Why didn’t anyone warn me parenting would be so hard. Why didn’t anyone tell me I would constantly wonder if I’m screwing up as a parent. Why didn’t anyone mention the guilt surrounding parenting and the stress that comes with these lives depending on you. The happiness and success of these four mini humans is heavily directed by me. Ugh.
I’ll tell you, I constantly feel like I’m messing up as a parent and can list a million times I’ve failed, but every once in a while I get a glimpse that I’m doing alright. Those glimpses remind me they are going to be okay. Luckily, I have parents that got to fail and succeed many times before me that have offered some great advice when I’ve called them all distraught. I’ve realized that there are 3 main things that if I can teach my children, will ensure they will be alright. No matter the parenting style, no matter how many times we screw up or fail, I think if we can do these 3 things, we have succeeded.
1. Coparent with God. I remember a moment when I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and stress over things my oldest was going through, I read somewhere that there is one that loves our kids more than us. God. God wants them to be happy and successful more than we can possibly imagine. So He’s in their court. He’s fighting for them right alongside you. Just knowing that gave me some comfort. Knowing that when I can’t always be with my kids, when I can’t always save them from hard things in the world, God is with them.
Further, I realized a couple years ago that even though we went to church and I silently followed Christ, praying regularly, smiling at God winks, and reading my devotional…. I did all these things pretty much “secretly”. I didn’t mean to, but my time with God was in my head or when the kid went to bed. However, kids learn so much more from example than they do being told something. I knew it was my job to SHOW them God was real, to DEMONSTRATE a life lead by faith. So now when they come up to me sitting on the floor with my eyes closed and ask what I’m doing, I tell them I’m praying and listening to God. When I notice the waterpaint colors in the sky as the sun rises, I say out loud how it reminds me how magical God is. I mention God a lot more out loud instead of just in my head, and I see it slowly rubbing off on my kids. I tell them about the God winks, the signs, the mini miracles I’ve witnessed in my life.
I think if I can just raise my kids to know God loves them and is fighting for them, that they always have Him to turn to…they are going to be alright. The things I’ve witnessed and blessings I’ve received by letting God lead are unbelievable…and I want to make sure my kids get to experience that and realize life is so much more than what we can see and imagine it to be. There’s a much bigger picture.
2. Love Unconditionally. I took this for granted growing up. I have an entire family that has this magic power of loving everyone, loving unconditionally, and loving them hard. I thought that was normal for every family. I have no doubt my family will love and support me no matter how much I screw up in life, no matter what I do or am… they have this unique characteristic of loving and accepting unconditionally. And it’s not just our family. They openly bring others into this unconditional circle.
Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all could do that? Like actually LOVE thy neighbor? Even if they do things we don’t agree with or are totally different than us? What could it be like if we didn’t judge, just accepted and loved. When I’m going through parenting struggles, my mom has told me multiple times the most important thing is my children know they are loved and always have a safe place at home…a place they can be themselves, a place they can show their emotions. I pray that I can make my kids feel loved and that they know it is unconditional. I need them to know nothing they do can ever lessen my love, not even a little bit. And I want to teach them to love and accept others because life is a much happier place when we get to feel love most of the day instead of feeling judgement and negativity towards others.
3. Teach them to love themselves. This is a tough one, especially with some of my more pessimistic boys who can be kind of harsh with themselves. When I hear them call themselves “idiots” or “I’m stupid” or “I’m the worst on the team”, it breaks my heart. Teaching children they are amazing in their own ways, not worrying what others think, and helping them realize God made them for a purpose isn’t easy. But I’m trying. It’s so easy to go through a day of parenting reprimanding all the things my kids are doing wrong, correcting them, getting frustrated with them… but really I need to make sure I’m praising them even more, repeating over and over how thankful I am for them, how smart and kind they are, how God created them just right. When my 7 year old once again won’t share with his brother, instead of saying “Why are you so selfish” like I’m tempted to say, I’m switching it to, “That makes me sad when you don’t share because I know you are really such a kind and sharing boy, I’ve seen how much you love and take care of your little brother.” I’ve learned the power of positive self affirmations daily, so I can only imagine these affirmations spoken daily to my kids might do the same thing… allow them to start believing that’s who they really are. If I call my kids “sissy’s”, “mean”, and “bad”, they will start believing it. If I tell them, “You are stronger than you realize”, “You are so sweet and kind”, “You are such a good person”, the will start believing that instead.
I’ve read many times you can’t love anyone more than you love yourself. So if I can teach my kids to love themselves, that God loves them, and that they are worth it… I’m hoping they turn out alright.
Parenting is tough. Tougher than I imagined. But God and love are tougher.