Notable Excerpts

“Introduction,” from You Can Do It: Encouragement Entries for the Journey of Child-Friendly Parenting

These writings on child-friendly parenting are for people who want to parent their children in child-friendly ways but who maybe feel stuck in terms of how to proceed or how to get better at it and who would like to know a little more about what child-friendly parenting looks like and sounds like—and then how to go about participating in it.

I have written two other books related to child-friendly parenting: the first is Child-Friendly Parenting: Growing a Well-Functioning Family in a Home Environment That’s Good for Kids (No Matter What Your Home or Family Looks Like), and the second is Resiliency Is Key: Tidbits of Truth on the Journey of Child-Friendly Parenting.  Both of these books served as a sort of focus mechanism as I was making my way through parenting three young children and trying to make sense of how to do that well even though I felt ill-equipped in many ways.  My purpose in making those writings available was to both help myself as I organized my thoughts and feelings and to help guide other parents who might have felt similarly about their own parenting.  And we know it well.  It often feels like a dark, deep sea—but the more we go towards the light (you know, that glimmers off the top end), the better able we are to see and to navigate our way through the waters.

In this collection of entries, You Can Do It: An Encouragement Handbook for the Journey of Child-Friendly Parenting, I’m continuing to chronicle my own journey through parenthood and recovery (both at the same time, which is usually how it happens for most of us—becoming a parent triggers our deepest wounds/issues and essentially forces us to look at ourselves, to scrutinize our own behavior and thought patterns, and it challenges us to take action in some way so that we come out stronger and healthier than before).  And the exciting part is that this stage of the process seems to offer the most reward for the work we have put in so far.  I hope to encourage you as you stay the course, which I know is not always as easy as it sounds.

These entries aren’t as fleshed out as some of the other entries in my previous two books on child-friendly parenting, and the reason why I left these entries close to their originally-entered state is because I wanted you to feel when the momentum kicked in.  Sometimes we only have a few words at a time that come to us that help us find our way.  But they still mean something.  And so I wanted to offer as close to “raw data” as I could this time.  To me, it feels like the words are more weighted because I didn’t try to add anything (like meaningless fluffiness) to fill any void that might be felt by not having satisfyingly long entries.  I find that we can be satisfied with only a little bit if it fits what we need.  And for me, these entries were about representing this growth stage where at first there might only be a little something to note (like tiny seeds), but that’s all it takes to cause something wonderful to blossom.

It’s up to us to apply the truths we stumble upon as we go through this parenting journey.  We can know a bunch of stuff, but it really doesn’t do much good if we don’t do anything with it.  So if you are like me and are interested in the boiled down information that is the essence of what helps good parents become better parents, then these entries are for you.  I share here the boiled down information that got me to this exhilarating place where I love my life and my family and my purpose.  I wouldn’t want to do anything else—and I am so happy that I chose this livelihood to pour myself into.  It is the best investment I have ever made, and it was worth every single thing that I gave up to do it.

 

“My Story: An Explanation (Sort of) of Why I Do What I Do (and Continue Doing It),” from You Can Do It: Encouragement Entries for the Journey of Child-Friendly Parenting

So I haven’t always been a parent.  I had my first baby when I was 29 years old, my second baby when I was 32 years old, and my third baby when I was 34 years old.  Prior to that, I had worked for seven years as an English teacher (that period of time was the uncannily profound preparatory crucible for this current crucible of parenthood).  Prior to that, I had stints as a worship leader and singer/songwriter while I was in college (during which time I finally settled on English Education as my major after having been a psychology major, elementary education major, and a sacred music major, in reverse order).  Prior to that, I was a classically trained pianist headed towards a music conservatory.  At age 15, I somehow figured out that maybe I wanted to try to develop some other interests and skills that I had besides those relating to being a concert pianist or computer engineer (math, as well as piano, has always come easy to me), so I split from formal piano lessons (and advanced prep classes) and set off (in my mind for two years while I finished out high school and then literally so for the next years ahead in college) to be the person that I was born to be but hadn’t yet seemed to get to know.  I’m still on that journey (I think it’s a continual one until this life ends), but I am assured daily that I am headed in the right direction, more-so now than I have ever been.

