Not enough exercise.
Their/They’re/There still stumps my 12 year old.
We move them around too much.
I let their pet bunny roast in the Texas sun accidentally.
In a rush, I threw the bunny’s corpse into the garbage in front of them.
Not enough time spent reading.
Too much yelling.
All their food is either beige or neon orange.
I delegate every request to play pretend.
They never see our other side of the family.
They don’t like team sports.
Too many empty threats.
Allowing too much screen time.
Not allowing enough screen time.
Not enough Easter egg hunts.
You read right. I cried this past Easter, because we didn’t do an egg hunt. To be fair, it’s not that much of a thing in the UK…not to mention they don’t have those convenient, plastic, fillable Easter eggs. But still—the parenting anxiety that I even might have deprived my children of a candy-centric holiday custom brought out liquid tears. I had to go check my Glow App just to see where I was in my cycle, in order to rationally categorize my Easter-onset distress.
Mom-guilt. I have taken every trip! Times five kids, there have been many! You’d think I would see that guilt-trip train rushing toward me from a mile away and avoid it. But I still get on board, after all these kids and all these parenting years later. So many nights I crash-land into bed, ruminating over the coulda-shoulda-wouldas.
Some of the guilt is warranted–and the conviction leads me to say I am sorry, and restore the relationship. (Great opportunity to model the art of apology!)
But most guilt is useless and cumbersome. It’s all self-doubt which throws me sideways and strips away my confidence. (By the way, tripping on mom-guilt is a huge indicator that I need to rest from social media.) This luxurious and modern American culture causes us to overthink the definition of success in parenting! The truth is that parenting is hard, but we don’t need to get cynical or discouraged.
Here are two thoughts that refocus me when the negative thought train comes barrelling through:
- The path of grace in parenting is very wide.
- The gospel of parenting is this: if they know they are loved they have everything.
First of all, your commitment and desire to raise children well means that you are on the right path. No matter what side of the aisle you are on, your viewpoint on screen time, whether you stay at home or go to work, breast or bottle feed, homeschool or send them to the brick-and-mortar school.
The path…the right path…is graciously wide enough for everyone! You’re on it.
Secondly, and most importantly. If you stripped everything away until all they had left is your love: they would have everything. Strip off everything. Everything you consider good, bad, disappointing or super advantageous in their lives. Take it all off, and imagine their life without any of those conditions and circumstances.
Sit on that for a minute.
If it all went away, and all that remained was a tent, rice, water + your love, they would have EVERYTHING. Everything they need to become high-functioning adults, contributing members of society, and capable of spreading this love to others.
This is old news, but it’s all we need to parent entirely guilt-free. You can check off every box, and your children could be a total success on paper. But if they don’t have love, they are nothing. This is a simultaneously simple yet somehow monumental challenge! Maybe it is just me, but I have to continually recenter on this over and over. In this way, parenting is inherently a spiritual practice.
Since love is action and not just a feeling–here are a few, off-the-top of my head ways to demonstrate your love to your children on the daily:
- Hug and kiss your children as often as they are fed.
- Tell them you love them–may as well be when you are giving them that hug.
- Listen when they share. It is possible to disagree with them without voicing it the moment after they share with you. They need to be heard, and this is central to their feeling loved.
- Encourage and point out every good thing. I have even created handwritten lists of the good things. Because, sadly, I am much much better at keeping track of their shortcomings–such an unloving tendency. We are not supposed to keep a record of wrongs, but we definitely ought to keep a record of rights!
- Discipline from a place of peace. When it’s time to give correction or consequences, ask them to go to their room and wait for you. Take five minutes to collect your own emotions, and even say a prayer before you approach discipline.
- Be quick to forgive. We are often much harder on our kids than God is on us!
- Find every easy yes. There will always be so many necessary nos.
- Create spaces where they can express themselves in a healthy manner. This one is hard because we are territorial about our living space. They want to cook, dance, make messy art, create potions, dig holes in the garden. The home should be their haven for self expression See #7.
After all this, you have permission to sleep well at night because you gave them everything.
Let that be an encouragement to you.