I was the ripe ol’ age of 24 when I had my first child. A boy. A precious, dimple-cheeked little guy. I’ll never forget The Coach and I looking at each other in sheer and utter FEAR when it was just the three of us going home for the first time. It was incredibly scary. We were both afraid we were going to wreck the vehicle (even though we were going 10 miles under the speed limit), break him when we put him in or out of the carseat, change his diaper the wrong way, or maybe wrap him in too many or too less of blankets. Was he too hot? Or was he too cold?? It was scary, unknown, but so sweet all at once. A trifecta of emotions! One thing I knew, is that I wanted to be THE best parent. We both did. So, we set off into the sunset of parenthood.
And boy, did I rock it. My kid was taking two naps a day; one at 10 a.m. and then at 2 p.m. for about 2 hours each stint. I would relish over the fact that I had managed to be amazing at scheduling naps. I remember walking into crowded grocery stores with my now bubbling and happy toddler son looking at other parents and their screaming mad children wondering why in the world they wouldn’t stop and ask for my advice. I would be so happy to give it to them. I mean, hello?! Look at me! All I have to do is say a sweet, quiet, yet stern ‘no‘ and my two year old would listen. There were even times I gave looks to other moms to signal for them to come to me. As if to say, “Look momma, quiet down your kid. Don’t you see my one and only precious little one? All I have to do is give him the ‘eye’ and he calms down. It’s really quite simple.” Heck, there were times I thought that I should crank out a book on my young, yet obviously expert parenting skills.
We would go to The Coach’s baseball games and I would lay a blanket strategically behind me with a boyish themed mini-backpack that was packed with play dough, M&Ms, trucks, and crayons. I would set them all in a half circle and put my sweet child right in the middle of the blanket. Since I was SUCH a perfect parent, my kid would go from item to item playing quietly and sweetly as the 7 inning, two hour game rolled along.
Wow. Wasn’t I the best?
Fast forward six and a half years.
Six and a half years later almost to the day, I became the worst, most unskilled parent in the world in one fell swoop at approximately 2:17 a.m. one fall morning.
From obviously perfect to an obviously confused, never done this before, very hot mess.
My daughter came in this world ready to PARTY. Her longest nap in 12 months was 45 minutes. And might I add, they were all over the place. I took her naps when and where I could get ’em. We found out she had a dairy allergy about three weeks into her life and had to special order prescription formula every three months. Our pediatrician’s office and us went through an entire two days of trying to get her to actually take and like the formula while also not letting her get dehydrated. Who knew that a three week old could muster up such WILL. The old working trick of driving in the car to let a child fall asleep actually made things worse; she screamed louder. After four and a half years with her, I still get anxiety about going into the store because my ‘no’ with her looks AND feels drastically different than my ‘no’ with my boy. I, most of the times, look like the parent that I used to stare upon with pity wondering how they got to where they were with their children. The momma that is running amuck trying to keep her cool through drops of sweat and fake smiles while her child screams her ever loving head off in the middle of an aisle. Or at a baseball game. Or at church. Or wherever. You name it. I’ve been looked at the way I used to look at others. And let me tell you, I got what was comin’ to me folks, and it’s downright humbling (lesson learned).
All this being said, there are times I know a lot and sometimes I know nothing about parenting. And it makes me absolutely crazy. I often began to ask myself, “Do I really not know anything about this parenting gig? Am I really that horrible? Did I truly just luck out with my firstborn like my friends told me I had? Was the good day we had today with both, just luck?”
After all these months of racking my brain on what I was doing wrong, a game changing thought (or, how I would like to look at it, a word from God) occurred to me.
We aren’t guaranteed a result.
I have known parents who are amazing, God fearing people, who have kids that have fallen off of the moral compass. I have known people whose parents were physically absent from their lives and they have become amazing parents themselves, and it is awe inspiring. I’ve seen families who have parents that have stayed happily married while their children go through the devastation of divorce. Obviously, these things don’t happen all the time, but that realization paired with my own two drastically different children made me realize that nothing I do is guaranteeing that the offspring that God has blessed me with will turn out to be what I want them to be.
I was identifying and judging myself as a parent by the way my kids acted. I was either awesome or really not awesome. There was no happy medium. I realized after experiencing that type of roller coaster of emotion day in and day out, that this is just not a realistic way to rationalize my parenting. We cannot identify ourselves by how our children turn out to be. It just doesn’t make sense. When we think that way, we are putting ourselves as parents in a small and very limited box. Do we not talk to our kids about reaching their full potential? If we take our kids’ actions and link them to our ‘goodness’ as a parent, how will we ever reach OUR potential as someone God-gave them in their life to help guide them and raise them into the adults that this world so desperately needs?
Here’s the deal. Parenting is tough. I have grown all sorts of tough skin through the last 11 years of parenting, and I know I have a long way to go (if The Lord will so bless me with that). I have cried in my closet, I have prayed for my kids until I have fallen asleep, I have yelled into pillows (or out loud) in sheer frustration, anger, or sadness. But we cannot believe the King of Lies who wants to rob us of any joy we get out of parenting OR, on the same token, the lie that we don’t have to work on it anymore because we are just THAT good and we’ve got it down pat. The enemy wants to dig a wedge as deep as he can and break the family, the home, and anything good that is walking out of its door and into the world. He desperately wants a foothold and when we begin to doubt ourselves, when we begin to think that the power lies within us, we begin to lose ground. Not today, devil. Not today.
Don’t believe the lie.
So how do we measure ourselves as parents? I’m not quite sure and I’m not even sure we are to be measured. What I AM sure of is this, I want God to be my right hand man. I want my spouse to be my teammate where we lock arms and head into the fray, and I want to ask myself these questions:
Am I teaching my children what it means to love and follow The Lord Jesus Christ?
Am I loving them with all that I have and showing them that NOTHING they can ever do will change that? Not anything in this world?
Am I showing them the best I can the way the Lord loves them through me?
Am I giving my children up to The Lord daily and trusting Him to guide me in raising them?
That’s all we can do. We aren’t guaranteed the result. We go and parent the way God is guiding us, and we lift our hands and let Him, the One who knows, own the result. The Lord is in control, He isn’t surprised by any of it. He knows their futures and their shortcomings. Their heartaches, their hurts. He knows their talents, their gifts, their goals, and their fears. After all, He made them. We are just borrowing them for a while. So, don’t beat yourself up and give up, and don’t praise yourself so greatly where we loosen up. Let our failures guide us to become better, and the successes to help us remember that God gives us grace, mercy, and gorgeous glimpses of what our children are to one day become.
Parent On, my dear friends.