I give you that brief summation as a way to say that this parenting identity requires that we pull from many corners of our life—including from our own childhood and from all the different roles we’ve played along the way towards becoming a parent.  We won’t all make the same choices in life or in parenting, but we are on a similar learning continuum, where there will be things we are good at and things we aren’t.  Strengths to continue going forth in and areas of growth to work to flourish in.

As it is, I’ve stayed at home since my first baby was born.  Being a “stay-at-home mom” sounds super cushy (and for some people, I guess, it very well may be), but it’s been the most grueling (yet equally awe-filled) years of my life—and that is saying a lot!  Not all parents in general (and women in particular) have the option to stay home with their children, but the reason why I did was because I wanted to and because I could.  So I did.

What that meant for me was that I saw very clearly what my purpose in life was: to do anything and everything necessary to be the best parent I could be so that my baby had the best chance possible of growing up in a loving, safe, accepting, nurturing, and empowering environment.  Some parents in general (and women in particular) are able to do all of this while furthering their careers—and more power to any of us to whom that applies.  Some parents in general (and women in particular) simply don’t have a choice when it comes to having to work an outside job while also feeling the burden of developing effective parenting strategies even though they are physically separated from their children during their time at their work away from home.  I don’t know what to say to that except that maybe one of the silver linings (besides economic, social, and professional benefits) of being away from one’s children forty hours a week is that parents in general (and women in particular) can actually get a break from being around their children.  This, in itself, is a valuable tool in the complex toolbox of child-friendly parenting—and it doesn’t need to be as quickly dismissed as some people (who don’t “have” to work) dismiss it.

I didn’t start taking responsibility-free breaks from my children until I had three of them.  Granted, I was usually spending the time doing yardwork or grocery shopping (all related to responsibility), but I was “off the clock,” as we can call it, and wasn’t expected to tend to my children during those specified times.  At first, I was racked with guilt about it.  Now, these “away” times are much enjoyed, greatly looked forward to, and difficult to bring to a close.  Which is not to say that I love my children any less than I did when I didn’t take clean breaks from them (quiet time in the morning doesn’t exactly count as responsibility-free because the baby monitor is still live!) but is simply to say that child-friendly parenting (and—with regards to this example of time-away—the clear-headedness we need to parent well in child-friendly ways) has a variety of angles to it, and we all can approach it in a mode and method that fit within the context of our individual lives all the while achieving the bliss of knowing that we are doing right by our children—and ourselves.

I understand why some parents return to working an outside job after their children enter grade school (or sooner)—there’s simply a greater capacity to do so without the grand hassle of dealing with diaper bags, bottles, and drop offs and picks ups at childcare centers (in-home care like employing a nanny has its perks), not to mention acquiring the financial relief of not having to pay for the service of public school (bonus points to those who can afford private tuition, I guess, depending on the school district in which you reside, since some public schools in some areas are quite stellar).  But every now and then, a few people, like me and you, come along who see the whole picture for what it is (or a least a good portion of it) and who are willing to do their part as they know it (on the home front) to contribute to a better society in the present and to help nurture a stronger generation that will take its place in the future.  For someone like me and you to not continue to do this is like someone else not willing to build that space ship that only they and a handful of others can really do.  By saying that, I’m not trying to say that only a few people are capable of being career stay-at-home parents (or to say that you and I are special—because aren’t we all?), but I’m trying to say that this is a calling very similar to how being anything else in the world is a calling.  Sure, anyone can do it if they really, really want to and work hard enough at it and have the aptitude for it.  But when you’re called to do something, you kind of just know it.  And it’s best to just do it.  No matter what other people think and regardless of whether anyone else completely gets it.

So without attempting to defend my current station in life any more than I already have, I just wanted to say that while I always wanted to do what I’m doing, it hasn’t always been easy for me, and I had to dig deep and do a lot of personal work to get to the point where things feel more effortless.  I know that I am not alone in these experiences, and I believe that many of us found out the hard way (whether we stay at home or not) that parenting is not for the weak—and that, furthermore, parenting our children in child-friendly ways is the toughest thing we may ever do, especially if we, ourselves, were not consistently child-friendly parented.

