I was chatting with my dear friend today about parenting.
In our culture today, most people experience parenting as such: You have a couple babies or three, they become toddlers, preschoolers, elementary kids until eventually you find yourself the parent of a house full of teens then eventually adults.
Less often but still pretty common is this parenting scenario: You have a couple babies, they grow through all the little stages. You have upper elementary “tweens” (I hate that term) and teens then find yourself starting over with one or two more infant/toddler stage children.
My friend Kristy and I have not experieced either of these forms of parenting. Instead we have experienced all the stages, simultaneously. Neither of us has really ever had a lengthy period of time without an infant or toddler in the house. We’ve experienced parenting somewhat like a longitudinal study. While parenting teens, we’ve had school-agers to tend to all while changing diapers and cutting up hot dogs into toddler safe pieces.
I think this experience has given us a, perhaps not unique but unusual perspective on parenting. I know for me, in a lot of ways it has caused me to be a more laid back momma. I was not laid back with my oldest as a toddler/preschooler. Now I’m pretty mellow most of the time with my current selection of young children.
Does this make us “better” moms? Heck no. In fact we’d laugh in your face if you suggested it might. But it does make us… different moms. We’ve taken ahold of a significant truth that we feel is critical for parents to learn.
The Authority to Parent is Ours
Yes, that’s what I said. It is my authority, and my husband’s authority, to parent our children. And it is your authority to parent yours.
I have friends with very different parenting styles than mine. And for that I am grateful. I’ve learned a lot from watching other people parent their children. This isn’t a statement that to have “authority” over your children you have to be “authoritarian” as people view it, dictating rules and lording over your offspring. But you need to realize that you alone are responsible for raising these gifts, these children, and presenting them to the world. As such, parents need to be empowered to follow their hearts and raise their children.
Raise their children. Parent their children. Do you see what I’m saying here? This is an active role of teaching and training, knowing it is your right and responsibility to do so. You know your children. You are equipped with either the knowledge or the ability to seek the knowledge to bring these little people to adulthood, mostly unscathed.
We have become a society who believes the lie that some “expert” can tell us exactly the ABCs and 123s of parenting, giving us a secret formula for success. When we are dealing with an issue and we can’t seem to fix it, we are afraid to listen to our inner hearts (or the voice of God) that tells us it is ok to do what we feel is right, because we have to follow the parenting expert of today.
Do not misunderstand. I believe in asking for advice. I believe in trying different things, suggestions from experts and other mommas and daddies in the field. I ask friends for advice often. But I see so many moms who I know are trying to follow this “Guidleline for Being the Perfect Parent” and it doesn’t fit them. It doesn’t fit their families. And they feel shame and lack of control because, at the end of the day, it just isn’t working and their child is a mess.
I want to encourage you today, tired momma (or daddy if there are any daddies reading this), you are enough. You are the right parent for that child. He was given to you buy a loving God who knew you needed him, and he needed you. It is ok. It is ok to occasionally say “no” to that game he wants to play so you can sit on the couch and eat a candy bar. It is ok to occasionally say “yes” to that walk to the playground, even though you are tired and don’t want to go. It is ok to say “At my house, we just don’t eat donuts because sticky faces give me the creeps.” It is ok.
Some people want you to feel badly for not playing with your kid every second of his life. Others think you should never play with your kid. Some people embrace the “they are only little, dust can wait” philosophy while others believe that this theory is practically heresy.
I embrace the “It’s OK” philosophy. As long as you are actively parenting and not just reacting to every situation, as long as you are making decisions for the long term good of your child and your family, as long as you are loving your kid and loving yourself and loving your spouse, baby – It’s OK!
Be The Mom.
Be The Dad.
Embrace your authority. Know that it is ok to not let your kid play drums or to let your kid play drums so loudly the neighbors complain. None of us are getting out of this parenting gig without scrapes, bruises, bumps and tears. But if you are doing your best, you are praying, seeking, trying to raise those little critters to be productive members of society, It’s OK.
*Note – If you are not parenting your kids and are letting them run amok while you live a life somewhat tangential to theirs, that is not, in my humble opinion, ok. I’m not speaking to those who leave their children to grow up under the care of another so they can go live their lives how they see fit. Please do not lump “active parenting” of many different philosophies – no matter how hands on or hands off – with not parenting at all. They are not the same and if you feel the need to discuss that, feel free to chat with me, I have an entirely different opinion about not “raising” your children but leaving them to become feral. This is merely an encouragement to those of us in the daily trenches of active parenting.