I'm asked from time to time when I'm going to write a book on parenting. After I finish laughing, I am humbled by the compliment. I suppose those queries are a testament to the great children whom I'm blessed to have in my home. I'm not sure the credit is mine or my husbands to take alone, but I am sure there are some keys - virtues if you will - that have helped us along the way:
Be patient. Bite your tongue. Breathe. The most valuable lesson I've learned as a parent is to pick my battles. Ask yourself if the supposed infraction is really that important. Is your child hurting himself or others? Is he causing damage to property? Or, is he simply exploring his world, learning its natural boundaries, and in the process, making a mess of your pristine home? Be reasonable, rational, and realistic with your expectations. Not only will your children benefit as you step back and relax, your physical wellness will thank you too.
Humility - I remember the first time I screwed up as a parent... Okay, probably not the first time, but the first blatantly obvious time. While we may not like to give breath to our weaknesses or our failures, lets admit it, we are not perfect. I don't care who you are, at some point you will take a wrong step in your parenting adventures. Painful as it may be to your pride, admitting your faults is not a sign of weakness. In fact, little words like "I'm sorry," or "Can you please help me?" are imperative to becoming a good parent. If you are unwilling to recognize your faults, how can you improve upon them? Successful parents are teachable parents. Learn to apologize when you fall - especially to your children! Be teachable and understanding.
Pride - I'm not talking about the "puffed up" kind of pride that the Bible so importantly reminds us to avoid. Talents, success, beauty, and even smarts should not be the target of our affection. While it's important to recognize our children's strengths and abilities, it's also important that they know you are proud of them regardless of the trophies, honors, or accolades they receive. I've been in several situations where parent's play the "one-up" game using their children as their pawns. "My kid does x,y, and z..." "Oh yah, well my kid does a, b, c, and D!!" What if your child doesn't do x,y, z, a, b, c, or d? Does that make him/her an invalid person? What if Johnny doesn't play football but instead finds joy in serving others? What if Janey doesn't like to dance but loves to lose herself in books?
My children may never earn a Pulitzer, a Heizman, or a Grammy, but that doesn't negate the fact that they are amazing people. Be proud of who they are, not what they can do. Thankfully we all come with our own personalities, talents, and interests. Our hobbies and interests may not be the same as our children's... and that's okay! At the end of the day, the potential size of your child's future paycheck or the number of trophies that adorn his/her wall are not important. Their ability to love and to feel love, however, is. Rather than trying to force your interests on your children, why not let them discover their own? Embrace their uniqueness and find pride in the gift of parenthood. All children - both yours and mine - have the potential to do much good in this world. Teach them to love and respect themselves and humanity, and you will always have cause to be proud.
Humor - Laugh. Life's too precious and too short to be serious 100% of the time. Sure, there's a time and a place to be all buttoned up and serious, but there are also appropriate times to let loose and laugh! Find joy in your parenting journey. Fill your home with laughter. Children are delightful. Parenthood is tough, but it can also be fun! Play with you kids. Kick back and enjoy a good belly jiggling, tear-invoking, snort-inducing laugh.
Gratitude - Every night I hit my knees to thank my Heavenly Father for entrusting me with the care and nurture of His beautiful, valuable children. Parenthood is not an opportunity any of us should take lightly. As parents - and even grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends - we have an obligation to teach, prepare, and ultimately love the little people in our lives. While most of my children are no longer technically "little people" (three of them are as big or bigger than me) they are still precious children of our Heavenly Father... and they will always be my babies!
I know that there are certain phases of your child's progression where time may seem to drag by, but believe me when I tell you to cherish those moments. Nobody loves tripping over collections of baby dolls or having little legos brutally lodged into the sole of your foot, but be grateful for them, for that chapter of innocent chaos will close sooner than you expect. I know it's cliche to say so, but they really do grow up soooo fast. Diapers turn to playdates, then homework, then real dates and driving, and then.... sigh...
Be grateful for each step of the journey. Be humble, teachable, patient, loving, and full of joy. Cherish every moment, create memories, and look forward to each amazing chapter!