Imagine being blind folded while wearing noise canceling headphones while someone guides you to where you're supposed to go. To me, that is what parenting feels like. You go in completely blind, not knowing a thing. Then you try to get direction on what to do but it's hard to hear and you're hoping you're hearing the right thing. I remember when I had my first child, Harper. You have a baby, you stay in the hospital one to two days and then you go home. I remember sitting in the wheelchair with Harper in my arms as they wheeled me to my car. They won't let you walk out of the hospital but they'll let you leave with a baby!?! I was so excited yet I felt completely unprepared for this new adventure!
Then, I had the triplets. Along with HAVING TRIPLETS they were preemies and had to be in the NICU. Having my first baby be full term and then having very tiny preemies is basically like having a baby for the first time! Everything is different. They were connected to all these monitors and they had feeding tubes. Henry had a monitor that seemed to go off all the time. The nurse would say, "Oh he forgot to breath, rub his back so he'll start breathing again." (by the way, NICU nurses are SO amazing!) Just a few short days after removing their feeding tubes and the day they removed all the monitors they sent him home. I remember thinking, "How will I know if he forgets to breath?! I don't have one of those monitors on him at home!" If you allow yourself to "go there" you will be completely controlled by fear at any stage in parenting. However, I chose to trust God and listen to His voice and that He would tell me when I needed to pay closer attention.
I always hate starting a new job. I don't like the learning process of it. I hate messing up and I want to know how to do everything right, immediately! So you can imagine the feeling of great insecurity when I realized that I'll be learning, in this job, for the rest of my life. I will probably mess up often a long the way, as I already have; and I won't really know if what I'm doing is actually working for about 18-20 years, maybe even more.
I truly don't know how people parent without the Lord, and His grace! There have been many times that I've been putting my kids to bed and I just pray, "God please undo any damage that my words or actions have done today. Please show me how to parent this specific kid with their specific personality and please show me where I can do better." You see God designed them and we are just to steward them. I want to know why he chose me to be their parent. There is something about me that God saw fit to raise that kid and I want to know what it is and how I can help them fulfill their calling.
I'm terrible at reading books and even worse about starting a book and not finishing it! I started reading "Shepherding a Childs Heart." It is a great book and I highly recommend it but when I got what I needed from it, for that time, I kind of stopped reading. I will pick it back up eventually. Any way, the thing I loved from it was that it talked about having vision for your family and your children. It talks about parenting from that vision. By doing so you stay focused on what's important and you don't get lost on what doesn't matter. What that looks like for me is, I want my kids to be obedient no matter what, they don't need to agree with it, they don't need to understand it, they just need to obey. So, we discipline for disobedience. I look at my home as the dress rehearsal for life. I see my time with my kids as training or practice for when they are not with me. I want them to know what's expected so that I can trust that when I'm not with them they know what's ok and what is the proper way to behave, for our family. I'm realizing that training does not happen by osmosis. We have to practice, we have to be intentional, and we have to know what we want so that they know what they can and can not do. If our expectations are not clear then it's hard to enforce proper behavior.
When I dropped Harper off at first grade this year we walked in the classroom right at eight o'clock, which is exactly when class starts. We weren't late so, in my opinion, that was a win! However, most of the class was already there and they were seated and working on a work sheet. ON THE FIRST DAY! I was very impressed with how orderly and peaceful the classroom was. Their teacher was setting the precident for the way she expected the classroom to function. That's the way I try to parent. I want them to learn at home the way that we behave so that when they are in any situation they know what's expected. At home, we don't jump on our furniture so that when we are at someone else's home we don't jump on their furniture. (literally as I'm writing this I had remind my daughter that we don't jump on the sofa!) When we are at home, we don't throw things so that when we are out in public we don't throw things. (Also just now another one of my children just threw a toy across the room because she didn't want her sister to have it) We don't yell at each other at home so that when we are with our friends at school we don't yell at our friends. I have always said that I want other people to want to be around my kids. I will obviously love my kids no matter what because they are mine; but I want them to learn to have self control and patience and be kind of others because I want other people to want to be around them too. Clearly it's a work in progress and we are constantly being reminded of the rules and how we are supposed to behave. Some days I'm more consistent than other days and some days we jump on the sofa while throwing things across the room while I yell for everyone to be quiet! Thank goodness for grace right?!
It is also important to me that my children are respectful. To me, a part of respect is speaking to someone when spoken to. I have had NUMEROUS times when we have been somewhere and I will say, "Can you say hi to Mrs. so-and-so." and my child will literally just stare at the person, or at me. It's like all of the sudden they stopped understanding english or they stopped being able to speak period. It's also hard to discipline in that moment because the other person often says, "It's ok." Side note: I love when people see that I'm trying to parent and they wait it out with me! After being embarrassed, too many times, I started realizing that we need to practice how to speak to people, at home. So I will say, "Ok, pretend I am one of mommy's friends and I say, 'Hi Hazelle, how are you?' What do you say?" Then I teach my kids how to respond in the way I want them to. I tell them to look at my eyes and talk to me. I want them to learn to be respectful but I also want them to be confident. They are still learning and some of them do a better job than others because of their personalities. Some of my kids do not need to practice how to speak when spoken to they might need to learn how to not interrupt, and some of my kids need to learn to speak up especially when spoken to. It's also takes me being aware and teaching them based on their personalities. I will never make my kids show affection to someone if they do not want to, like hugging someone, because I think that crosses a boundary. However, I do think that speaking when spoken to is important and it is something that is a learned behavior and most kids that I know, that do it well, have had lots of practice.
Parenting is not easy. It's also not the same for everyone. The best advice I can give is, figure out what you want for your family and for your kids and then make that clear. Also, have grace for yourself and others! We are all trying to figure this thing out. We add enough pressure to ourselves we don't need pressure from everyone else. If you see a friend out and about and their kids is having a major meltdown, go hug your friend! I can promise you they do not need another judgmental stare!