Wednesday, 5 February 2014
The 3 E's of Easy* Parenting
Parenting is one of those things you go into without knowing exactly what to expect. An often easily attained title, being a parent is not easy. It's a call to lay down your life for the good of another; to put off selfishness and put on the virtues of patience, grace, mercy and compassion. It's a life-long role you fulfill in creating and guiding the precious lives of your children. And while it is something many, many of us experience, it is also a deeply personal journey; for every family, every child, is different.
When I consider parenting, I think of the commonly used phrase, "it takes a village" - and in our day and age our "village" is considerably bigger than it used to be. For we are not only connected to our immediate and extended families and neighborhoods, but through communities, schools, books, articles, media, news, internet, blogs and videos, we are exposed to so many different ideas and styles of parenting. Rules, tips, projects, schedules - whatever you're looking for you can find in spades!
This is what I've been thinking about as I raise my kids in a foreign country. There are cultural differences in the way we are raising our kids. And there is just so much information available about how to parent that it feels overwhelming. While it is amazing to have the whole world at your fingertips, there is danger as well. Time spent reading or researching can take time away from parenting. How many times have we sat there, scrolling through Pinterest for the perfect project, only to lose the time to actually do it?
As we look for answers to our questions, we can fall into the trap of setting up unrealistic expectations for our family and our kids. No one's life is "pinterest perfect"and we can't expect it to be. Having unrealistic expectations also leads us to compare our lives to others, coveting their apparently immaculate play-room or well-mannered children.
This is not to say we shouldn't use Pinterest, or Google, or participate on forums, or share ideas and tips on raising our kids. We should, however, be discerning when it comes to what we read, and how long we spend online. This is something I struggle with as my mind is always going a million miles a minute and I'm thinking about new recipes to try, projects for the kids, blog posts to write and wondering how many naps should my 8 month old twins be taking?
So in an effort to simplify my parenting "style" I've been concentrating on three "E" words
Engage - Put everything else down and engage with my kids, in whatever stage or phase they're in. Cuddle my babies while they're young. Create Lego, paint and draw, play hide and seek and invest in my kids lives. Enjoy this stage, because it is going to be gone before I know it. Interact with your kids and invite them to be a part of what you're doing. This is not to say you can spend every minute with your kids, but they need to spend some time with you with no distractions.
Embrace - This season of life is short. Already my five-year old feels so big and my twins, babies no more. Treasure your kids for who they are, love on them and show it! Literally, embrace them each and every day. Embrace your role for this season. It means dirty diapers, snotty noses, potty accidents and lots of spills to clean up. It also means late-night snuggles, reading books with your kids on your lap, watching them discover the world, taking first steps and finding their place in this world.
Evolve - This parenting gig is one you take on with no previous experience. You are learning on the job. It's a steep learning curve which never really ends. Don't get bogged down by "rules" but be flexible in finding what works for your family. If it doesn't work, try something else. You shouldn't need to defend your parenting to anyone else. If you feel defensive, maybe there is something you know you should change.
There is no one "right" way to parent. Be wise with your time and your mind; fill it with Biblical principles, advice from those you look up to and trust. Read good books, find worthwhile articles and spend more time parenting than reading about parenting! While I am far, far away from having this parenting gig figured out, I'm finding that having these three words to think about helps to direct my time and focus my attention on what really matters; my precious kids and this privileged vocation called motherhood.
And now I've got to run as my twins are clamoring for my undivided attention! I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.