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Monday, June 27, 2011

Parenting - Past and Present, Part 2

Parenting - The Past
(Specifically Speaking)

I want to preface this installment with the hard dry facts of my reasons for writing all this.

First, a list of the reasons that are not mine...

1) I am not attacking my parents. I love them. The past is forgiven. We're on good terms.

2) I am not whining "poor me".  I realize there are children out there who are seriously physically abused everyday. Their parents are druggies, drinkers, and hard core angry at the whole world. I realize that I am very fortunate to have parents that love me.

3) I am not trying to add my name to some sort of virtual list of "survivors". We all have issues from our past. We're all survivors of childhood.

4) I am not claiming to have all the answers. I am not claiming to be a perfect parent.

Here's why I am writing this...

1) I've realized for a couple years now that something's not quite right with my parenting methods. I'm not confident at all. I second guess everything I do, and spend nearly every night feeling guilty for not being consistant or for losing my patience or for not sticking to my guns.

2) I've tried many different things to try to fix this. One of them was desperately trying to get organized. Total flop. Everything I've tried comes falling to the ground in a heap of mess.

3) I've been praying about this for a couple months, desperate to know how to be a confident and happy mom with children who are confident in my love for them and, more importantly, God's love for them. I've realized I can't do this. I've tried to reach this lofty goal. Doesn't work. I need God to show me the answers.

4) In my recent searching for answers, God has brought a lot of memories to my mind. I'm realizing that I need to figure out what I think at the core and why and how this affects my parenting. I think my childhood (teen years and early adulthood, especially) hold the key to the base of this semi-unconscious belief system.

5) I believe in an absolutely sovereign God. My childhood and early adult years were what they were because God orchastrated them... the good, the bad, and the ugly. He used every minute of those years to shape me and mold me. But I am not a finished work, and I need Him to sand down the rough edges left from those years.

6) I am documenting my journey because I know a lot of friends who have similiar backgrounds and are on the same quest. If any of this helps even one of them, than it was worth writing.

7) The words of Sanctus Real's "The Redeemer" says it well:

 Sometimes I just want to start over, 'cause everything looks like a wreck
 And I need the courage to carry on, 'cause I can't see what's ahead
 And there are places I've wished I could be, battles I've wanted to win
 Dreams that have slipped through my hands
 I may never get back again

But I'm still a dreamer, a believer
 Oh, I've lost my faith in so many things, but I still believe in You
 'Cause You can make anything new

Sometimes I just wish we could say all the things that are easy to hear
 Ignore the injustice we see and explain every unanswered prayer
 But I'd rather speak honestly and wear a tattered heart on my sleeve
 'Cause in the middle of my broken dreams, redemption is here

And I'm still a dreamer, a believer
 Oh, I've lost my faith in so many things, but I still believe in You
 'Cause You are the answer, the redeemer
 Oh, I've given up on too many things, but I'm not giving up on You
 'Cause You can make anything new

I don't have every answer in life
 But I'm trusting You one day at a time
 'Cause You can make a weak heart stay alive forever
 this is where Heaven and Earth collide
 I lift my hands and give my life
 This is how my weary heart stays alive
And I'm still a dreamer, a believer
 Oh, I've lost my faith in so many things, but I still believe in You
 'Cause You are the answer, the redeemer
 Oh, I've given up on too many things, but I'm not giving up on You
 'Cause You can make anything new

__________________________________

I'm not really sure how to describe my family, during my "at home with the parents" time. It's kinda a weird mix of things. I remember well when my parents were not Christians, when they were divorced, and when it was just my older brother and I. I also experienced a time when they were Christians, and we lived a very normal Christian family life (complete with hidden family drama). My four younger siblings, on the other hand, probably remember nothing but the last stage, the IBLP days. (Well, last stage for me anyway. After I was married, they went through my parents' second divorce.) 

My dad rolled around on the floor with us, teased us, hugged us from time to time, laughed with us, and ripromanded us when he finally had enough of our nonsense. There are very few times that I remember my dad seriously disciplining me or any of the other kids. The times that I do remember, I knew it was because Mom asked him to.

Based on the stories he's told of his childhood, I think he and his siblings pretty much were allowed to run free and wild, with minimal parental direction. They had chores, rules, etc. but their free time was their own to use however they pleased. Perhaps this was why he was there for us to talk to, play with, and work with, but gave little direction as far as rules and discipline.

My mom was pretty much opposite. So long as I did not make her mad, I knew we were friends and I was confident in her love. But I lived in constant fear of her anger and felt the weight of the shackles of her constant control. I don't remember very many times when she disciplined calmly. From a very, very tiny age, I saw it as my job to make sure she did not get mad. If that meant I lied and took my brother's punishment, I did. If that meant I never "tattled" on my younger siblings when I babysat them, I didn't. If that meant I pretended to believe in conservative standards, I did. I also saw it as my job to protect my younger siblings from her anger. I always felt sick to my stomach and guilty when one of my siblings were "in trouble".

