Monday, February 1, 2016

Ten of the Stupidest Thoughts on Christian Parenting

Everyone wants to be a good parent. But I think, as Christian parents there's a feeling that we have to be a good parent. We have to have these perfectly behaved little cherubs that will spout Bible verses from birth. When it seems like Christianity is portrayed in the media as either Westboro Baptist Church or The Duggars, sometimes I feel like I have to over-compensate for the bad reputation that the "Christian Family" can acquire.  

Sometimes, though, I think we just get an unrealistic expectation of what parenting looks like - Christian home or not. Of course, we're all perfect parents before we actually have kids, and we postulate about how we'll tend to our young long before we even have them. Our kids will never misbehave in the middle of the grocery store; they'll never hit or argue with each other. Why, they have JESUS inside them! What we soon realize is that, much like ourselves, although we certainly have Jesus - we certainly have ourselves to deal with also. Below is just a list of assumptions that I made, and I don't think I'm alone.

1. Once we ask God for a kid, it's a done deal.

Hubster and I got married later in life. At 29, we really wanted to have children and start a family right away. Of course, like any naïve new parent, we assumed that since we were having sex without birth control that it would just be a matter of time before we were popping out some babies.

It was a matter of time. A LOT of time. And a LOT of prayer. And a LOT of tests and ultrasounds. And a LOT of waiting... While some couples we knew were unexpectedly pregnant (and complaining about it) we were over here dying to have a child.

2. That God will send us His "Best and Brightest"

Our kids will never disobey or misbehave. They'll breeze by every developmental milestone a year early, and won't have any difficulty because I'm going to get to stay home with them, and they'll be the smartest kids in the whole world...

Oh, stop laughing... You thought it, too... Fast forward to when my oldest didn't walk
until almost 18mos. I've been worried if he's behind on his verbal skills. (He's not; I'm just a worrier.) He's a sensitive child who gets overwhelmed and overstimulated easily and we're teaching him ways to deal with that. It was a shock to the system when I realized my child really isn't perfect. Then, I had a second. Turns out, he's a nut job, too!

I've been "that mom" in Wal-Mart more than once with the screaming kids, and I won't stop shopping because we're almost done with the list, and I refuse to just leave and have to do this over again another day. We've all been there, and if you haven't, get a helmet. Because it's going to happen to you some day.

Honestly, what I think I realized is that children don't have fits only because their home life is unhappy. Sometimes, kids are kids. Even Christian kids... are kids.  

3. That we'll instinctively know what to do at all times.

Now, I am the first one who will admit to leaning on the voice of the Holy Spirit on an hourly basis to parent my kids. Seriously. It was all the Holy Spirit that has told me why the baby was crying more than once, because I was honestly just sobbing and exhausted and empty. That still small voice is there more than once per day for comfort, for guidance, or to just keep me from leaving the children at the fire station so I could take a nap in peace.

But in all honesty, without that, there are a million decisions that come up a day that I don't have an answer for. At the beginning, it's rough. I have now had two babies that are what the "experts" now refer to as "High needs" children. They have to be held at all times, nursed constantly. They rarely slept in the first 5-6 months, but when they're awake all they seem to do is cry. I had to learn the hard way that while parenting is instinctual, it's also a fast trip to the nut house.  

4. That because we're Christians, we'll automatically be good parents.

And that's when you realize: being a Christian doesn't make you a good parent any more than being a Christian makes you a good person. I've known more than once really terrible person that claimed to be a Christian. I've also known (and as a former social worker I helped them go there) a few Christians that are sitting in jail due to their parenting "skills."

Parents get into bad habits with their kids at any age in life. I had to learn the hard way about how to deal with a picky eater with a very strong will. I was doing what I thought was the best way to go about things, until I learned I was doing it exactly wrong. It took months to get Jminator back on track - for no fault of his own, poor guy.  

