Sunday, April 02, 2017

ABC--Things I've Learned As a Parent, Post 1

As we have for the past few years, two of my daughters and I plan to take turns posting in April. A few changes from previous years:
--The name: ABC (April Blogging Challenge) instead of MOP (Month of Posting) which was just a bit too soggy for some of us waterlogged folks.
--The frequency: one of us will try to post every day and not just Monday-Friday.

Emily posts at The Girl in the Red Rubber Boots. Jenny is at Here Shall the Wild-Bird Sing.

I don't know what the girls plan to write about, but I have three potential topics:
--Reviews of books by siblings of friends.
--The result of my research on the long-promised You Talk I Listen interviews.
--Parenting advice. No, wait. Not parenting advice. Things I've learned as a parent.
Comment or email [] if you really want me to write about a particular topic.

For my first post, I chose Something I’ve Learned As a Parent:

You’re not going to do everything right.

We lived in low-income family-oriented housing during the first two years of our marriage and my first pregnancy, which gave me lots of opportunity to watch other moms and children at close range.

I don’t know that low-income moms are any more or less nasty than high-income moms, but these women were appalling. Right outside our back door was a small play area, and the stressed and angry moms would march over to the fence and scream at their children to get over here right now, followed by threats and name-calling and cussing.

I overheard two moms talking one day about what they threaten to do to get the kids to obey. One laughed and said, “I tell them I’ll poke their eyes out.”

Horrified, I went home and wrote this in my journal, that special pretty hard-bound book where I recorded all my many feelings and wrote poetry about morning sickness. 

Song Of The Sick And Cynical Pregnant Lady
September 16, 1985

A radiant maternal glow
A nicely rounded tummy
A closetful of spacious tops
A craving for foods yummy.

Idealistic pregnancy!
It sounded like such fun
while trying hard to sprout a new
young heir for me and Hon.

Alas! I have no lovely glow.
Instead I'm weak and pale.
I clutch my stomach all day long
And feel it churn and flail.

I crave no foods. I wish I did--
(particularly prunes).
I fear my man will have to cook
for many future moons.

And as to needing roomy tops
My “nicely rounded tummy”
Is quite concave. I’ve lost six pounds
Since I’ve been feeling crummy.

So things are rather different than
I thought they'd be. And maybe
I'm in for more surprises yet
Before I have this baby.

I was full of love and promises, and I was not going to be like the apartment moms.

I was going to do it right, because I loved this child.

Even at church, I saw mothering I wasn’t going to repeat, such as when a friend of mine corrected her 3-year-old by saying, “Mandy, you’re a bad girl!”

Oh my! I had read that you shouldn’t ever tell a child they’re bad! I wasn't going to do that, for sure.


What I didn’t know then is that we parent not only out of our love and ideals but also out of who we are and what is going on around us.

We parent out of, and in the middle of, insecurities, financial stress, sickness, pressure from other people, unresolved shame, addictions, stress from life events, hunger for approval, weird motivations, lack of resources, and needs in your child that you have no clue how to meet.

I didn’t know that one day I would have four children in a little house and I would finally get the baby to sleep and three-year-old Emily would stand in the hallway and screech at top decibel and wake up the baby and I would snap in utter frustration and say, “EMILY!!! WHY ARE YOU SO BAD??!!”

Then I felt terrible.

And that was far from the worst thing I did as a mom.

So, I found out, as you will also, that despite all of our love and ideals, we are human and we will do a lot of things wrong, and that is how it is.

Having said that...

You don't have to drown in despair, discouragement, and fear. There is a path through and onward.

I still stumble on that path. Sometimes I lie awake at night re-hashing the excessive punishment, the misinformed decisions, the hot anger, or the unrealistic expectations. Unhealthy as this cogitating may be, at least it's a lot better than it used to be, and it is far better than pretending and insisting that I did everything right.

So here’s my how-to for mitigating the damage and moving on, which is remarkably similar to how you learn and grow in any relationship.

1. Honestly admit what you did wrong.
2. Apologize.
3. Recognize that your past behavior might affect your child on an ongoing basis. They might need to discuss it on an ongoing basis as well. Have the humility to allow this, assuming they aren’t using it to guilt or manipulate or blame you.
4. Realize that you did what you did because of who you were and what was in your heart. So focus on growing into a better, wiser person, rather than just changing your parenting methods, your child, or your situation, but:
5. Do change your parenting methods that aren’t working. Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over, hoping one of these times you’ll have different results.
6. Ask for and accept God’s and your child’s grace and forgiveness.
7. Recognize that in God’s sovereignty, your errors can be redeemed.
8. Get help. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to get advice from mentors about dealing with your children or counseling from professionals for the issues from your own childhood that get reborn in crazy ways when you have children.

And remember: “…Love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 NIV

It's amazing what children will forgive and even laugh about later if they know that you loved them.


  1. This is filled with grace and very nice!

  2. "Sometimes I lie awake at night..." How well I know that story! Thanks for sharing this. I find it to be similar to my story!

  3. This is so encouraging and helpful. I am slowly realizing the truth of "So focus on growing into a better, wiser person, rather than just changing your parenting methods, your child, or your situation" and can't believe I didn't realize this earlier. Thanks for advice that resonates with me.

  4. Thanks for the encouragement, everybody.