I latched on to the idea of child-friendly parenting when I started doing some writing about better ways to approach the process of relating to our children.  I had been struggling a lot with negative feelings and thoughts in connection to my “job” as a stay-at-home mom, and one of the conclusions I came to after much reflection was that it’s okay for me to parent my children differently than how I was parented.  That it’s okay (and necessary) to re-think traditional (and “religious”) parenting approaches and to not simply do something (or not do something) because that’s what our parents did.  Child-friendly parenting is a more mindful approach to childrearing than just repeating the tactics that were used with us.  An important point to remember is that as we evaluate parenting strategies, it is helpful to hang on to and continue the good that was done to and with us and to reject the not-so-good that was done to and with us—all the while actively improving upon the needs-improvement areas.  Parenting is a life-long endeavor, and if we want to be effective at this (and we can be), then it will require us to put our minds into it and to do what we have to do to grow up as the grown-ups we are and to, quite frankly, keep going and keep trying and keep caring.  Even if it’s hard.  Because it is.

There are always new stages in parenting, and we never truly “arrive” anywhere—it’s more like we get promoted to the next level when we’ve done all we can do at the one we’re currently on.  So the remainder of these writings from me to you includes a section on “Thoughts to Think,” “Steps to Take,” and “Additional Thoughts.”  The entries from “Thoughts to Think” are what have helped me stay strong and focused as I have made my way through the pressure-cooker of child-friendly parenting my children when they were young.  The “Steps to Take” are examples of what specifically helped me to feel like I was doing something simple but significant in my attempts to live out my intentions to parent my children in child-friendly ways.  And the “Additional Thoughts” were follow-up entries that have helped me to wrap everything up so that I can maintain a right and proper perspective with everything.  I wanted to make these writings available to you so that you might have ideas of where to start or how to proceed in your own journey of child-friendly parenting and self-development.  The road gets rocky sometimes, but you are not alone in your travels.  Also, you get stronger the longer you keep at things.  Always believe that your efforts matter—because they do.  Stay the course—because the effects of anything are cumulative.  The more you do it, the easier it gets and the more benefit it offers you.  Related to effective parenting, what’s great about our learning curve is that the more we are benefitted by our personal growth, the more our children are benefitted, too.  It’s a wonderful cycle that puts into motion a healthier, happier thing than if we had just continued on, parenting our children without evaluating the effect of what we do and how we relate to them.

Whether you’re new to this or not, fresh out of the gate or sort of stalled out, hear these words: You can do it!  You can be and become the parent you’ve always wanted to be, the parent your children most certainly deserve.  And the parent you might even need today—you can do and be all of this for yourself, for your children, and for your family.  The only thing this requires is that we keep trying—that we keep getting up when we fall down.  That we keep caring about doing a good job.  That we keep knowing that we are doing the right thing.

So no matter how tough this gets, keep trying, keep getting up, keep doing good, and keep believing.  Keep caring about caring—because this is what makes all the difference.  You can do it!

 

“Closing Thoughts,” from You Can Do It: Encouragement Entries for the Journey of Child-Friendly Parenting

Good parents know that their relationship with their children depends on the parent’s willingness to take responsibility for him or herself.  Yes, our children have their own responsibility to take—but not really as it relates to our relationship with them.  They learn how to treat people by how we treat them.  And if we are not willing to admit when we have make mistakes or when we have been wrong, if we are not willing to make things right, and if we are not willing to make adjustments to ourselves and our approach to improve the relationship for the next time around, then how will our children ever learn to do any of these things?  If not from us, then from whom?

