I'm excited to introduce our guest writer as an Australian clergy spouse and psychologist works towards caring for clergy families. This article is adapted from a talk she did recently which she has kindly shared. I hope you find it helpful and insightful.
"From the moment you announce the news – “We’re going to have a baby!” you have been the recipient of well-meaning advice. Opinion pieces thrust onto you, whether you have asked for it or not. Sometimes one would think that you were left marooned on some forsaken island where the basic skills of living and breathing were obsolete. From that island you emerged clueless, somehow had sex, and found yourself with an alien life force within you. With all the well-meaning advice coming at you, you start to believe that it’s true – you have not got the general, or specialist know-how of what to do with this child. Too late. You can’t undo the procreation. Now get ready for the train-wreck of parenting boo-boos and boo hoos that await you. Hopeful? Dismal! So I am not going to write like a sage. Instead, I am going to start with some things you do know.
- You love your child. No other parent was entrusted with your child. You are the right parent for your child. No matter what mistakes you think you make, your love for your child remains. Love is meant to feel warm and fuzzy AND painful and trying.
- You don’t always like your child. This is ok. Be honest – you don’t like the other parent all the time either. You don’t have to always like your child. They come with a personality and some odd ways of thinking. Sometimes they smell. Clashes are to be expected. You’ve dealt with this stuff before. Grumpy boss, annoying colleagues, *ahem* well-meaning relatives. It’s the same thing. Our parent-child relationship is one of many relationships we have, and have experience with.
- Most of the time you are winging it. Discipline tactics, answers to life’s difficult questions, whether or not they can have another tic tac. You’re making it up as you go along. So are the rest of us. Just as each child is unique, each parent is too, as is the season you may find your family in. While there are helpful resources around, none will fit your child and your family perfectly.
- You have expectations of yourself to be a “good” parent, and when you make “bad” decisions you feel guilt for the unrepairable “damage” this will lead to. Yet you can’t find the manual you were meant to study or the crystal ball you’re meant to consult. Parenting is one part skills, one part wisdom, one part knowledge, one part experience and whole lot of forgiveness. If we don’t experience mistakes and setbacks, both as parents and children, we never learn resilience.
Now for the magic formula you have been waiting for. You’d like to have the perfect equation that will give just the right balance of savvy parenting know-how and style. Afraid I don’t have it. However, I do say these things quite a lot to parents whom I come by:
- God is your child’s Father, not grandfather. It is probable that He is writing their life story through your relationship with them. So if you drop the ball, he’s already got it.
- Be authentic as a parent. You are allowed to express your personality as a parent. Perhaps you can’t stand craft, and you’re not really into kicking a ball. Perhaps you prefer to curl up with a hot chocolate and a book. Maybe you like long drives on rainy days. Some days you enjoy staying in your pyjamas. Whatever is your thing – enjoy it with your kids.
- Build bigger margins. If rushing out the door is hard – add a half hour margin to the schedule. Don’t sweat the small stuff – or the small kids. Plan only to do one major thing in a week (with very young kids) or one main activity in a day (with school age kids). Stay in the garage for an extra 15mins before walking in the door. Elongate your BK (before kids) schedule by at least 25%.
- Take mental holidays: Take a couple of hours in the week to switch off from the madness and let your mind take in some fresh air. Read a comic, browse some magazines, watch Bold and The Beautiful, better yet – have a nap.
- Be kind and gracious…..to yourself. Seek help and counsel when you feel lost. Be compassionate to yourself – it’s meant to be a marathon, not a race. You need to have cheerleaders and sweat wipers in the mix. We can’t do it alone. We certainly can’t do it if we keep criticising ourselves. It took 9 months to develop a baby, it will take 1080 to develop a soul."
To learn more about this writer visit her website.