Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Parenting in the early years
Sometimes, I wonder if any of the hard parenting work is paying or will ever pay off. Does it matter that we try to have a consistent nighttime prayer routine with them? Does it matter that we try to get them to eat their peas? That Tim and I work to stay on the same parenting page? An article came out just recently suggesting that what parents do during their kids' childhood years has little to no effect on them.
When I hear a parent say, "they'll turn out how they'll turn out" or see an article like the one mentioned above, the discouragement sets in. Really? It doesn't matter that I fight every bone in my body not to let out one giant F-bomb when my almost three-year-old is whining as I'm chasing my ten-month-old around while my breakfast is burning and I've had to go to the bathroom for 15 minutes?
If it's a total crapshoot on whether my kids will grow up to be decent, greens-eating humans, why bother, right? Let's break out the donuts for dinner, kids; that's what mom wants anyway. Let's watch TV all day on Saturday, not watch our language or smile through pain or go to church.
I don't passively parent. It's not in my vocabulary to say, "well that's just how I am, so deal with it." I wish that didn't sound as prideful as it does, but it's true. I take parenting seriously. If I'm impatient with them, I learn to grow patience. And I do that by actively choosing the longest line at the self-checkout, or talking Ella through a conflict instead of dismissing her with a, "cut it out" or doing something kind for someone who has hurt me. Every weekend, we get them ready and go to church. And, if I'm being at all honest, sitting through an hour during which your nearly 3-year-old and almost 1-year-old need to be quiet and sit still is exhausting (not to mention dealing with the anxiety from receiving the your-kids-are-loud looks). It isn't convenient by any means, but we do it because we know love isn't conditional or convenient. We take the extra time to cook and to let Ella help us stir, flip, and measure, to foster a love for food and healthy eating. And we've taken 20 minutes to talk Ella through apologizing to Archie for hitting him. I do not respond to a work email if my kids are around, and if I happen to fall into the "Facebook" trap, when I do pick up my phone, I then let Ella use my phone to take a few pictures to let her know that this block doesn't rule mommy's world, that I'm okay handing it off.
We put a huge amount of effort into bettering ourselves and our home, so to hear it doesn't matter makes me seethe and question.
But recently, our efforts were affirmed. A couple weekends ago at church, I was exhausted. Tim had just gotten back into town late Saturday night after being away on business; it had been a long few days. I was doing the half, butt-on-the-pew kneel when Ella looked at me and said, "kneel, Mama." I, of course, immediately fell to my knees, gave her a kiss, and thanked her for reminding me to do so. She then kneeled next to us until it was time for communion at which point she walked right up to receive her blessing, arms crossed.
It was a moment of total awe and payoff. I wanted to cry. Our parenting exhaustion was serving a purpose.
Ella's only 2, so we, of course, don't receive this big of an affirmation every day. Nor should we, I guess. Parenting isn't about affirming us on the daily. But it is encouraging to see that hard work matters. Ella of course has her moments. Hell, I'm an adult and I don't feel particularly polite on some days. But Ella has a way of sprinkling an "excuse me" or a "sorry"or kisses for Archie or wanting to say prayers that I'm reminded that what we do, who we are matters to and for our kids.