This conclusion I have come to in parenting is similar to the conclusion I arrived at as an English teacher, when I was one.  In my very first year of teaching, I was rigid in my dealings with students—similar to how it often is with many other first year teachers.  I thought that that was what good teachers did—that they made the rules and enforced them with precision.  It was how I was raised at home and how I was taught in school.  It made sense to me, really.  But I saw how it didn’t exactly compute with the rural high schoolers I was trying to teach and reach.  It is unfortunate for me to say that it is likely that very few of them, if any of them, would say that I was a good teacher to them.  And a large part of that had to do with the fact that I made little attempt to help them feel my care for them as individuals and as young intellectuals (we all have the capacity for intellectualism—and systemized education can be a splendid way, with the right teacher, to help develop it in all students).

So that year was kind of a wash for me from a personal standpoint.  I felt like I had failed—because I thought that I already was, and could have/should have more fully become, a truly good teacher (yet that didn’t line up with reality since, to be a “good” teacher, it requires a sort of positive rapport with students, which I didn’t feel that I really had).  I questioned deeply the professional field I had chosen for myself.  I moved to another part of the country after that and spent my second year out of college taking graduate classes at night while I was a substitute teacher during the day.  I mostly did day-to-day assignments, but I did take on some long-term assignments, which eventually led me to accept a six-week contracted position (albeit still as a long-term substitute) in an urban high school at the end of the school year.  I had made some improvements in my approach throughout the year, and I began to see things sparkle for me in little ways as I brought those changes into the forefront.

For the following school year (which was my third year out of college), I was able to snag a year-long contracted position for a seventh grade Language Arts teacher in a suburban district.  I never thought I would find myself being a middle school teacher at the end of the day, but my stint as a day-to-day sub had given me some interesting confidence with middle schoolers.  They seemed to respond more favorably to my quirkiness (what I like to think of as my sense of humor and comedic disposition wrapped in a properly-executed exterior) than did high schoolers—without me having to do much except be myself.  This carried me for a few months in this new position, and then I found myself dealing with the same sort of disruptions and disrespect as I encountered at the high school level.  All I could deduce was that it was me.  That I couldn’t hack this teaching thing.  But then, as I pushed through and started reading and reading and reading books and books and books about classroom management, I realized that it maybe was a little bit of me (which I could work on—I was new to this teaching thing, and a huge part of effectiveness in a real classroom is getting the hang of wrangling students’ behavior without letting it derail you or the day or the curriculum you’re trying to teach) but a whole lot of them.  Kids are going to be kids!  Whether they are age 12 or 15, they’re still going to act their age.  And since I was the age of an adult person, I didn’t have to act their age but mine.

Once this dawned on me, a whole new world opened up for me.  I stayed in that middle school position for three years until I earned tenure.  I envisioned myself staying there for the rest of my teaching career.  It was truly my dream job.  I was coming into my own, I was stepping into my confidence, I was navigating my way.  I had such joy and drive and passion.  I saw exactly my path in life, and I was taking it, full steam ahead.  I learned to love my students instead of resent them, and it showed.  I reaped the rewards of my newfound approach every single day.  I had found my place, and there is no other feeling like it in the world.

But then something strange happened to me.  I got the sense that I was done there.  That it was time to take my show on the road.  That there was some other place that needed me.  And so, after three hard but glorious years at that middle school, I left.  I ended up taking on another seventh grade Language Arts position in a middle school that was five minutes from my apartment instead of 37.  That next year (which was my sixth year out of college) turned into a what-in-the-world-have-I-done kind of year.  Part of my duties was to co-teach with a learning support teacher (who was maybe five years older than me), and it was like I was looking at a reflection of myself from my very first year of teaching.  She was rigid and legalistic, just as I had been.  But somehow I had compassion for her.  I didn’t say much to her or try to have deep discussions about how and why our philosophies of teaching were so different and how and why mine was so much better.  I just tried to lead by example (as I had learned to do in the classroom as a teacher of my own students).  I could tell that she was confounded by how oil-and-water our approaches were, but I knew that by her teaching side-by-side with me, she would get a glimpse and perhaps an exhilarating taste of what it could be to let go of the old and take hold of the new.

