I’m starting to learn something as a mom. I’m learning that real life parenting and being a mom doesn’t look like the dreams or maybe delusions I have in my head. Rarely if ever does a family vacation, family devotions, or a poignant moment go as planned. I remember the boys asking Jesus into their hearts and thinking back that it was just an average, every day conversation that seemed to come out of nowhere and then disappear before I knew it. Of course as a mom, I made a huge deal out of it!
I’ve also realized that some of the best moments in parenting are the ones I didn’t plan, didn’t prepare for and too often miss because I’m ticked off that things didn’t go exactly like I wanted. In December we watched White Christmas with our boys. Yes, I am teaching them to love musicals! In the middle of the movie the couples are dancing and my youngest, who was barely paying attention to this classic movie, asked if he could dance with me like they were doing on TV. I almost didn’t get off the couch. But luckily I didn’t miss this one and it is a great memory for me.
Expectations. Those little, often unknown thoughts we have stored away in our brains of the “ought to’s and should have’s and must do’s”. Where did yours come from? Looking at other parents? Your own upbringing or lack of upbringing? What you read on blogs or in books? We need to learn to identify our expectations. Maybe you have some that look like this: being a mom should be all-fulfilling, I need to do this right or my child will turn out wrong or if I just do A,B,C then my child will turn out like X,Y,Z.
The reason we buy into these unrealistic expectations is because they often have a kernel of truth in them. But it’s been twisted in some way. Do you know why we need to let go of these unrealistic expectations? Because they cause us to parent in ways we were never meant to. They cause us to lose sleep, hair, time and energy as we frantically try to live up to something we were never meant to live up to in the first place. They cause us to miss the mark of what we are actually supposed to be doing as parents. We can get so focused on our agenda that we actually miss our kid’s hearts. And more than all that, they cause us to live in fear. We fear we won’t measure up, that we’ll screw up our kids if we don’t meet our expectations that WE have laid out for ourselves. We have to let go of our wrong expectations and our fears.
One way to do that is by understanding what God wants from us as parents and why He created our kids. We need to first and foremost understand that our kids are not OUR kids. They belong to God. They are made in His image with some of our DNA mixed in. Our children are made to worship God and not to fulfill our own dreams for them. And within that broad calling, God created each one of them with their own unique gifts, abilities and specific niche on this earth. Ephesians 2:10 says “ For we are his workmanships, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God has something prepared for your children. And our job as parents is to get them ready for that calling and to tell them and show them with our words and actions that they have incredible worth and value because God wants to use them to advance His kingdom.
How do we prepare each one of our children for their unique calling? We need to Equip our kids. By asking God to show you what specifically your child needs so that they can accomplish what God has for them. Don’t just throw your kids into all kinds of extra-curricular activities. Be intentional. Ask God and listen in prayer for the answer. Ask God what skills your child might need. What character strengths or weaknesses need to be developed or worked out and how do you do that? And remember that this is not a one-size-fits-all solution. One child may need more than the others. We need to let go of the idea of EVEN. You may need to spend more money on music lessons for one child than another; you may need to invest in extra tutoring for another child.
We need to Seek Wisdom. Talk to other parents, talk to people who spend time with your children and can share with you the positive character traits they see in your child. Talk to seasoned parents who are farther down the road and have more wisdom and a better perspective from where they sit. And most importantly, talk to God. Ask Him questions about your kids and then listen for the answers. Listen for wisdom from the one who created your children!
We need to Pray. Pray about the every day discipline and character struggles. Pray about the bigger picture purpose of who God is helping them become. Ask God how to pray for your kids. Pray that you will be able to release your dreams for your kids and embrace God’s design for them. Pray you will be able to equip them properly. Just pray.
God wants to help you equip your child to become who He created them to be. Let me explain this another way. Our job as parents is to care for, nurture and prune the little plants that God has given us. God’s job is to provide the soil and the sunshine. It’s also my job to go the Master Gardener for advice and wisdom. I need to ask what kind of plant I have in the first place and what kind of fruit or flowers I can expect and what kind of care this specific plant will need. God alone knows what kind of bush, tree, and flower He gave us and what kind of “fruit” they will produce. And once we know that we can begin to take notes on how to care for this kind of plant. Does it need shade or full sun? Water lots or a little? Fertilizer? Stake? Regular pruning?
When we get God’s view for our kids it helps us see the good things growing in our kids, it helps curb the negative things we often choose to say and do to them and it helps us identify the weeds from the plant. It also helps us stay consistent and encourages us to keep going when it seems like nothing is changing. Galatians 6:9 is a favorite of mine “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
If you would like to take this to your devotions here is a great prayer sheet to help you get started. Learning To Thrive As A Parent Prayer Sheet