5. Childbirth will be a breeze.

Not sure why I thought this... but man I was freaking stupid. I can tell you God had a hand in all of it, but Jminator's head actually came out sideways. Two layers of stitching later, I was still of the mindset that everyone was expecting me to recover quickly - I thought due to the fact that I was just a "super Christian" and was just that kind of stud. In reality, it took months for me to feel normal again. I would push and push and push because I thought I had to, and it just made it worse. The second time, labor was harder and I had back labor pretty bad, but recovery was much easier. Not only did I escape relatively unscathed, but I had the sense to sit on my butt and let other people do things. You'd never believe how much easier it is to recover that way...

6. I'll never suffer from post partum depression

This is something that just angers me beyond comprehension about the Church in general. There's an automatic assumption that if you're dealing with any kind of mental illness, that you "just need to get in that word and tell the devil what's what." In many cases, the woman reaches out to her church first, thinking that same thing and if someone would just pray with her that it would subside. I'm going to say this as clearly as I can:

 HAVING DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, OR OTHER MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT A REFLECTION ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

 Just because you are suffering from post-partum depression, doesn't mean you are ungrateful for having a baby.

Did you see that? I'd be happy to say it again. Suffering from post-partum depression doesn't mean you're ungrateful for having a baby. It's indicative that you just had a child. Your hormones have gone from 9000rpm to 10. It happens. Tell your doctor. Tell your spouse (hint: your spouse probably knows something's up) Tell a trusted friend. And keep telling someone until you get the help you deserve.  

7. God has already freed me from my past. None of those issues will come up again.  

I don't know that I thought this ahead of time, but I was certainly surprised when issues that I had come to peace with came up again. I had forgiven my mom a million times for some of the stuff that she pulled when I was younger. She was young, she was stupid I kept telling myself. She did what she thought was best; she didn't know any better. Was the mantra I'd repeat over and over. Mom's battle with mental illness hit an all-new level when she was pregnant, and I knew, at least cerebrally, that it made her make questionable choices.

Problem was, as it turns out, she made a lot of stupid decisions also. It was hard. Hard to understand that I'll never understand what she was thinking. I got to make decisions at 32, with a college education (in psychology, no less) a stable job, and last but not least A HUSBAND. None of which she had at the time.

To be honest, I'm still learning this lesson. I'll remember something from my past where she didn't save any of my artwork, or want to do certain things (you can read more about that here) and then I look at my own kids. I can't imagine making those same choices, and I get angry. Angry at my mom all over again. Angry that no one stopped it. Then I pause and realize that I can only take those regrets that she had and learn.

 8. My spouse will know _____ because God will tell him.
Remember when you got married? Remember when you thought, "I'll be a great wife and my husband will be a great husband because we're both Christian and that's what we do."

Remember how wrong you were? Yeah, turns out, in order to have a great marriage, you have to do crazy things like communicate, be completely unselfish, and pray like you never have before. Enter Parenthood: aaaannnnddd it's worse. Because no you have to do all of those things all over again - for someone else. And it will kill you that he parents completely differently than you do. It took me forever to realize that and turn loose. I just had to remember that at the end of the day, my husband wants to be as good of a daddy as I want to be a good mommy. Unless something is a serious safety concern, I need to just let him love on the babies. When I let him do his thing, oh I fell in love with him like never before.

 9. Most Christians parent basically the same way.

 Wow, could I have ever been more mistaken??!!! There are a million ways to parent and still be a Christian parent. I'm not sure why I thought it would be different. I guess I was assuming that the Bible was so specific on how to raise children that we'd all be basically the same. Turns out, the Bible really isn't that specific. It tells us to teach of the goodness of God, His love, His instructions for us, His faithfulness. It really doesn't mention what kind of diaper rash cream to use, what kind of formula to use, or how much screen time is good for a five-year-old. It leaves a ton of latitude for the parents to teach and raise children, and that looks as dynamic as the family itself.

10. I have Jesus and my spouse; I can do this alone.  

NO. No, you can't. Listen, I am the most introverted person I know. I love people. I just don't like most of them. Moms can be scary. Lets admit it: our first instinct isn't to love and unconditionally support each other. Online, many women love and seek out drama. It can be hard to find support that is really what you need; but you need to find it. A Bible study, a MOPS group, a Sunday School class. Anywhere that has Moms and support. And coffee. Coffee is always awesome.

 

 

 

 

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