It’s been awhile since I’ve written a more “from the heart” type post here on my site. I’ve been trying for the most part to write more posts that I think people will find helpful – “how-to’s” and things like that. However, one of the initial reasons for this site was for me to have a place to just share my thoughts, so that’s what’s happening in this post today.
I’ve been a mom for over eight years now. Not long at all in the grand scheme of things, but long enough that it feels a little hard sometimes to remember exactly what life was like before kids.
Becoming a mom has stretched me (figuratively but also quite literally, ha!) and shown me a strength that I didn’t know I had. But conversely, motherhood has also shown me weaknesses that I had naively thought I didn’t have.
Parenthood is a good teacher. You won’t become a parent and remain unchanged. You won’t become a parent and not be humbled. It’s part of the job description.
Although it would take a much longer blog post to share everything that parenting is teaching me, I wanted to share at least some of what I’ve been learning in these last eight years of parenting.
10 Lessons I’ve Learned After 8 Years of Parenting
1. I don’t have all the answers.
When I sat down to write this post, this was the first thing that came to mind. I don’t have all the answers. I mean let’s be honest, sometimes I don’t have any answers (and my kids aren’t even teens yet!)
There are plenty of times where I’ve said, out loud, “I don’t know what to do.” It’s a humbling place to be. But there you have it – welcome to parenting.
2. There is no one right way, formula, or parenting manual.
Speaking of not knowing what to do, don’t you wish there was a parenting manual that we could consult every time we feel lost? “Follow these 10 steps for perfect kids.”
However, as much as I’d like to just latch onto a formula, that’s not how it’s supposed to work. God didn’t make us as cookie cutter people and our kids aren’t that way either. It’s a whole lot harder parenting individual little people than I imagine it would be to parent little robots, but where would be the fun in that? Ha.
3. It’s okay to change your mind about certain aspects of parenting as you go.
As we grow, we’re going to change. In fact, if we never changed our minds about anything it would probably indicate a problem.
The oldest kids in a family often groan about how the parents have different rules or aren’t as strict with the younger ones, but sometimes the change in parenting is just a natural result of parents learning from their mistakes (we all make them!) and being willing to make changes.
I definitely parent differently now in several ways than I did just a few years ago and I’m sure that Pablo and I will continue to change and grow in different areas the longer that we’re parents.
4. Don’t underestimate the importance of gentleness.
The Bible talks about how a “gentle and quiet spirit” is of great worth to God and Jesus describes himself as “gentle and lowly in heart.”
Proverbs also reminds us that “a soft answer turns away wrath” and Romans tells us that “the goodness of God leads [us] to repentance.”
Harsh words to my kids have never done any good, no matter how my kids are behaving. In fact, they’re just a sure way of making the whole situation worse. As a Christian parent, showing gentleness is a way that I can point my kids to Christ, our perfect parent.
Ten years from now I’m not going to look back and say “I wish I hadn’t been so gentle with the kids.” However, I do know that I will look back and regret all the times that I have spoken harshly.
If you, like me, want to improve in this area, Triggers is a book that I’ve really appreciated that gives solid advice on “exchanging parents’ angry reactions for gentle Biblical responses.”
5. It’s not my job to point out every single thing my kids are doing wrong.
Hear me out on this one. I’m not saying that you should never correct your kids. Absolutely not. The Bible talks quite a lot about instructing our kids and bringing them up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
However . . . I think that it can be a big temptation as a parent to be super nit-picky. We want our kids to “turn out right” so we feel responsible to point out every single thing that’s not right.
But here’s the thing – they usually already know what they’re doing wrong and piling on with discouraging words isn’t going to do a bit of good. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t point out all of our issues all at once?
6. Worrying about what other people think is a colossal waste of time.
I’ll admit it, I can be such a people pleaser. I want people to think that I’m doing a good job. When my kids do especially well in a public setting, I’m tempted to feel pretty good about myself. “People must think I’m a great parent.”
When my kids are obviously struggling, I can feel horribly self-conscious and wonder if people are judging me. “Clearly she doesn’t discipline her kids.”
I remember worrying one time about a particular decision we’d made and saying to Pablo “I wonder what people will think”. He gently reminded me – “it doesn’t matter.” Whether it’s parenting, or life-style choices, or a bazillion other things, worrying about what other people think is a colossal waste of time.
7. I really like to be in control – but parenting is teaching me how much I am not.
The ultimate outcome of my parenting – how my kids “turn out” – is completely and totally out of my control, and that’s scary. But it’s also really really good, because that would be a crazy burden to bear!
And even in just day-to-day life I’m realizing more and more that I cannot truly control my kids. Sure, it’s my job to control them in certain ways – they are children after all – but I cannot control their little hearts. How I wish I could flip a switch some days and my kids would all have perfect attitudes, but that’s out of my control (but not out of God’s!)
8. Kids are people too.
That statement almost sounds silly because of course kids are people! But yet how many times do I treat my kids in ways that would completely exasperate me as an adult?
My children need to learn to respect me as their mom, but I also need to respect them as fellow people created in God’s image. I don’t know if I quite have all the words to articulate completely what I mean here, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a little more lately and maybe I’ll come back to flesh out this point once I’ve thought through it a bit more. 🙂
9. Comparison is always a bad idea.
Oh comparison – we’ve all done it. Not just in parenting, but parenting is definitely one area where it’s easy to do it without even thinking. But comparison is pointless and it always leads to me either feeling super prideful (and maybe a bit judgmental) because my kids are behaving better – or feeling like a failure because my kids are acting worse.
Additionally, we have to always keep in mind that every family, child, and circumstance is so different that there is never going to be a fair comparison. Comparison just isn’t helpful.
10. There are a million things to worry about as a parent – but I have a choice.
I never thought I was a worrier – and then I became a mom. And maybe it’s more a mom thing than a dad thing, because I can’t count how many nights I’ve been awake in bed, running through scenarios in my head while Pablo falls asleep in under a minute.
I recently read the book Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen and my biggest takeaway was that I have a choice. I do not have to let my anxious thoughts control me. I can choose to “take every thought captive” as the Bible says. I can choose to “cast all [my] care on Him” instead of worrying about all the what-ifs that come with raising kids.
In conclusion . . .
Time is weird. It moves slow many days, but the years go lightening fast.
I’m a little freaked out by the fact that my oldest is already eight. If those first eight years went that fast, I’m sure it’ll only speed up from here!
I’m trying to remind myself to savor these moments as a mom of “littles” because these days are short-lived and precious, even the hard ones.
And I’m writing down the things I’m learning so that maybe after the next eight years I can look back and compare notes – see where I’ve changed or grown and what else I’ve learned on this journey of parenting.