I knew that I wasn’t meant to stay there forever even though I loved working in the same town I lived in.  I needed to have my own classroom again, all day long.  I felt that I was too good not to (please excuse the arrogance here).  The following school year, a position opened up for me at a high school that was now 45 minutes away from where I lived.  And I had just found out that I was pregnant.  Well, I was about two months along.  I had wrestled with the idea of getting a job as a nine-to-five type of person (like an office assistant) so I could actually go home when the work day was over.  I had this little problem called work-a-holism that I hadn’t yet named for myself.  It was too fun for me and productive and functional and exciting for me to consider it a serious problem.  Up until then, I didn’t have to worry about anyone else except myself.  (Well, I had gotten married about two years prior, but my husband was buried into his work as much as I was, so we had a special sort of an understanding between us when it came to our respective livelihoods).

If I couldn’t work until I felt the day was done (which was usually until five or six at night but often not until seven or eight at night—after having arrived at school at about seven in the morning), then I didn’t know what I was going to do.  This teaching thing for me only worked if I could stay in my classroom as long as I felt I needed to in order to properly prepare for the next day (for example, creativity in my lessons was a trade secret!).  I knew that I could not do this if I had a baby to also care for.  It just didn’t sit well with me to think that I would have to compromise on both the teaching and the parenting (while I always wished that I could leave when teachers were permitted to leave, which was around three o’clock, or 30 minutes after the last bell, there was no way that I would ever be able to do that—not with the way I had learned to fly; and while plenty of moms drop their children off at daycare so they can continue their careers, I just didn’t see myself doing that—I had always seen myself staying home when the time came for me to have kids, which, to that point, I wasn’t completely convinced that I ever would have kids since I was so knee-deep in work to really take that possibility seriously).

Frankly, I enjoyed only having to worry about myself during those days.  Yes, I worked too hard and too long and cared way too much about what other people thought of me and my work performance.  I was trying to prove something to myself and to others, and I came to really appreciate what my kid-free life afforded me.  Not only was my day mine, but so was my money and my stuff and my future.  In fact, the main reason why I had tried to get pregnant in the first place was because I was trying to rule out possibilities.  I was considering pursuing a doctorate in Educational Psychology, for which I had just been accepted at a university half way across the country (I was adventurous back then, what can I say).  And I had an itch to take my teaching magic full circle and see how well it worked (and how good it would feel) to walk back into a high school with similar demographics as the first high school I taught in.  I needed some redemption (and penance) for that part of my life, and I was curious about putting myself through the fire again to achieve those purposes.  (High school teaching takes a different kind of toughness than does middle school teaching, which requires its own special toughness.)

I kind of felt at a cross-roads with my life in many ways—I wasn’t sure where to grow my roots—the roots that I was longing to grow somewhere, somewhere that I could just sit still for a while—while doing something I wanted to be doing.  For a split second in time, I felt that I was ready to try to have kids.  Everyone else that I had known from college already had them.  I felt very out-of-sync with the rest of my peer group.  But I also sensed that this void I was attempting to fill with work and purpose perhaps was designated (designed, if you will) only for the kind of nurturing that only mothers can do with their babies.  So I decided to take a leap—knowing that it was now or never.  And if you can believe it, after one month of trying and after just having un-decided to keep trying because I couldn’t bear any more thoughts of having to dial back the expenses in the skin care and cosmetics department to counter-balance diaper expenses, I hit the biggest jackpot of my life.  And from there on out, my life would never be the same and in fact had only just dawned, which is saying a lot since I had gone through quite a bit of living and learning and enlightenment prior to that moment of awakening.

My pregnancy helped steer me.  I didn’t know yet that I would end up staying home after giving birth.  I still had to consider all my options.  So I went for the full-time job as the teacher I had gone to school to become.  I gave up the doctorate program in a far and mystical land, I gave up the easy road of a job less challenging, and I gave up the comfort of a life that was lived only for me.  I went in headlong, determined to do this thing right, whatever that meant, however it looked.  Those last few months of teaching ended up being the most stress filled, anxiety induced years of my career but also the most fulfilling because I was laser focused on what I needed to accomplish.  Whether I returned to work or not after having my baby, I knew that I had to do my very best work.  And I believe I did.  I know I did.  I felt it.  And my students did, too.

