Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Parenting Ideals - Then & Now

Back when I knew how to parent I had this idea of what makes a good parent. These are some of the ideals I had...

My children would pick up after themselves. They would never think of leaving wadded up socks, jeans with one leg inside out and smelly towels lying on the bathroom floor. My children would know better than that. I would teach them how to be neat and clean. We wouldn't have to search high and low for a missing Sunday shoe and we would NEVER go to church with anything less than Sunday footwear. 

School papers, consents and incomplete's would be signed and returned promptly. We wouldn't have to find wrinkled, weeks old "need's parents signature" papers in the bottom of a backpack. In fact, our children wouldn't get such things in the first place! 

We would give our children a "voice" and they would in turn listen to us. Don't laugh, we honestly thought that. Then we entered the pre adolescent years and mental health issues smacked that idea so hard it shattered in pieces. Nowadays we daily hone our skills in the "lie detector" department and plead with God to help us know the truth and not cause further damage.

Our children would have daily chores and take pride in a job well done. Do I hear someone laughing?! I feel like the "job police," constantly checking up and making sure things are done correctly. The bedroom floor gets swept but the paper trash is shoved under the bed or dresser. The clean clothing gets put away - all in one drawer rather than in its designated spot. The toys get picked up but everything is thrown into the toy box instead of being put in the correct tote. Table scraps are taken out to the chickens but they might be dumped on the wrong side of the fence rather than inside where the chickens can actually reach them.

Our children would be each others friends. Instead they seem to thrive on destroying any healthy sibling relationships that even dare to begin sprouting. They used to hit, push and shove now they have "graduated" to doing the same thing with their mouths. The 5 year old is able to give her teen age brother a run for his money in that area. Last night we called a family meeting. Dean told the children, "We have a problem in our family, does anyone know what it is?" No one spoke for awhile then Joseph ventured, "We aren't very nice to each other???" You got it, buddy! Although I do have a little hope, during therapy the other week Kiana was speaking of one of her brothers and said, "He likes me in his heart, he just doesn't know it."

The years have changed my goals and redefined what I view as successful parenting. 

I would have once been horrified at some of the things that my children think and say, now I am so thankful they feel safe enough to tell me these things.

I now see bravery, strength and trust when my child hands me a note from the teacher - the kind of note any child would cringe at having to give to his parents.

When my teen age son scoops his little sister up and carries her because her legs are tired, tears prick my eyes. The sideways grin he gives when he senses me watching him reminds me of his dad and I remind myself to cherish the little moments.

When my child with "food issues" gives the last of the cereal to a sibling, I feel those tears again.

When my son who finds life challenging in most every way whispers, "I am going to do my best to be nice to _________," referring to the sister who has been less than kind to him, I feel like maybe some lessons are sticking.

When I receive a hug after a rage that has lasted hours and my child says, "Thanks mom, I love you!" I tend to think I am the most blessed person in the world.

I think I would tell the "me" of 10 years ago that parenting isn't just about teaching your children to work and behave, it is about teaching them empathy, compassion, forgiveness and building a strong character.

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