Brady is here so again I’m put in such close proximity to my weaknesses that I know their pore size but rather than going down my typical shame spiral of frustration and trying to will my weaknesses away by force, I’m going to try and put into words the thoughts on parenting that God gave me. . . while taking a bath today.
So, turns out I parent toward the traits I value most. This doesn’t exactly sound profound until I started digging into the root of WHY I value the things I do- and the thoughts that resulted from the digging.
I’m going to preface this- I’m not asking for advice on step parenting or behavioral age appropriateness- I’m writing this from my eyes with the hope that you can take a gaze at your own parenting inclinations so that we can ALL grow as parents in the new year.
A couple of my biggest frustrations with Brady are his volume and hyperactivity. Sadly, these things have always grated on me but seem to have gotten worse now that my toddler watches him so lovingly. (Which I do adore and cherish their bond.) But during Christmas break it’s been made very clear that I value Bankston exercising self-control. I want him to be a child who can control his actions and volume and one who is capable of entertaining himself.
Another interesting thing I’ve trended enough to develop a hypothesis about, is that I get more frustrated with Kyle while Brady is here. What’s interesting is that my frustration with him is typically a result of a perceived lack of control. For instance, I get frustrated that Kyle is incapable of parenting with his ears. Do you know what I mean by that? The ability to be doing dishes in the kitchen when you hear a noise from your toddler in the living room and you’re able to say “put that down sweetheart, the shoe rack isn’t a toy.” Even though you can’t physically see him, you know the noise of his foot falls when he’s near the front door and combine that with the scraping of metal on the ground and voila! You may not ear-parent to this level of specificity (I am a 5 on the enneagram) but you get me right? Now. . . not to sexually generalize but does anyone else notice that their husbands can literally block out the entire world while a game is on? Or while on their phone? The smoke alarm could go off and they don’t flinch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking them because if I’m completely honest. . . I’m envious. My brain is so constantly in hyperdrive that I’m now apparently a bath-time parenting philosopher. I was trying to relax by taking a bath and this happened instead. Ugh… but back to what I was saying is that I recognize I get frustrated with Kyle when he is in charge of the boys and they become loud, or Banks is getting mad or out of control and Kyle isn’t stepping in.
But why? Why is self-control of so much value to me when it comes to parenting?
This is where it gets a little hairy. First off, I’m blessed because these are things that whether by nature or nurture, Banks is pretty good at for an 18 month old. He plays well by himself and seems to enjoy the structure of a controlled schedule almost as much as his Mom does but emotional outbursts are expected from toddlers. And this is where it gets revealing because even when my innocent, curious, still learning-the-world toddler is expressing that his emotions are out of control. . . my spirit shifts.
My internal and external environments become more chaotic. I lose my sense of control and as as result, I lose peace.
So, when Brady is, for no reason, sliding around on the floor or can’t hold still at the dinner table, or when both boys are playing loudly and Banks just yelled in frustration, and worst of all, when I see Kyle not having a problem with any of the above. . . I have to physically remove myself in order to deep-breathe my desire to control the situation away. I escape so I can try to restore my peace. (You can kinda see why the ‘ol addiction issue made root in my life.)
But what is really going on here? Do I truly value the trait of self-control in my children or is it actually that I desire to control my children because I’m more at peace in quiet, controlled settings?
Brutal huh? To add some meat to this theory, even when Kyle is fully present with our boys- no phone, no tv etc., the things that grate on me the most don’t seem to phase him at all. True, Kyle can be kind of LOUD on his own by nature, which is a little ironic and hilarious to me, and Kyle is definitely not someone who sits in the bath-tub theorizing what motivates his parenting style. If I’m completely honest, Kyle is my polar opposite and for good reason! This is why we succeed. But- there’s a chance that at the heart of it, what Kyle values most for our children is completely different than what I do.
Again, this may seem like, “Duh” but stay with me. Maybe Kyle values curiosity, independence, and work ethic over self-control. Which makes sense considering these are the pillars of his child and early adulthood. He didn’t have siblings, structure, or discipline growing up so he learned by being abruptly corrected by authority figures after acting out something he deemed as appropriate to do, by his own understanding. First he was corrected by teachers and then after continued rebellion, by police and as a result he worked himself to success. Thank you Jesus for being the final authority that got his attention but its safe to say Kyle’s early lifestyle could be described as “independent trial and error” if that’s a thing. Kyle was raised with the “freedom” (or lack of boundaries) that allowed him to mess up. For me, as the youngest of four- what my Dad did not “correct” out of anger or fear, my siblings did socially. . . or physically. 😉
What I’m saying is that if I parented on my own, refusing any help or anyone else’s influence, my children may be the most well-behaved, quiet, self-controlled, self-entertaining children in the world. . . who lack the courage necessary to ever leave the nest or make independent decisions. Or if Kyle and I separately, self-righteously said “I’m right you’re wrong” and decide to butt heads while asserting our personal parenting agendas over our children, they could end up so fractured and divided they wouldn’t form an identity at all.
What ALLLLL of this thought brings me to is how badly I need to re-approach my parenting to ensure that my scars don’t become my parental soap-box.
That my desire for a controlled environment (because that’s where I feel peace) doesn’t selfishly limit the development of my children. And further, this all asserts that if we isolate (if I healthily could, I would) or parent with such strong convictions we’re unable to humble ourselves and try or accept something new. . . we will surely raise lop-sided, short-changed children. Partial versions of their potential. What’s REALLY ugly about this is that there’s a chance I’m parenting toward self-control because this is the trait I’m silently judging other mom’s for. Ugh, that’s hard to write and an entire other post on it’s own.
In conclusion, (finally) to some this could be as simple as another “it takes a village” message- that in the new year you’ll try to begin observing what appear to be the most important traits you and your friends parent toward. Maybe you outright ask people what traits they see themselves discipling toward most often and sit back, learn, and share. For some others, this might mean it’s time to turn the gaze to your marriage. To give your spouse more freedom and grace when it comes to the fact that their parenting seems to defy all logic to you.
For me, it’s a bit of both but with a greater focus on something even bigger. I need to be parenting from my intimacy with the Lord.
It is only in His word and by His hand that we’ll find the traits and tools that supernaturally equip us to parent. It’s in our time with Him that we’re given a perspective that hasn’t been marred by sin or history. He is the ultimate parent. His steps for well-rounded child development stand apart from our selfishness, personal slants, and past hurts.
It’s only under His arm that I can step out of my desire for control and step into His abundance.
Now, by no means do I expect this to happen speedily but if nothing else comes from this bathtub-turned-naptime pondering, I will hold myself to seeking His face, His image, His love, and His design rather than my hormonal, temperamental, easily-loosened grasp of peace. He’s been right about everything else so far hasn’t He?
So here’s to 2018. Parenting by way of village, “marriage-first” mindfulness, integrity, grace, and close intimacy with our Creator.
Also… I just asked Kyle what trait he values above all else as far as instilling it in our children and his response was. . . “Humility.” I love this man and that answer so, so much- but it looks like I’m back to the drawing board. 😉 j/k I need a nap.