Just like my dad, her way of parenting reflected the way her father dealt with her. Anger was discipline, and until just recently, she thought this was the loving way to parent... to have an iron fist... to strive to be in control of the will of the child. She has realized the error in this thinking and has asked forgiveness.

My mom, I believe, had the very best intentions of raising us the very best that she could. In the last half of my years at home, she had great dreams for us to be godly pure leaders of America (or we girls be the mothers of future leaders). It's what she wanted because she thought that's what God wanted. And she tried her best to accomplish those goals in us by strict standards, high expectations, and constant survailence.

That established, the journey of the family into the center of the conservative earth began when Mom decided she wanted to homeschool. I guess my brother had a bad 5th grade teacher. She did not want to repeat the same thing over again with me going into 5th grade the next year. She had heard of homeschooling and decided she'd like to give it a swing with my older brother (entering 6th), me (entering 5th), and my younger brother(entering kdg). She did a tremendous job of it that year too - which I consider simply amazing considering she gave birth to her sixth child that September.

It was not the act of homeschooling that took us into the conservative group. It was who we met in the homeschool group...... (to be continued)

Conclusions:

1) Just as is the case with everything else in life, balance is key.
 
 a) I cannot be just fun friends with my children. They also need to see me as the authority God ordained me to be in their young years.

 b) A parenting method of controlling behavior given to bouts of anger is not a method of the love God has called me to.

2) I love my memories of the first year my mom homeschooled us. She knew it was what she wanted, so she did it good. She did not pull out any stops. She sacrificed her time, her energy, her sleep, and I'm sure a good bit of money to give us a good education. I've thought about this a lot this summer. I need to stop thinking I'm doing this homeschooling thing as a half hearted experiment. If it's what I want to do, than I need to do it and give it all I got. Then, if it does flop, at least I know I gave it my best shot.

(And in case you're wondering... that's pretty much the main reason I am homeschooling... because I want to. I enjoyed being homeschooled, enjoyed teaching my younger siblings, love  teaching children, and adore coming up with fun ways to learn.)

9 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this!! Very insightful!!!

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  2. I'm glad your doing this. I have to say I have a difficult time believing I'm a good mom because I think I'm doing the same things that my own mom did. My mentor told me once that the very fact that I was so careful and think about the things I don't want to emulate are good signs. I think my mom was like yours and angry so often that I'm afraid every time I get angry that I am becoming her. :( Anyway, I agree with you that there is really nothing I can do but it's all about letting God do stuff in me and through me.

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  3. So that's why we never got in trouble when mom and dad came home after you babysitting us. :p

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  4. You've got me so curious leaving us with a cliffhanger like that. :) If you have never read "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Tedd Tripp, I want to recommend it to you. It's about getting to the child's heart rather than just controlling and conforming their outward behavior.

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  5. Ha ha, Hannah... that and you all kept hiding the "bad list" anyway.

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  6. I've been considering that, Monika, along with Grace Based Parenting. I just need to get over my phobia of "letting someone else tell me how to parent". :P

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  7. A good thing about "letting someone else tell you how to parent" is that they've been there and made mistakes along the way and learned from them. Unfortunately, we only get one shot at raising our kids...I've already made so many mistakes with my first one that I hope not to repeat with the others, and she's not even 5 yet! If I can learn from someone who's been there and avoid some mistakes that way, I think that is wise! I want to do things right (and I know "right" is somewhat different for each child) the first time, since I don't get a second time. That said, there are soooo many changes I need to make in my parenting methods...I'm aware of it - following through is a lot harder. :( But "to him who knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." I think I need to ask forgiveness and seek the Lord's help (again), rather than trying to do it on my own as is so easy to start doing.

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  8. I should clarify that I am not opposed to advice. I am, however, opposed to doing something just because so-n-so says that's the right thing to do.

    I will touch on this later, but so many of the families I was around during my years in the conservative circle did not make parenting decisions based on their searching out God's plan for them, but on what Mr. Gothard or Micheal Pearl or Doug Phillips said was the way to do things.

    By the time my children came along, I was so seminared and booked out that I did not want to rely on anyone's teaching other than God's. I have not read a single Christian "self help" book in its entirety or attended any seminar or conference since the day I was married. It's like I needed to just get away from the thousand voices out there and just hear God.

    I am starting to come out of that and I am ready to hear from others, but it will be with much scrutinizing. I'm not going to just take what they say as gospel just because they have a name on the market.

    Does that make sense?

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  9. Yes, that does make sense. There is definitely a difference between blindly following someone and listening to godly wisdom/taking sound biblical advice. I wasn't raised in such conservative circles (I was raised as a missionary kid in New Zealand - my parents were with an independent fundamental church) and I really haven't spent much time around people like you are describing here, so it's a little hard for me to relate - but I do understand

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