11 Observations in 11 Years of Parenting

erin-and-jackEleven years ago tomorrow, in a country far, far away, a baby just shy of seven pounds was born. This little baby was thrust into the arms of a 27-year-old girl, who although she had blissfully plowed through nine months of pregnancy, was unaware of all this parenting gig held. Day by day this young mom tried her best, sometimes getting things right, often making mistakes. Now eleven years have flown by and as she prepares to celebrate her son’s 11th birthday, she is more aware than ever how she has been changed, and is still being changed, through her role as mother. As she reflects back over these years, here are eleven observations* (in no particular order).

  1. The kid who potty trains first is not superior – nor is his mother. 

I pick potty training, only because it is one of the first milestones that mothers can easily get their identity wrapped up in. It could easily be sleeping through the night, walking, reading, etc.

It is a consistent balance in parenting to be involved but not hold too tightly to many of these areas, thinking that early achievement makes you or your child better.

For me, my first child started wearing underwear at 22 months. Whether he was potty trained at that age is a different question. This basically consisted of me reminding him to use the bathroom every hour – he wasn’t trained, instead I was trained to tell him. I trained each subsequent child later and later. The subsequent times consisted of a lot less of me and a lot more of them – which also correlated to a lot less stress and anxiety for all of us.

  1. Having quiet times with God won’t get easier in the next phase.

I spent too many of my early parenting years telling myself that I would start reading my Bible again when my kid was age x (fill in the bank). A good friend gently corrected me and told me there was never going to be an easy time. She was right.

  1. There is no formula for producing godly kids.

One of the greatest gifts I have received is having a friend, early on in parenting, who parented very differently than me (within a Christian worldview). I met her as a young self-righteous, “I know how to parent” mother of one. She had more kids than I did and was further along the parenting journey. It was such a blessing to see her children growing up to love the Lord. I am thankful that early on in my parenting journey I saw God uses many different types of parents and parenting styles to grow godly adults – a great reminder that parenting is a lot more about God and a lot less about me.

  1. Time away from your kids is good for a mother’s soul.

I use to be rather reluctant to leave my kids. Sometimes I convinced myself that good mothers didn’t need the help of a babysitter; sometimes I thought the money was better used elsewhere. Over the years, however, it is become clear to me that regular time away is refreshing and brings me back a more ready-to-go mom.

  1. Use the words “My kid will never . . .” cautiously.

Before I was a parent I thought my kids wouldn’t watch TV, eat McDonald’s, or be slipped a cookie to placate them while I was on the phone. They have done all of these things, more than once. We now have an unspoken rule in our family that we never say ‘never’ in parenting, especially when looking forward to a stage we haven’t been through yet. Parenting is a humbling/learn-as-you-go job, and these words almost assuredly set you up to eat humble pie.

  1. Television, used in the right way, can be a mother’s best friend.

Paired with observations #4 and #5, television is not all bad. Maybe it’s just I who is tempted towards this anti-television righteousness. A good television show has come to my aid more than once and allowed me to refocus, take a nap, or catch up with a friend on the phone – all which help me parent better in the long-run.

  1. Walking out of a packed room with a screaming kid while everyone stares at you is really good for you (and often your kid too).

Of course, it doesn’t feel good at the time, but often this situation results from a parent following through on a consequence (like, “If you keep hitting your brother I will need to discipline you.”). But oh, it’s hard to follow through when you think everyone is going to notice (and even stare!). This is such a good chance for us as parents to remind ourselves that we need to do what is right in the situation even if it is embarrassing. Our goal is not to look good but to move our kids towards Jesus. That often means following through and demonstrating the credibility of your word. If we want our kids to trust what we say about the gospel, best to show them early-on that our words are trustworthy.

  1. Saying sorry to your kids is really hard.
  2. Saying sorry to your kids is so good for you.

Back to the humility. All close relationships, due to their intimacy, bring moments where we act selfishly and in ways that we’re not proud. Parenting is no different; yet it sometimes feels harder to apologize because we are the authority figure, the more mature one, the one with things figured out. It is hard, but it is such a great way to model to our kids and ourselves that forgiveness is part of living the gospel out. It is such a great way to orient us all towards Jesus.

  1. Sometimes ice cream for dinner is a good decision.

There will be days, and even seasons, where survival is the goal and you just need to give yourself a big dose of grace. I want to take my role as a mother very seriously, but also balance that with the truth that I am not ultimately defined by my children. And let’s be honest, enjoying your kids and doing something unlikely, like ice cream for dinner, is just darn fun and great for making quirky memories for our kids to look back on.

  1. The days are long but the years are short.

The long days of longing for the door to open at night to be rescued by the help of my husband’s hands are not long in the past. They were relentless and fast. Where have eleven years gone?! May I keep the end goal of moving my kids towards Jesus near as I plow on in the next eleven years of parenting.

*The word observation has been chosen intentionally as this mother still feels very much in the learning stage. Knowing her role as a mother is not near over, she has made observations but knows she is not done learning, has not arrived, will never arrive, and claims mastery over none of it.

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