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.