At MOPS the other day they had a speaker Sue Eikenberry, on parenting. She taught me very much and I want to share it with you. It is about parenting, but some of it can be true about any relationship.
Relax! The first thing she told us was to relax. There are so many things that happen to parents. They get asked all sorts of questions – “Are you breast feeding?” “Is he circumcised?” “Are you sending him to private school?” The problem with all of this is that each generation has a different idea about child rearing. The “right” thing for parents to do in the fifties is not the “right” thing that parenting gurus require in the new millennium. Sometimes grandparents see the “new” thing and it’s not the same thing that they did or Dr. Spock recommended and they see it as wrong. I have a great blessing as my mother in law is really supportive of the choices we made. She’d sit right next to me while I nursed the baby, always commenting on how happy and in place the baby was. She loved it. But, as you know, most mothers and mother-in-laws don’t. However, it’s important for parents (and grandparents) to realize their way is not “better” it’s just “different”. The baby will probably thrive either way.
Judgment. Sue pointed out that the questions you ask parents are usually a judgment. “Is he sleeping through the night?” “Are you breastfeeding?” “Are you bottle feeding?” “You breastfed for how long”. Older children incite other questions, “Do you let her wear make-up to school?” “Is he allowed to date?” or my personal favorite, “Are they walking with the Lord?” Usually, according to the asker, there are right and wrong answers. You aren’t allowed to study for their test. There is always going to be a person who sees us as a failure. Frequently, under their standard’s they’re right. But lucky for you, they are frequently folks whom you don’t care about their standards and opinions anyway. The person most “helpful” to me was filled with advice. Her cognitively typical daughter would sit in the youth center at church sucking her thumb. She was fifteen years old.
Value. For moms, babies and children are a measure of their value. The same is true of spouses and even parents. If the baby is happy, the momma is doing a good job. This is not true. Even children as young as five are able to entertain themselves. It is very difficult to accept this, but it is not possible to make someone else happy all the time, even our children or our spouse. There are too many things going on in the world for one person to be responsible for others’ feelings, especially a whole household full of people. My advice: Don’t try to do it. Sure there are times that it’s appropriate, Christmas – with all the beautiful decorations, cookies and gifts, but it’s not appropriate always. Teaching a child to manage their emotions is more important, though, than always expecting them and helping them to be happy.
Promises. What have you promised myself I would never be? I would respect confidentiality. I would not make fun of them. I would not lay on the guilt. The problem with this is it’s judgment, and it’s not honoring of your parents. If your parents were truly abusive, this counts too. Of course you plan not to emulate them, but it is time to forgive them. These vows are a sign of un-forgiveness. Of course you don’t want to repeat their mistakes, but let’s put them on the shelf and let them go. We will be more free to love our children more freely. If this is too difficult to do right now, you might want to consider counseling. If that’s not something you can do, it might take more time than you have now to deal with this. You may find yourself unable to forgive just yet, even though you’re praying, reading volumes upon volumes of forgiveness literature, and you just can’t do it. It may be that God is working on other parts of you right now and doesn’t want to overwhelm you with all these changes.
That’s all for now. I hope this part of your journey is blessed and enjoyable. But not necessarily always happy.