Dear Fellow Parents:
Earlier this year my husband and I participated in an eight-week Bible study, the first four weeks focusing on Bringing Up Boys and the second four weeks focusing on Bringing Up Girls. Some of us were present for all eight weeks, having been blessed with a household full of estrogen and progesterone, while others joined for only the estrogen or progesterone filled hours. As God so lovingly does, He presented me with an opportunity the day before the last class to reconnect with an old friend. During our conversation, I was privileged to listen as she shared her heart regarding her childhood. As I was listening to her relive some wounds that were inflicted on her, I heard two distinct themes which can encourage not just the families I got to know for the past eight weeks but to all parents who strive daily to make a difference in the lives of the children God loaned to them.
Parenting is hard work. No one said raising kids would be easy, but nothing worthwhile is. God wants us to seek His wisdom and use His parenting techniques as our guide. As I reflected on the Biblical teaching that we received during those two months, three specific areas spoke to me.
Say “I’m sorry”. As I listened to my friend share with me some of the pain she still carried from childhood, one sentence stands out among the rest. “All I want is for XXX to tell me, ‘I’m sorry.’” As I reflected on how three words left unspoken affected her as a child and continued to hurt her into her adult life, I realized that was one of the underlying themes in our class – being quick to say “I’m sorry” when we have blown it as parents. Here was a real life example, years later, which proved how important those words are to a little one. Being able to stand before your child (or children) and say, “I’m sorry” is humbling, yes, but also freeing. It teaches them that everyone messes up and the appropriate response when we do. I’ve found in my own experience with my kids throughout the years, they are usually the most willing to forgive and forget when those words are uttered, and they have the longest memory when I choose to remain silent.
Love. Another theme that was prevalent in my friend’s conversation was how much love she felt from her mother. Her mother has unfortunately been deceased for too many years now, and while my friend mentioned that they used to get into it, especially during her teenage years, what she remembers most about her mother was the fierce love that flowed back and forth. She knew that she knew she was loved, accepted, and treasured. She misses that relationship they used to share because it was unconditional and freely given.
Love was a main theme for our eight weeks of lessons. Love in the form of time, appropriate touch, and talking. Spending time talking in the car, dancing in the kitchen, daddy/daughter or mother/son dates on a regular basis, family game nights, playing outside – the ways to show love were as diverse as the people who made up our group, but the overall theme was the same. Share their lives, share their interests, listen to the hearts of our children and it will last a lifetime.
Laughter. My friend spoke about how anger was prevalent in her childhood home, and that got me thinking…where anger is present, it’s hard to find joy. Where laughter is present, joy is more likely found. I noticed throughout the eight weeks that while most of us shared similar parenting styles, some adults were “less serious” than others. Some had a natural way of looking at life through the filter of fun. I remember when our household used to look like that. Sometimes life can wear people down and the fun seems to go into hiding. God has been working on me for the past couple years to bring fun back, and the atmosphere in our house has definitely improved. Three kids with great senses of humor and a puppy can do that, although I have to rely less on them and find more laughter myself.
The joy of parenthood from some of the people in our group was contagious. Finding the humor while in the thick of puberty, two-year-old temper tantrums, or just the normal “which personality of my child will greet me when I get home today?” helps make life less drudgery and more enjoyable. I was encouraged as a parent to remember to find the fun in each stage of my kids’ development. There might be a few stages that I enjoy more than others, but each stage should be embraced and enjoyed while I work to create and then keep a fun atmosphere for the entire family.
My friend still carries her wounds, although she has used them to help break some unhealthy cycles and create new traditions and styles of parenting with her own children. No family is perfect and we each carry wounds from our own pasts, no matter how wonderful they were. I know that I will (and probably already have) unintentionally inflicted wounds on my own children despite trying to parent well.
This letter, though, is meant to offer encouragement to those I learned alongside for those eight weeks. The fact that we all chose to spend one night a week for two months to be better parents speaks volumes. The fact that we were all willing to learn new habits, work on breaking old habits that weren’t working, and were open to hearing and trying a different approach to the same problem shows we are invested in parenthood and our family.
To all the parents who want the best for their children, choose to fix mistakes from their own childhood and learn healthier approaches because they want their kids to have a solid foundation, I say keep up the great work. Let’s continue to keep our eyes on the example of the best parent – God. When we study His nature and the life of Jesus while He was here on Earth, we learn valuable lessons that can continue to help us navigate this thing called parenthood.
An Ordinary Parent