Monday, August 4, 2008

Adventures in childrearing

Have you ever met anyone who (it seemed to you) had perfect children? Or maybe their parenting choices were THE BEST, and everything you did with your children was inferior?

As mothers, we all experience "Mommy guilt" from time to time...whether or not it is legitimate. One of the earliest memories from the parenting journey is one of "my baby isn't measuring up" or "my baby isn't sleeping/smiling/rolling over/walking yet" and always the thought that comes after is "I must be doing something wrong."

Somewhere in our heads we all know that the above thought process is wrong. We KNOW that every family works differently. We KNOW that every child is different. WE KNOW THIS, but for some reason it doesn't "stick". We end up calling the doctor, our girlfriends or our mothers, hoping for some reassurance that the way we are handling things, or the way our child is responding is "normal" or at the very least, "okay."

After almost 15 years of the parenting journey, I still have to remind myself that my children are individuals, and even within our family there is a lot of diversity of personalities. I know that my oldest child is probably the easiest child any first-time mother could have asked for. I know that my 5th child is the one most like me, and as such drives me crazy every day. I know that my 4th child is the one most like his father, and because of that, he drives me crazy every day! I know lots of different things about each of my children. I know many of their likes and dislikes, and I know (for the most part) how each will respond in a given situation. In a word, I am an expert on my children. For now, I know them better than anyone else knows them. I know more details of their lives, and more of their personality.

Even so, I have my moments of second-guessing how my husband and I are raising them. I come in contact with someone else who is even slightly critical of how my child is responding at any given time, and my mind goes back down the "Mommy Guilt" path. In that moment, I forget....I forget that this other person is NOT the expert on my child. I forget the particularly hard day that child may have had already. I forget the progress we've made with that child in the last week/month/year. All I can see in that moment is the glaring imperfection in my child.

The thing is that I get really critical of my child in that moment. I forget that God gave that child to ME, knowing that *I* would become the expert on that child. I am still learning to trust God, that He gave my children the parents HE wanted them to have. The converse is also true. I am NOT an expert on anyone else's child. I can NOT judge their parenting skills by one exposure to that child. I must, in the same way, trust that God gave that particular child to that particular parent, and made them the experts on their children.

Maybe, if I keep reminding myself of those facts, one day I'll be able to extend grace to *THOSE* parents in the same way I hope they extend it to me.


Ruth said...

Amen, sister!

Bubba's Sis said...

I tend to be guilty of (silently) judging others on their parenting skills. I, too, need to remember that I am NOT an expert on their children! Altho sometimes I swear I could do a better job than some people.......but that's not what God intended! And besides, I'd have WAY too many kids I took on everyone else's!

Qtpies7 said...

I wish more people would realize they don't know what they are talking about for someone elses children. Just last night a friend of mine was told by a fellow church goer that because her daughter had dyed her hair black that she is rebellious and the mom should stop church activities now to take care of it.
Um, that mom had raised 3 adults and even that last child is older than any of the critical mom's children. She has no clue.
But it was rude, since they are not friends, and the mom didn't bring it up, the critical party did.
I don't tend to feel bad about my parenting, I get mad at the interference.