Herein lies a golden nugget of truth for me in all the navigation that parenting demands of us (as teaching did of me): While our children won’t always like us or agree with our parenting choices, there are things we can do to help our children feel our love for them—and there are things that we can do for ourselves to help us feel that we are doing a good job at this parenting expedition, even if we do lack the skills at first.  We can learn how to be better and how to get better at it.  We can work on things.  We can try again.  And that is one certainty we can cling to—if we slip up (and we will), another opportunity will come (with definite-ness) for us to get it right.  And we will (get it right—eventually).

So I say all of this to give us hope and to impart faith to the weak of heart and the weary of soul.  Parenting is so hard, and that’s just if we do a half-baked job at it.  If we actually try to do a good job at it, well then we can say good-bye to any ease and breeziness as we ever did know it.  Good parenting requires guts and toughness—loads more than I ever needed in teaching (which is, again, saying a lot).  But for all of the grit and sacrifice required of us on this road we now walk, it is all completely and unquestionably worth it.  Why?  Because our kids are ours, and no one can take away what we give to them (and what we give up for them)—and no one else bears the holy burden we do to see our kids through this ever-gleaming and all-consuming journey of growing up and learning how to live life well.  We are the only ones who can do what we do for our children.  Surrogate parenting or step-parenting or adoption (or any other arrangement or circumstance where a person might assume the role of an absent or missing or incapacitated or deceased biological parent—like Nina to Dr, Brown’s Delia in Everwood or Jake to Nina’s Sam or Dr. Brown to Amanda’s son or Dr. Abbott to Hannah) are all valuable and important and good.  But no one can take our place.  Our kids will only have one mom (and dad)—from the standpoint of, “Which two people in all the world made ME?”  We share our kids’ blood.  We grew them inside of our bodies.  We have a stake in their growth and success—and we hurt the most for them when they fall and fail.  They are a part of us.  And we are a part of them.

So if and when we ever get to a point where we question our effectiveness and our very vocation as the stay-at-home parent that we are (and I know that not everyone is nor can be necessarily or wants to be necessarily), it’s critical to remember that this is supposed to be the most difficult thing that we do.  If it’s not hard, then something’s not right.  It gets easier with time and practice, yes.  But it’s very, very hard before it gets anywhere close to being considered easy.

And I say this as a way to offer encouragement to those who are like me—those who want to do good and be good for the sake of doing and being good and for the purpose of pleasing the God who made us and who gave us the privilege of being a parent.  My relationship with God deepened (which is an understatement) when I became a mother because I needed him so much more than I ever did before (and that is now saying a lot).  I relied on him very desperately—and I still do—to get me through each pocket of every day, and I sought out his guidance and wisdom as I floundered around and bungled my way through raising my little kids.  I had no idea what I was doing (does anybody?).  And I really don’t like feeling that way.  So even now when I find myself in a situation where I really don’t know what to do, I have learned that the best thing to do is to consult with the God of the universe who knows all.  I ask him to show me the way.  And he does.  Every single time.  And he will do this for any one of us, if only we would let him in to our hearts and minds and the very lives we are living.

Whether we credit God his existence or not, it’s not a secret that it doesn’t take much for any of us to feel lost or small in this world.  Having kids is one sure-fire way to get to that place where we are in the weeds before we know it—where we lose our sense of grandness faster than we can blink.  So if we do not hide ourselves in the everlasting love of our heavenly Father, then how do we ever impart to our children a similar sort of unconditional love that they need from their earthly parents?  For me, it’s a logical situation, and all I have done is become more and more dependent on God to sustain me through these challenging stages of raising the children that he’s given me.  Though I may feel more inadequate day by day as I realize that I am not enough for my children and will never be, I take comfort in knowing that this is why I (and all of us) need the spiritual sustenance that God gives me (and all of us).  If I reach out to God and call upon him in my distress, then I have done my part, essentially.  I no longer have to worry if I’m doing enough or being enough.  The only objective here is to rely on the Lord to see me through and to keep my family safe and strong.

