Friday, November 07, 2008

Once-and-for-all parenting

Okay, I'm on a roll reprinting old posts. I've been busy "ministering" to my family by washing throw-up out of sheets, so this will have to do. 'Nuff said, huh?

This was originally published in earlier this year, but I thought it went along nicely with yesterday's reprint.

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 this:

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


Mindy Hatchitt said...

I'm enjoying your blog. I stumbled across it through another blog I like to read . . . I am also a stay-at-home mother of 5. Our first two are 14 months apart and the last two are 2 year old twin boys. Finding your blog is a blessing, it's nice to know there are other people who live life in a crazy rush like we do! You can check us out

God bless you,
Mindy Hatchitt

mholgate said...

Once again I am encouraged by your words! Sometimes it seems like I'm the only one that spends my time cleaning poopy underwear and sheets that have been thrown up on.

This week I took my 7yr old to the doctor after she'd been throwing up for over 24 hours. From the doctor, we went to the ER, and from the ER, we were admitted to the hospital where they worked overnight to re-hydrate her. I wavered between guilt, (because I thought maybe there was something I could have done better at home) weariness, (because I was running on little to no sleep) and just plain discouragement.

God is our strength, and portion and our shield, an everpresent help in times of trouble! I'm still tired, but at least I'm home with my little girl, who is on the road to recovery.

Thank you for your encouraging reminder that we are never alone.

Maureen said...

Oh I so needed to hear that today. I have been feeling less than adequate lately in the parental department. Feeling as if I am not doing it all right. Worried about the mistakes I know I am making. Constantly asking God to cover those mistakes. But then forgetting to let God take over and cover them.

I too am sleep deprived from a sick child this week. I know I need to just say oh well, the laundry is piled up, the house is not immaculate I cannot make it to the grocery store today and I have barely brushed my hair all week. Next week will be better. Thanks so much for sharing! Have a wonderful weekend.


Olivia L. Johnson said...

I love your blog. It is filled with wisdom, helpful suggestions, a sense of humor, and most of all humility. I feel like you are so open and honest. Thanks for sharing. It really encourages me.

If you are still e-mailing chore spec sheets, I'd love to have some. My e-mail is:


Mothership said...

Thank you for re-posting this one. It was printed before I found you. I laughed out loud at the knife/potty training story. We are training #4 right now and I HATE POTTY TRAINING!

Thank you for the Gatorade stand in this marathon.

Unknown said...

Thanks for re-posting this. Just this morning I wrote a long post about the struggles we are having with my oldest. It was nice to read this and be encouraged!