Last week I wrote about the responsibility of raising children to value and respect of others in our society, you can find that story here. I did some soul-searching after reading my words and started reflecting on the type of parent I was overall.
I reflected that being a mother is extremely tough. I simply had no idea what was in store for me 15 years ago when I rubbed my ever-growing belly, excited to bring a new life into the world.
I immersed myself in books, including the ever popular “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” to prepare myself for what was ahead. I was ready, willing, and committed to being a successful mother on this journey.
But how did I define success? Initially, victory was putting baby Kennedi to sleep in less than an hour (the invaluable “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer” finally brought this triumph with Kassadi!) As we progressed through the toddler, elementary, adolescent, and now teen stages of their growth, that definition continuously changed.
Last week, we found an old video camera, and watched videos of Kennedi’s and Kassadi’s early years of life. I observed myself in amazement as a young mother, so encouraging and full of joy, cheering on my daughters’ development, and constantly delivering hugs and kisses.
Videos of Christmas morning joy and early morning nursery visits brought a smile to my face. Kennedi remarked that she never remembered me being that way, and she wished I acted like that now.
I enthusiastically cheered her on as she attempted to take her first steps. There was never an ounce of frustration uttered when she lost her balance and fell. I just picked her up and encouraged her to try again. I wonder what would have happened if I responded that way to every challenge in her life as she grew older?
What happened to me? Where was that cheerfully motivating woman I saw on the screen? When did I become this strict taskmaster? I was so focused on rules, order, and the proper way to behave. How do I find my way back to that incredibly inspiring mother?
For years I’ve prided myself on raising my children to have proper manners, appropriate speaking skills, and knowledge and confidence to make good decisions. To basically be a good reflection on me as a mother, while learning the tools to be successful and productive human beings when they left our house. But mainly to not embarrass me.
I was stern and authoritative, while my husband was the fun, laid-back parent. It was a running joke in our house. What was wrong with that? My philosophy was focused on living and preparing for the future, instead of enjoying the fleeting, temporary pleasures of the present.
While sheltering-in-place, I was re-evaluating my parenting style and viewpoint. Spending time with my daughters 24×7 instead of them going off to school, evening sports’ practices, or being separated for overnight trips, has changed what our daily life has looked like for the last 8 years.
I’m starting to appreciate the joy in simple living, family dinner at the table each night, instead of eating on the way to or from practice. Family game and movie nights happen regularly, and evening family walks down the street bring interesting conversations. There is even a fort in my formal dining room – gasp!
Friday night previously meant going to bed early for a 5am wake up for a volleyball tournament or track meet. But just last week we stayed up so late on Friday night that before we knew it, the clock read 5am and the sun was coming up. We laughed in astonishment and scrambled off to bed for a few hours.
When I first had the girls, people would always say, “enjoy them while you can, the time goes quickly”, but I would never pay much attention. I thought I had so much time ahead of me, but now the inevitable is approaching – in two years and then again in three years I’ll be saying my goodbyes.
What will they say when they are all grown up? Will there only be pockets of good memories, or will they look back on their childhood with joy, and remember feeling loved and valued?
Thankfully, I still have time to affect those memories. This COVID-19 epidemic has given me a parenting reset. A summer which would have normally been filled with an academic camp and sports schedule that would have kept us on the go, is being replaced with a carefree plan that we can create together.
I realize that eventually things will change again, and I will have to find a balance between both parenting styles. Being practical and having a plan is important, but there are times when we can give up control and enjoy life.
The key to my success as a mother is realizing that my daughters are gifts from God. I’ve been given the privilege and awesome responsibility of raising these incredible individuals. One day I will have to stand before Him and give an account for each choice that I’ve made as a mother. And I want my record to show that I chose love, patience, and kindness over strict rules.
When I drop my daughters off at college (probably in tears), I want to be confident that I’ve raised young women who love God, value and respect the lives of others in society, have confidence in themselves, know they are created for a purpose, and are adequately prepared to pursue that purpose and the life that God has for them. But I also want them to have joy in their lives, realizing that every day is a gift.
And maybe as I walk away, they’ll have tears too.
How are you handling the gift of children? Are they a blessing or a burden? Are you happy with your parenting style or are there changes you would like to implement?
Encourage yourself for the job you have done so far, this is NOT easy! It’s never too late to make changes, ask God to show you how you can make positive changes in the way you parent your children.
Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement.
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