Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Model for Parenting

When I had my first child in my early twenties, I had no idea how my life would change.  In an instant, I said farewell to my old way of viewing the world and was left with a whole new perspective on life.  My life mattered in a way it had never mattered before and I wanted to make the most of this opportunity to be a parent.

I studied marriage and family relationships in college; particularly relationships between parent and child.  I worked with children whose parents had harmed them in every way imaginable.  It was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  I gained a greater appreciation for my upbringing, and a great sense of sympathy for those who suffer from broken family relationships.  In one of my classes, we had to write a book entitled "How to be a Good Parent"--based on our research that semester.  WOW...did I think I had all the answers! That professor was cruel!

When I need a good laugh, I read that book!

I had no idea how to be a good parent then and after almost 11 years, I still don't!  But what I do know is that I have learned more about myself and about life because I am a parent.  I am so grateful to be a mom.

My kids are children of God.  Yes, I gave birth to them, feed them, teach them, clothe them, make them do chores and practice their instruments and all the other crumby things parents have to do.  But at the end of the day, these children aren't all mine. When I see them as God's children, I see their greatness.  Their worth as individuals is greater than I can ever know or understand.  Their individuality and personality is present as a newborn. God knows them--inside and out.  When I don't understand them or don't have the ability to know how to handle a situation with one of them, God does.  And through prayer, I ask for help.  I know He gives me the ability to nurture them in the way He would, when I humble myself to understand.  When I acknowledge that I NEED help. 

Just today my daughter was crying over everything.  She clearly didn't feel well, but she was also overwhelmed by life.  She didn't want to do anything; her homework, practice her piano or violin, read, make her bed, pick up her backpack off the floor, get her pajamas on, brush her teeth, go to bed...anything I asked her to do resulted in tears.  I remained calm and did not react to any of the "noise" that she made after any request...."I hate school"..."I hate brushing my teeth"..."I hate waking up early in the morning". She finally broke down and sobbed.  She cried, "I just had a hard day and don't want to do anything!" 

As I was hugging her, letting her cry into my stomach, I had a thought come to me with great clarity.  Maybe it is common knowledge to most people, but I believe it came in the moment I needed it after praying to know how to help her.  It was this: when we want to quit life and everything seems hard, does God let us?  Does He take away everything challenging in our lives?  Does He give us a few days off when it gets too much?  Does He do hard things for us?  No, no, no and no.  But, He will be there for us, helping every step of the way if we let Him.  I knew I needed to follow that perfect pattern and do the same.  I left the unpacking, laundry and cleaning I was doing and spent the rest of the evening doing everything with her.

By bedtime, she was herself.

As I said goodnight, I shared with her the thoughts that came to me earlier.  She understood and fell asleep a happy, peaceful, very tired girl. 

My children know they are God's children.  They will find strength in knowing that as they live their lives.  When they struggle, and they will struggle, they will know what source to turn to when they need help--big or small.  When I struggle as a parent, I know what source to look to for help.  I know who my Father is and I believe that He helps me and gives me strength, patience, understanding and abilities beyond my own. When in doubt, I will look to Him and follow His way of parenting.  He doesn't coerce, He isn't critical, He isn't manipulative or controlling, He doesn't belittle, He isn't uninvolved, He isn't permissive, and He never removes His outstretched hand toward His children.

Because I am a Mormon, I believe there is a perfect example of a good parent. 

He is Father to us all.