Thursday, January 31, 2008

Once-and-for-all parenting

I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s ‘burning parenting questions’ for Brenda the past couple of days. Keep them coming (be sure to post them as a comment on yesterday's post). Have we worn you out yet, Brenda?

I read over each one – from potty training to shyness to mealtime chaos – and I realized I’ve asked every single question at some point (and sometimes at multiple points!) in my own parenting journey.

Funny thing is, the questions don’t stop. I have a couple of friends (and my bestest confidant, my sister, Rachel Anne. Yes, I know I’m lucky.) whose kids are either older than mine or are my kids’ ages. We bounce ideas off of each other constantly: How do I deal with bossiness? What is a good consequence for coming home late? How did you deal with boys calling?

I’ve learned a lot by talking to others and by gleaning from the “experts.” However, probably the single hardest thing I’ve had to learn – by sheer trial and error – is that there is no such thing as Once and For All Parenting.

I spent much of my early years trying to do everything perfectly. Somehow I got the idea that if I did everything right – if I love my kids enough, use just the right discipline techniques, if I train them well enough in how to behave – I would never have to struggle in parenting them. My delusion even somehow included the idea that conflict would even disappear from my home, because I was doing everything properly. My kids would naturally want to obey me, sit at my feet and hear my words of wisdom, and, like Cinderella, my home would be a “happily ever after” kind of place. I had “fixed” them.

It was a delusion, alright. An arrogant, fanatical, un-Biblical idea, that I could singlehandedly purge the sin-nature right out of my children!

If only I had known it is not so much about being perfect - and the guilt and exhaustion that inevitably accompany it - as it is about not giving up.

Some days go great, everyone's obeying, no one's writing on the walls or having a potty accident at Walmart, and you think,"If only it could be this way all the time!"

But much as we try to avoid them, in reality, the mistakes and insane moments are what we (and they) learn from – and what throw us to our knees, desperately praying (as Dennis Rainey says) the prayer of the helpless parent. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting better at recognizing that, and welcoming them as opportunities - how did we handle that, is this something we will laugh about later, and what can we learn from it?

They also make for some of the best memories. Some of our best family times are laughing about situations in which (at the time) we thought we were losing our minds.

One of our all-time favorites is when my husband Dennis used his trusty pocketknife to cut our son Neal's poopy big-boy underwear off him in the bathroom at Kmart (he's now 13, but then he was an impossible-to-potty-train 3). Oh, to have been a fly on the wall, watching, as he (completely mortified) looked around for hidden cameras and secret-agent CPS workers, while feverishly undertaking the un-sanctimonious deed (some day I’ll have him “guest blog” this story)!

(Neal doesn't appreciate that story quite so much as we do, but that will come with time...)

Anyway, glean all you can from people ahead of you in this journey. But remember that it is a journey, not an event. A marathon, not a sprint. You gave birth to your kids (or adopted them), and that was pretty much the only thing that is Once and For All. The rest of parenting is a Very Long Process.

So take a deep breath, get yourself a snack, and pray the prayer of the helpless parent a lot. Don't give up! Your kids aren’t going anywhere for a while, and God has not forsaken you just because your best (even on a good day) is not "perfect." He wants you to ask Him for wisdom, and He wants the hearts of your kids, even more than you do.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Isaiah 40:29

And don't forget, today is the day to post your "Company Girl" points! If you leave a comment on Home Sanctuary, even if you didn't keep score or have enough points to win the Grand Prize, you can be entered in the random drawing! Just thought I'd give a plug for my awesome sis....


Dena said...

I think you've just given the best advice of all.
Thank you for that.

Marc and Charity said...

Thanks for this...I started crying today (at the chiropractor's office of all places!) b/c I felt like a total failure as a mother! I'm constantly living under guilt..and think that I was doing my best to teach them, then they would not do the same thing a million times, or they would obey or not manipulate me. Then I read your post. Whew. Thanks. I want so bad to be a good mom that most days I battle constant thoughts of I could do better at fill in the blank. Then I get overwhelmed thinking there is no way possible I could do everything and be everything!!!

Dianne said...

Not even a parent but I'm coming to realize how true this is in all of life. It's not about arriving, so why am I striving so hard for the finish line? I know my sis reads your blog faithfully and you've been such a blessing to her. Thanks for sharing your journey with so many.

Aimee said...

excellent excellent post, Katherine! I loved so true. I always laugh and think "why do I expect my kids to have all the fruit of the Spirit when they are just starting on their journeys and I should just be happy if I am bearing any!!!!!!!!" :) :) Thanks for the wonderful encouragement of keeping on in the process!

Marian said...

Amen. Ditto aimee's comment. The funny thing is I've gotten this point-- but not once and for all! I forget, and go guilt crazy.

kittyhox said...

I don't know what to say, other than:




Good point!


Wow, that never occurred to me!


I'm so thankful for your blog... :)

Unknown said...

I'm bouncing around on some new blogs off of Angela's (Dimple Queen) blog and I came across yours. I have 2 kids. One is brand new so I'm just catching up on all the reading, but your blog is great!! Just wanted you to know I stopped by and enjoyed!

Susanne said...

Katherine this is so good. It truly is a marathon and not a sprint and it is good to know there are others who are going through the exact same things I am.

The story of Dennis is hilarious.

BTW, I have something at my site for you.

Peapod Four said...

Thanks for the encouragement!! It is much needed!

Dimple Queen said...

Yeah, Daisy from Our Family stopped by....been hoping she would join in....she has a new one and he is SO cute, you all should stop by, she is precious!

I Charity, I too feel like a total failure at times. But I am starting to see things totally different since I have been blogging with these ladies. Katherine, her sister Rachel Anne, and many others here are wonderful at reminding us that NOTHING is perfect, and we shouldn't hold ourselves to that standard either!


Sunny said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing it. I've been reading your blog for a few months (LOVE it) but this is the first time I've posted. I've gleaned a lot of good things from listening to what you have to say, considering I'm "raising four" young'ns.

Sorry but I laughed (and was kinda glad to hear) about the underwear story. We have the exact same story but with our oldest about the same age and also the "impossible" potty trainee. And *she* was mortified with the underwear removal process and in the back of my mind I wondered if she would need therapy for that within the next 20 years or so! LOL! I doubt she would even remember if we brought it up now.

Debbie said...

Wow is this ever good stuff. 10 years into this parenting thing and I'm finally starting to see the bigger picture.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the wise advice and encouragement.
God bless!

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Such good stuff here, Katherine. I so often fall into the trap of thinking I've "permanently failed" since I wasn't "instantly successful." Thanks for helping me, once again, take the long view.