And it is at this juncture that we can release ourselves from the pressure of having to do things right in and of our own selves and strength.  We can go to the next level in embracing our parenting identity, wherein we simply do what we can, as well as we can, and then let go of everything else—because we know that we are not alone in this.  We have a helpful Helper.  A trustworthy Teacher.  A loving Father.  And a loyal Friend.  And for those who can stomach more biblical gibberish, we have a true Savior in Jesus Christ who leads us as the Good Shepherd that his is.  What is more, the Comforter that we have in the Holy Spirit fills in all the holes that were gaping and still gape so that we can comfort our children when they need us most.  I don’t know how anyone fulfills the objective of being a good parent (while concurrently surviving it) without also acquiring the kind of critical faith that allows us to achieve these ends.  The way I see it and have experienced it, you can’t really have one without the other.

And so to apply all of this to our daily dealings with our children, it’s important to remember that our children are their own person, and the more we factor this in to our conversations with them and our interactions with them, the more they will feel accepted by us, loved by us, respected by us, and understood by us—even if their behavior is not necessarily something that is acceptable at the moment.  And this (the dividing of the who and the do) is at the heart of developing true connections with our children.  For them to know that we love them—even when they have made poor choices, which, as children, this is how they learn to make better choices—is for them to know that they will always have a home in our heart, which makes way for them to give us a home in their heart (which is a precious commodity the older our children get).  We can lay down the fear that we may have parented with previously.  And we can put aside all the ways by which we may still be trying to prove ourselves.  It’s just us and our kids.  If we can focus on doing what we can to make the relationship stand on its own, then we won’t be distracted by all the other stuff that tends to get in the way of parent-child relationships.

And this is where we are.  It’s a daily decision—to get up and do the clean slate thing (which sometimes needs to be a moment-by-moment thing—and which is not just the act of continuously forgiving our children in our heart for all the things that they do that remind us that they are but children, but is also the act of continuously forgiving ourselves as we are growing up, too).  But we can do this.  We can choose to keep going in the right direction with our kids—even when it’s hard.  And even when we’re tired.  There’s something about keeping our vision for our family close to our heart that helps us to want to keep making strides with this child-friendly parenting enterprise.

My kids are still young, but they are growing up fast.  Looking ahead, I see that I will need to continue to provide them with tender oversight—and maybe it won’t be so hard for me once I don’t feel like I have to be two people (one that’s kid-friendly and one that’s just myself—not that I’m not normally a kid-friendly person but that when we don’t have to be around kids all day and talk to them and listen to them and accommodate for them and live with them, then we generally are able to relax a little more (maybe) without feeling like we’re going to hurt their feelings or scar them with unpleasant memories of us).

As we meld more into one person—as the kid-friendly side of us simply becomes us and we don’t have to work so hard at it all the time—we will begin to realize that that’s the point to this: that we truly grow as a person so that we aren’t just all about us.  And looking back and seeing the growth that has happened in my own life and all the changes that I made to make room for having kids in my life, I can attest to the fact that that’s part of the test of having kids.  Are we going to make room for them or not?  Are we going to adjust the way that we are, the way that we do things, so that our children can have a good and happy and healthy life?  If so, to what extent will we make room and put into motion those adjustments?  If a lot, then how will we maintain a balance between giving too much of ourselves away and not giving enough of ourselves away for the sake of our children and for the sake of our spouse and for the sake of the happiness of our family?  How will we determine that equilibrium has been established and then maintained?  How will we know that we have achieved our objectives?  Will we feel it?  Will we see it?  Will we live it?  Yes, yes, and yes!  We will experience one of the greatest kinds of breakthroughs that there is.  We will have broken out of an old and broken cycle (perhaps the one that we grew up in) and we will have entered into a new and better and life-giving cycle.  We can feel the difference.  We can see the difference.  And we do live it every single day that we consciously choose it for ourselves and our children and our spouse and our family as a whole.

This will happen for us if we will let it, if we will embrace it, and if we will receive it into our lives for the long-term.  We will get glimmers at first.  And then fireworks.  The sky of our soul will light up in the way that real healing and freedom and love allow.  Our families deserve this.  And so do we.