So I read books--lots of books--on parenting. Most of the books I read tend to be relatively anti-modern psychology, and more along the lines of how to get kiddos to obey and obey now! And, yes, there is value in obedience. In practical terms, you need your kid to pay attention to you when he is about to chase his wayward big-wheel into oncoming traffic or when he looks just a little too curious about that shiny black spider he just discovered. BUT, at an age earlier than I think many of us think, kids catch on when you're asking them to obey for a very good reason versus asking them to obey because it's more convenient for mom to do things one way over another. More and more I found that I had created crabby kids who fought with me over the littlest things because they knew I so desperately wanted to prove I was in control. There is a profound relationship between love and discipline, and I have clearly not figured it out. It's quite a feat giving your kids their say without deluding them into thinking the world will always bow to their whim. Parenting is tricky.
Another tricky part to parenting is realizing that what you do within the walls of your home will never remain within the walls of your home. Your children are undoubetedly individuals, but there's no denying that in some ways they are walking reflections of what you're teaching them, either directly or indirectly. And you may not always like what you see. Inevitably, your kids will say or do things that aren't approved of by in-laws, neighbors, friends, etc. Lets face it mom and dad, peer pressure doesn't end in high school. In fact, it gets a little worse because now the issue at hand isn't clothes or after school activities; it's your children. Do my kids go to the right school? Can they read at age 3 like that kid? Are they as obedient/polite/athletic as the neighbors' kids? And on and on and on until you make a conscious effort to stop the comparisons. I don't think you should be afraid to push your kid a little in an area where you know she can excel, but always make sure you're chasing her dreams and not your own.
So where does that leave us? Misfit kids who operate with no rules and no standards? We hope not. I do want kids who think outside the box, who take part in righting wrongs, and who create rather than regergitate. At the very same time, I want my kids to fit in to the extent that they don't have to face the trial of being outcasts. How do you strike that balance between living boldly yet still operating in a way that makes you likeable? I don't really know.
What I do know is that God gave me three kiddos. He put them in our family, and He let my husband and I name them. He also gave us the awesome responsibility of raising them to the best of our ability. And, as it turns out, He's given them the incredible ability to teach and grow both me and my husband. As we attempt to teach lessons in authority and love, we are taught. As our children learn how to love, we learn where we fall woefully short. And I believe parenting is designed this way because in what other context could we possbily learn so much about love, discipline, and the impossibility of being perfect? Mom and dad, I invite you to parent boldly and creatively, to love those little ones you're blessed with, and to always be willing to lean on the One who has called you to parenthood.