I’ve never really cared what other people thought about me.
Granted, I’ve cared what I thought about me too much at times, but never been overly concerned what you thought. My parents instilled a deep security and love as a child, and I’m doing my best to pass this along to my daughters.
The truth is… though I fail a lot, I try to fall forward. It’s hard to do that when I feel embarrassed. I think embarrassment might be the greatest enemy facing a parent today.
“What will SHE think if she finds out I yelled at my kids before school?”
“What will HE think if I can’t afford the gifts he buys his kids?”
“What will THEY think at the grocery store if I say my child can’t have candy and they hold their breath until they pass out??”
First of all, a child who can actually do that could change the world someday if you can get the selfish out of them. I was stubborn but not that stubborn. That or what’s more likely is my dad would have looked at my prone body on the floor through lidded eyes, picked me up to stow me in the shopping cart, and taken me home so I could think about my life choices.
Dad was funny that way. He figured if you needed attention you could ask for it like everyone else, or come over and hang out (which he was totally available for), but if you resorted to terrorism or taking hostage a piece of carpet to have a fit on, he would just walk around you nonplussed and go about his day.
We just started a Parenting Small Group at our home because we’re amazing parents (cough cough) and want to fix the kids of everyone who comes. Haha. Actually I’m way too sarcastic about this sort of thing, but sarcasm is the only way I can laugh at my own mistakes.
My folks taught me that if you take yourself too seriously as a parent your kids almost certainly won’t. My parents were made out of stock that’s less common than it should be in that they’re just honest. Image isn’t their currency and never has been. If you can’t admit or laugh at your parenting blunders you’re likely spending more time trying to appear like a good dad than BE one.
So we laid out the ground rules for our group: No trying to fix someone else’s kids! It’s like hiding your peas under your highchair and telling your brother to eat his. By that I mean it’s waaaay too easy to be a parenting consultant than be a parent. (This is why single people think they’re amazing parents especially when they have no kids).
My dad was a pastor and I had an amazing amount of exposure to different parenting techniques. I have watched so many families make certain types of decisions, and it can be quite predictable.
Dad A figures he’s the lord of the house and it’s his God-given right to be obeyed no matter his track record because of a verse he read in the bible he’s trying to apply to everyone but himself.
His kids won’t ask questions when they’re struggling with something because dad doesn’t value asking questions, only giving lectures. Ergo his kids get into stuff they shouldn’t and go underground with everything.
Mom B is trying to be her kid’s best friend when they’re a teenager because she’s never personally overcome her own abandonment issues or the fear that her child might not like her. This is creepy and any young man who marries this mom’s daughter will also marry mom. Also, fear is like a self fulfilling prophecy.
There are thousands of other predictable scenarios, but there was one recurring pattern that emerged which I desired to model our family after:
Great parents ask great questions. Bad parents are too embarrassed to.
Great parents read books and have mentors, great parents admit wrong and have a laugh. Great parents learn from their mistakes.
And great parents raise their kids in great communities.
I think the most alarming pattern I ever experienced was how religious parents forgot that our kids don’t live with Sunday morning me, they live with Monday morning me. Sundays and Mondays need to be the same. Imagine a parent living right in the middle of a terrific community, but letting it surge around them like a rock in the stream without taking them anywhere?
Life is movement and life is hard. The last thing I want is to isolate our family in a little image bubble and hope for the best. I need YOU. I need the other parents in my group and in my church and in my city. I need their teachers to help mold them into the best they can be. If I only allow my own influence I’ll only pass along my own weaknesses, but sadly they’ll be magnified in my girls. That’s something I can’t live with.
So I’m in the parenting group we’re leading, but I’m there to learn so I’m doing the same homework about values this week everyone else is.
It beats hoping for the best and finding out when they’re teenagers you could have used the help you refused because it was too, what’s the word…