Tuesday, February 7, 2017

It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent

If the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child" is true, then I'd like to take it a step further and say it takes a child to raise a parent.

When Dan and I decided it was time to start building a family, I don't think we were quite aware of what we had in store. (Is anyone ever?)

I envisioned a cooing baby, cuddly blankets, and fuzzy ducks. That vision dissolved about four days in to motherhood, when I realized parenting looked a lot more like sleepless nights, a sore body, and more extreme highs and lows than a Six Flags roller coaster.

To say parenting is the hardest thing I've ever done is an understatement. I've never had to be more on my game with less resources (sleep, patience, or elbow grease) for this length of time with this much focus on end results. I've never wanted to quit anything else in my life as often as I've wanted to quit parenting, and I've never questioned my strengths and weaknesses to this extent.

Parenting is a butt kicker!

In the midst of a butt kicking, a moment of clarity often sneaks up on me and I remember parenting is the single most noble responsibility I've ever had in my short/long life. Nothing else has refined me or defined me like parenting has. It is a painful blessing that constantly brings me to the end of myself and drives me into the arms of my Savior.

If I could talk to the pre-pregnancy Elizabeth of 2002, I would tell her to let go of the baby-coo-cuddly-blankie-fuzzy-duck fantasies and cling tightly to her faith, her husband, and her seat belt because parenting is about to up-end her life. I would tell her parenting is:

Digging deep into your reserves and finding a measure of happiness in the morning when you are NOT a morning person and hate being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6am. Positive parenting means dying to your flesh and not biting your kids' heads off even when they are cackling and over their breakfast smoothies and driving you crazy.

Walking your youngest to the bus stop every morning, stealing a quick kiss as the bus arrives, and reminding him to wipe his mouth. Patient parenting means giving the reminder Every. Single. Day! if necessary, and doing it without the exasperation you so badly want to express.

Building a fabulous tree house the kids never use because they dreamed about camping in the backyard but decided bugs aren't worth the overnight. Gracious parenting means not holding it over their heads and being willing to play in the tree house with them anyway.

Standing on the driveway and hearing your oldest cough as she walks to the bus, wondering if she's ready to return to school after a sick day. Confident parenting means trusting the ibuprofen and antibiotics to do their jobs.

Having coffee with the parent of your kid's friend so you can wrestle through worries about your kids' growth and find the balance between faith and fear. Faithful parenting means remembering God loved our babies before we ever could, knowing He has a plan for their lives that we may never see come to fruition (at least not in our lifetimes), and trusting in His plan more than our own dreams.

Trying to stay one half step ahead of the changing landscape in your child's world that includes new technology and ancient math techniques and spelling words and Pokemon characters and sports teams and wavering loyalty to best friends. Strategic parenting means discerning which obstacles in the changing landscape are worth an intervention and which ones are simple distractions that don't ultimately affect the end game.

Moving forward with an appointment you know is crucial for developing your teen's confidence and character, even though she begs you to not make her do this one thing. Steadfast parenting means getting out of the car amidst your child's protest, ringing the doorbell, and standing beside her while an expert teaches techniques to enhance her natural beauty.

Planning donut dates and getting up early with your kid on a Saturday morning, when you'd rather sleep late. Energetic parenting means sharing your newspaper ritual because your child just wants to be close to you and do the things you do.

Cracking jokes and starting tickle fights because SOMEONE needs to lighten the mood in the house. Joyful parenting means seeking out moments of whimsy because memories are made when we're laughing together and finding adventure wherever the wind blows us.

Saying yes, finally, to that dog she's been asking for since her preschool days. Generous parenting means granting wishes every now and then, and making the desires of your child's heart become reality (and it also means loving that dog as much as she loves him, too).

Calling a counselor when you see signs of the very same struggle you had at that very same age, realizing you aren't an expert and there's no shame in asking for professional help. Hopeful parenting means letting go of the guilt you heap on your own shoulders (wondering if you're to blame for your child's struggle) and hopeful parenting sees the wisdom God had in giving that kid to THIS parent because THIS parent is one of the few who would understand the struggle and could share the experience like no one else.

Being needed for the routines of life in a busy household: making the meals, folding the laundry, morning wakings and bedtime snuggles, signing the school papers, going to PTO/Scout/fundraiser meetings, volunteering, and remembering which yogurt is the favorite when you're standing in the grocery aisle (the one without chunks). Sacrificial parenting means the kids won't be able to return the favor and you may never see the investment pay dividends, but you do it anyway simply because it was done for you.

Taking joy in your child's triumphs and successes, but not taking the credit because you know you're only a stone's throw away from failure and hard life lessons. Wise parenting means praying for protection from pain while simultaneously asking God for a tiny, manageable bit of loss because you know loss is what grows your kids' maturity.

Looking like a complete fool when you're the only one wearing a superhero costume to the school's family fun night, or you plan a family picnic beside a stream that ends up being full of runoff from a nearby sewage treatment plant. Resilient parenting means laughing at yourself, saying "Oops," and - literally - going with the flow.

Nagging them to empty the dishwasher or clean their bedroom until their conscience takes over the task. Responsible parenting means working myself out of my job as I teach my kids to take care of themselves so one day they actually can.

Modeling surrender to God's call on your life so your kids will see how faith's whispers are somehow louder than fear's shouts. Submissive parenting means you're a family leader only because you first learned to be a follower of Jesus, knowing you can't lead well unless you've learned how to follow first.

Putting your hand on your heart and singing the National Anthem when no one else is doing it because you know it's the right thing to do and you want your kids to learn what duty and honor look like. Honorable parenting means showing respect to the people who lead us, those who have sacrificed for us, and pursuing liberty for people who can't fight for themselves.

Modeling vulnerability, admitting your mistakes, and asking forgiveness when you've caused pain to someone else. Humble parenting means apologizing (especially to your kids) when you've been less than your best.

Parenting is being intentional about setting yourself aside for the growth and well-being of another human being. It's the hardest job I've ever had, but I'm grateful for my two trainers named Katie and Jackson.

They are making me better at it every single day.

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