Perhaps losing my mother when I was 16 intensified my desire to have a family, but whatever it was, I totally obsessed about the day someone would call me "Mom."
Scary parenting stories failed to dampen my anticipation. I was one of the happiest pregnant women ever. Even finding out I needed a C-section was okay with me, as long as I would still bring home a baby. That's all I cared about.
I was not part of the group that would groan when summer vacation started, counting the days till school would resume in the fall. I was the mom, if you'll forgive me, who actually cried walking away from the bus stop. And many years later, the mom who heard, "I'm not dying; I'm just moving out."
So how do I feel now that my children are old enough to have children of their own? I still love being a mom, and I have the added bonus of being a grandma too, which has prompted me to review my job performance as a mom. Looking back, I see things I would have done differently. For one, I wouldn't have believed the following myths.
Good parents keep a clutter-free house
Most of us are taught that houses need to look magazine perfect. The truth is that houses that are lived in get cluttered. I cringe when I think back to my obsession with a neat house when my kids were little. As soon as play time was over, the toys had to be put back in place. Sometimes I wouldn't even let them finish playing. I put more emphasis on my house than on my child.
When my own children matured, the house became less cluttered, but it became emptier too. I've reached a stage in life when I am once again picking up toys. But I'm finding that these same toys that used to raise my blood pressure now cause me to smile, because I am thinking of my grandsons and some of their conversations during play. Now, as I pick up a stray book, I remember my grandsons, Jude and Charlie, smiling when I read a certain page, or asking me to read it one more time, please. So, today I put up with Matchbox cars, Legos, and other evidence of play because it means there's a child in here somewhere.
I've learned that my house is the place where I live; it is not who I am.
Good parents must always be right
One day etched in my memory, I was head-to-head with my son. Finally, through clenched teeth, I managed to ask him, "Why must you be right?"
He responded, with clenched teeth (must have learned that from his father), "Because you have to be right."
I sensed God watching that moment. Words were unnecessary. I got the message loud and clear, and from that moment on, being "right" lacked the luster it once held for me.
The result was a less resistant relationship—something I would have missed had I not conceded my need to always be right. The cost of your child is too high a price to pay. Choose your battles carefully.
I also learned new words I had never heard as a child, such as, "I was wrong; I'm sorry." Children respect parents who admit they are human, and children can be very forgiving.
We think we want totally compliant children, but total compliance is deceiving. I was a child who outwardly complied to her parents' wishes, following every request or demand, while inwardly building resentment. It took me years to work through that resentment.
Good parents produce good children
Here, the word "good" may be open to interpretation, but the main idea is that we think, If I do everything I should do, the results will be favorable.
Adam and Eve are a good example of how that doesn't necessarily work. Surely they didn't raise Cain and Abel so differently, yet one day they buried their son, Abel, who was killed by his brother, Cain. We have no guarantees, but thankfully we have a good God who is in control when we are not.
I've known parents who loved and encouraged their children, and who administered appropriate discipline, yet still, years later, these same parents suffer because of poor decisions their children made. We can do everything we know to do, but there are no guarantees because our children have their own free will. I've noticed that free will is something most of us like to exercise but don't always appreciate in others.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we shouldn't bother trying to be good parents because our children are going to make their own choices anyway. We need to try, but we also need to remember that some children may take detours.
Tom, a Bible study teacher, requested prayer for his son Bobby, who was taking drugs. Week after week prayers were offered while Tom saw few results. Still, he persevered, leaving the outcome to God. It was a long, painful journey, but God brought Bobby out of the situation after many months. Today, Bobby is a father and a youth pastor with a passion for children. While Tom could do nothing, he trusted his child to God, who could do anything.
Good parents treat their children equally
Judy couldn't believe her ears when those in her Bible study aired their frustrations as parents. She quietly wondered how anyone could struggle with something she found so easy. Perhaps they didn't possess good parenting skills, such as the ones she used with her little darlings. And then, Judy had her third child.
It became painfully apparent that little Dana had never heard about her mom's tried-and-true methods. Judy found herself frenzied before her day even began. No longer was she proud of her techniques; instead she was full of questions and confusion. She learned the truth that every child is different.
Instead of worrying about producing good children, maybe our focus should be on learning to be good parents. We do this by becoming students of the little ones entrusted to us.
In my family of origin there were rules. These rules were unchangeable, set in stone. They applied to all of us with no variation whatsoever. But when we look at our children, we can easily see they are not the same. We benefit greatly by working with those differences.
Will we make mistakes? Yes, as long as we're breathing we may make mistakes, but we also have the ability to try again—to get down to the eye level of our little ones and let them know how important they are, that they are a gift to us, made in the image of God.
Being a parent is a privilege. It may not always feel that way, but children are a gift from God. Granted, there are days you need a break from them, but nonetheless, they are gifts. When we were blessed with children, we were not left on our own. God encourages us to ask for wisdom if we need it (James 1:5). And if you're a parent, you need it!
And part of the wisdom God gives us is to appreciate our children's individual strengths and weaknesses. We can count on God to help us because no one knows our children like he does. He created them, counting each hair. Children were God's idea, and as far as I'm concerned, one of his best.
Anne Peterson is a poet, speaker, and author of over 42 published Bible studies. You can learn more about her at www.annepeterson.com.
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