My first thought was to list all the things I wish I hadn’t done as a parent. But those things are the same ones you see on every list… I wish I’d worried less about having a clean house and spent more time having fun with my kids, I wish I hadn’t yelled and screamed about stupid, trivial things, I wish…
Yeah, well, that’s depressing and futile to consider at this point, so I’m going to look at the bright side. My husband would tell you that was out of character for me, but I’m pretty darn proud of the way our oldest child has turned out!
I certainly can’t take the credit. God gets the glory. Anything I did right is because He directed my parenting steps as I cried out to Him for help! And that, dear readers, underlies all of the following tips and tricks, because every child and every parent is different, and only God has the right answers.
1. We flooded her with the Word.
We played scripture tapes, bought Christian videos, watched Christian programming, read the Bible, and prayed with her from the time she was just a toddler (we didn’t get saved until she was almost a year old.) We didn’t limit her intake of the Word, or church, or of the Bible to things we thought she could understand. We just trusted that the Word would do her spirit good whether she “got it” or not. We found out later she understood a lot more than we expected!
The biggest benefit? When she was old enough to be exposed to other things, she recognized the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, truth and lie, more rapidly than we did. Like the bank employees who are trained to recognize the counterfeit by examining the real thing.
On that note, a number of people have questioned our willingness to let her get married so young. All I can say is that we’ve invested the last 18 years into teaching her how to hear from God for herself, how to be led by His spirit in all her ways, and He has proven Himself faithful to speak to her on any number of issues. At this point, if we can’t trust God to talk to her about something as critical about her marriage, we’re all pretty much up the creek without the proverbial paddle!
2. Backwards diapers won’t hurt them.
I was blessed to have a husband who was willing to change diapers and take care of her from the time we got home from the hospital. But sometimes it was a struggle for me to let him do it. Especially when I would come home and the house would be a disaster and her diaper would be on backwards, or she’d tell me about their “adventures” riding dirt bikes or spelunking using the light from his cell phone. It was tempting to pull her in and turn her into “mommy’s girl,” but she needed that time with her father, and the balance he supplied her with. When she hit the hormonal tween years, it was her daddy who stepped in and counseled and comforted and corrected her most of the time, and because she’d spent so much time with him, she received his guidance. I encourage every mother to find trustworthy men, if dad isn’t around, to help you raise your girls.
3. We encouraged her to find her own “voice” instead of being an “echo.”
Granted, sometimes she sounds just like me. And I usually cringe (that’s those mistakes we make that come back to haunt us). But when it comes to her personal likes and dislikes, and the decisions she makes, she’s her own person. She doesn’t have to copycat anyone else because she’s confident in who she is. I made it a point to choose my battles very carefully. In Dr. Dobson’s words, “Is this a hill you want to die on as a parent?” Things like hairstyles, ear piercing, clothing style, decorating her room, etc. were all potential sources of strife when we disagreed. But most of the time, if I stepped back to pray, God would remind me that those things were superficial, not spiritual, and they didn’t really matter. He trained me with my daughter. Applying the same principles to my son has been much more challenging! (More on that in the future!)
4. Traditional social circles can do more harm than good.
Homeschooling and living out of town made limiting interactions with her peers easy for us. I shudder at the amount of time girls spend with their “friends.” We didn’t do sleepovers, she wasn’t involved in a lot of group activities, and she learned early to choose her friends wisely. Yes, sometimes she laments the fact that she doesn’t “have any friends,” but in reality, she has a lot of friends, they just aren’t her age! She interacts easily with people of both genders and all age groups, which is important for her success as an adult!
5. I jumped off the “Mommy” pedestal.
Sometimes to the point of TMI, I openly shared the mistakes I made at her age, and I apologized a lot when I made mistakes with her. I set my own mother on a kind of pedestal for years, and tried to live up to her “perfect” example. And then I found out she was just human like the rest of us. I’m not perfect, and I have no problem with my kids knowing it. I don’t want her to try to “live up” to me, I want her to go as far beyond me as she can!
Growing up, my next-door neighbor’s mom, who had five boys and one girl, used to say she’d rather raise five more boys than one more girl. I have had moments where I’ve felt that way, but for the most part, daughters are a blessing. What a divine privilege we have to help develop strong, confident women to lead the next generation, and possibly usher in the return of Christ!
Caiti, I couldn’t be more proud of you. Keep following your Lord and He will lead you into a life of blessing and peace that’s more than you can ask or think! Love, Mom.