What a bold and presumptuous title! Do I really propose that I know the KEY to parenting. Is it truly possibly to know what the KEY to parenting is? I mean, sure, I have five kids and I have a degree in behavioral sciences with a concentration in family and attachment studies, but do I dare say that I am an expert by suggesting that the key to parenting is so easy to find?
Well, NO! Of course not. I am truly not claiming expertise in an area of life that must adjust to the tides at every days weather. However, I do want to speak on what I have found to be the key for me and a key that should be on everyones' parenting key chains!
First I must give you a bit of background on my adventure in parenting. This adventure officially started 8 years ago, however it actually started long before that!
In the last year recorded in my baby book my mom wrote that "Ginny wants to be a mommy. It is all she talks about." From birth I had that desire. I played with baby's and couldn't wait until I was old enough to babysit. I was the kid at the Lake that wasn't playing with kids my own age, instead I was playing with the little ones and making friends with the moms asking if I could hold their babies. I watched mothers, studied mothers and babysat every child I could (many times for free). Although I was a dreamer with many other goals, being a mommy was always my hearts desire! Just look at how God has blessed me!
In High School I took Human Development and Family Studies and just about lost my mind when I realized that I could go to college to do research in the way families interact and the way people raise children. I read about everything family that I could get my hands on and I spent time around every 'big' family that I could. My best friend was from one of the loveliest blended families I have ever come into contact with and I was more than blessed to be loved and welcomed by her mom and step-dad who jokingly called me "Alice" from the Brady Bunch since they had 3 girls and 3 boys all around the same ages.
When I became pregnant with Aidan I knew that I was going to do things differently, not intentionally really, just because I so confident in my parenting abilities before I ever even became a parent. Now I must say that as a teen I was an idealist and could be ridiculously judgemental when it came to parents. I was horrified at the things moms would say and do as mothers. I was the first to judge when a mom would leave the house without a hat on a tiny babes head etc. And now many years later I have decided that my favorite meal just must be my words because I have eaten every single one! Parenting, and more specifically parenting so many little ones, has taught me that while I have great 'instinct' or as I like to say God given abilities and desires and I also have book knowledge on family studies, living in the midst of it is like a final exam that never ends but is always final!
Parenting is the hardest job in the world and while this seems to be a popular coined phrase to appease the frustrated at-home mom, it is in fact the most difficult job one can ever undertake. You are expected to work every waking moment and every time you drift off to sleep you are awakened or stirred by needs or dreams about those needs that will soon be needing you! Not to mention a good dose of anxiety thrown in from the one who does not want God's children to succeed and you have quite a concoction.
So what is a parent to do? To spank or not to spank is NOT the burning question, nor is it even relevant when it comes to parenting. Because we have been so trained to watch behaviors in children and react or respond to said behaviors. I hear "spare the rod spoil the child" and "catch more bees with honey" but is this really the way that we must live?
When I look at the ways that God has raised His children I look at the first model that is the Old Testament. In it there are many laws. Many ways in which God reacted and preempted behaviors. Then I look at the New Testament and I see God working on relationships and getting to the heart of His children. Encouraging them to see that yes, the laws are there and are necessary to live the safest happiest life possible, however, I want you to live your life seeking relationships, building one another up, and living in love rather than bickering over how to live and who did or didn't do what.
I feel that the key to parenting can be found in concentrating on proper attachment. If you feel a great respect for someone you are going to stand a little taller, and talk a little bit different, and act a bit more controlled. The same is true with children. My son is the future president of the USA and he has a great love and respect for those in power. As a military child he loves the military and looks up to those high in rank. A few weeks prior to Christmas Aidan was able to meet Col. Jamerson the commander of Tinker Air Force Base, Ok. Not only was he thrilled but his usual dramatic animated self was so controlled I practically had to force the words out of him!
The key to parenting is to gain our children's hearts and to shepherd them in the ways that God is leading them! I am not saying that we should be our children's friend. Children do not need 'friends' but rather role models, mentors, teachers, leaders. Someone to engage them, get to know them, spend time with them.
How many of you really know your kids. I mean sure we know them, we have known them longer than anybody. But how many of you really k---n---o---w them? If you were to go to a book store and pick out a book that had nothing to do with a character from TV what would you get them that would just rock their world? What if the instructions were more specific and you had to get them a book that was not a children's book but one that taught them something like non-fiction, hobbies, arts/crafts. This may prove to be a tasks.
To me attachment was so easy to gain with my babies. In fact, the parenting of babies came very easily to me. I wore them as much as i could. In fact, I joked and called them my favorite accessory (bad joke I know). They slept with me until they didn't want to anymore. The nursed if they could and I followed their schedule until they were old enough to be encouraged into another one. I do the cloth diaper thing, feed them organic as much as possible, and keep myself abreast of all the medical advances and concerns. Parenting babies was where I have spent my time for the past several years all the while slowly treading into the 'school-age' years.
I use to think the school age years would be my favorite. I LOVE to do craft projects, science projects, field trips, cooking specials, and all kinds of activities with kids. I was like Mary Poppins to every kid I babysat meaning I would take my carpet bag full of activities that they generally did not do with their parents. The judgemental youth that I was thought it was because parents just didn't value engaging their kids, I was so ignorant and so mean in my thoughts toward parents.
I had no clue the stresses or other responsibilities of the adult life and I never realized how exhausting parenting is! Sometimes the things that I thought would come so naturally (i.e. doing art projects with the kiddos) are in fact quite difficult to accomplish! Yet they are the most important. In order to get to the heart of our children we must spend time with them.
(to be continued tomorrow as this is an incredibly long blog already, if you made it this far thanks! You are awesome and I am so thankful for you!)