sometimes we don't work hard. sometimes we're just plain lazy with our faces glued to our screens and we've got to pick up the pieces after they've piled up and that's no fun.
so all that to say... maybe what i SHOULD have said was... "we do our best, like every other parent out there." but sometimes people do genuinely want to know "what" or "how" you do it, and it feels like saying "we just do the best we can" is a cop-out and sounds like "its the luck of the draw, sucker!" more than anything else. am i crazy in thinking that?
i mean, if someone makes really good chicken dumplings and you want to know how to make it, then you hope they show you the recipe that was passed down from their great grandmother right? So in an effort to just be open, I thought I'd just go ahead and share a few things and if it's at all pretentious, forgive me.
7 things I've learned about parenting.
1. Parenting is Hard Work.
Its hard because there is no formula to humans. just like every other relationship out there you have to get to know each child for who they are. One form of discipline, affection, communication, and so on will not work the same with different kids. That's when you have to get creative, or ask for help cause it never gets easier, it just constantly changes. I'd say be consistent, but it's a flexible/changing consistency lol (clear. as. mud.)
2. Parenting is Hard Work. (uh huh, i listed it twice)
Its hard work because it never stops. You really can't decide to take a day off of parenting. You can take a day off of work, school, chores, and so on, but parenting never stops and sometimes it's just beyond what you're capable of. Also, I think sometimes we just forget that kids don't automatically learn things, we actually have to train them and not act surprised when they don't know something. How many times have you heard any adult say to a child "You should know better!". well yeah, and they wont unless you teach them and then give them time to develop into what they "should" know. and that takes a lot of work.
3. You can't do it alone.
I'm not talking about books. I'm not talking about classes. I'm not even talking about other people or parents or even a spouse. I'm talking about asking for help, direction and guidance from the ultimate dude. yup. God, the Father. and even more importantly, it's actually surrendering to the Father. Surrender (give up, let it go, say buh-bye!) to your ways and surrender your children to Him. If you aren't first convinced that He is a Good Father, or that he created your children and reigns sovereign over their lives as well as yours, then you'll probably waste most of your time arguing with Him about whether or not His ways will actually work. seriously? we actually think we know better than the One who created both us and them? learn and glean from his character of grace and compassion and justice and patience and love and gentleness and so much more. [So, really, I wish I had said, "we are learning to follow the Lord's ways. He blesses our family when we trust Him and follow His ways, and He's oh so patient and gracious when we don't"]
4. You can't do it alone. (yep, twice)
Find a parent who displays the qualities you want to emulate and learn from them. Learn from their mistakes AND learn from their successes. Get over yourself and ask for their input. Asking for help doesn't point out that you're not great at parenting... no, it makes you a wise one! The absolute best advice i ever received about parenting was from a more seasoned mother. She prioritized her children's character training over academics and other activities. I didn't do it exactly like she did, but it gave me a new perspective on how to approach my everyday routine. It gave me a new response to daily hiccups in my plans. It showed me that my pursuits and plans for my kids weren't on the right track. I could have dismissed it, and then where would i be?
5. Parents set the example.
There is NO way around this one. Plain and simple, you are lying to yourself if you think it isn't true. If you do something your kids will too. if you eat junk your kids will too. if you have a potty mouth your kids will too. if you drop what your doing to listen to others, your kids will too. if you make sacrifices in order to help someone else, your kids will too. if you keep a budget, your kids will too. if you treat people with respect and kindness (that includes them, because they are people), then they will too. if you whine and complain, they will too. do you get the picture? this is the not so fun part... the part where you realize what you are lacking in your character and you see it staring you in the face in your kids actions and words. if you want to train them, you must train WITH them. admit when you're wrong. admit when you're selfish. admit when you've hurt them. repent from sinful behavior together. love them without condition. set the example of who you want them to become.
6. The Word does the work.
After having just had a very long discussion with a kiddo about how we treat siblings and who our real "enemy" is, it was such a relief to have the Word of God to base everything on. Seriously. The pressure isn't on you to invent the standard and issue the commands or squeeze out the grace. that's been done and its been done to the FULL. Your job is to teach your children to turn TO the word for anything and everything. Let the word inform you and transform you and the way you parent. Be diligent not to use it to support/back up your own ideas and expectations (there's entirely way too much of that in the church today). That means you have to spend time in the Word and sometimes that means more hard work.
7. Parent for something greater than yourself.
moment that I received a compliment about my children, I was proud... of
them and of myself. I was pleased that someone else recognized the
awesome kids i have the pleasure of spending time with each day. but
pridefully, I was pleased that MY work had been recognized. shame. on.
me. I didn't even point to the Father, i thought it, but didn't say it.
how lame is that! If it was the chicken and dumplings recipe, i would've
just said, "Thanks, it's my grandmother's recipe!". Unfortunately, I am
a selfish human being and I too often parent in a way that is about me
and what I want, and that never leads to anything good. but when I go
back to that surrender part, then parenting becomes more about the
kingdom and the Father's work than my own. If I keep that perspective in
front, then it should be easier acknowledge my role with the Father's
wisdom and say, "thanks, it's my Father's recipe!" ;)