Friday, October 14, 2011
Loving Like Jesus
Parenthood is funny isn't it? Things that I never questioned in my care of other children have suddenly become great big question marks as we have learned to parent Abi Kate. I am forever the researching, studying dork, and on a "need- to- know" basis so I can make informed decisions. This is both a blessing and a curse. In pregnancy, I literally inhaled books (and as an aside, friends, please just put What to Expect When You're Expecting back on the shelf and walk the other way. Unless, of course, you want to know how to expect trauma and drama.) I read articles, visited websites, and watched documentaries prepping for pregnancy and birth. Likewise, this has been applied to my parenting. And can I just say, where is the middle of the road book?! My friends have heard me say it about a billion times, but I usually side with the idea of "moderation in everything." Ok, not literally everything, but you understand where I'm coming from, right? Prior to having Abi Kate, I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on the general idea of parenthood. My degree included a lot of child development, and I've never been able to shake what I learned from that. However, there were specifics that I felt like I should read up on before having her. But I could never completely agree with anything I read. It felt like every book was some sort of extreme-- set a schedule and never deter or throw a schedule out the window and shoot the breeze. I couldn't get on board with Cry-It-Out and I couldn't agree with never helping her learn to soothe herself. I remember one afternoon calling my mom and saying, "What did you do with us?! Just lay it out for me!" In all fairness, I was very pregnant and I would like to blame my hormones for this overly emotional response. ;) I felt unsure about what decisions to make, and these decisions were so important to me. Praise the Lord that in all His goodness He gave me my husband who is the ultimate source of calm reasoning in our household. Tommy wasn't overly concerned about such decisions and said that Christ would guide us. So basically, we just began praying that God would give us His wisdom in parenting our child. It was around this time that the most profound idea hit me-- just put those other books off to the side and pick up your Bible. I know this is SO "unprofound" to 99% of believers and probably to most people who have raised children. But for me it was a decisive point in determining how we would parent. I, of course, knew how to make the Bible applicable to the main idea of parenting, to bring her up in the goodness and knowledge of Jesus. But it was the day to day routine decisions that were troubling me. The more Tommy & I talked, the more we read, and the more we prayed, those other books became less necessary. Because the reality is that we just needed to love our children the way that Christ loves us. And we chose to make that applicable even in small things (but the things that troubled me most) like sleep methods, scheduling vs. not scheduling, etc. Our Father is gentle with us, full of grace and mercy. He is attentive to our needs at all hours of the day, and He doesn't look towards His own interests but instead, gave Himself up for us in the most significant way. He is patient with us and grows us up into Him.
One thing that has always bothered me about our culture is that we expect 6 month olds to sleep like 6 year olds. We expect 4 month olds to manage their emotions the way 4 year olds do. And we expect 8 month olds to independently entertain themselves the way an 8 year old would. We no longer allow babies to be babies. We expect them to be independent, nearly self sufficient beings by age 1. We expect them to conform to our schedule, our needs, our sleep patterns, and our desires quickly. We are frustrated when they don't. To me, this stood in opposition to the tenderness found in the person of Christ. Praise God that He knew I wouldn't be a mature believer after one year of salvation. That He didn't deem me "difficult" or become frustrated with me. Instead, He gently drew me to Himself and has continued sanctifying me over the last 17 years, offering me endless grace (and trust me, I've needed it!). This picture of His love was monumental for me. By no means do I think that we shouldn't train our children to learn to be independent or withhold discipline or guide them. But Tommy & I have decided that we will guide them gently and patiently. This hasn't always been easy and I was seriously questioning this idea when Abi Kate, my once champion sleeper, suddenly stopped sleeping through the night at 5 1/2 months and persisted until she broke her first tooth. I am not a night friendly person. I become irrational, seriously grumpy. It's not pretty, friends. Not. Pretty. Please do not ask my husband about what I'm like at 2 am. We received the typical advice to ignore her, that she'd figure out we weren't coming for her. But we felt compelled to apply Phil. 2:4 and look towards her interests, and to do it joyfully. It was difficult for me because I was very tired and I felt sure I had done something to screw up my child and cause her to have a sleep regression. I worried that she would never sleep well again, that it would affect her development (I know...ridiculous). Many nights, most nights actually, I had to beat "self" into submission as I rolled out of bed and remember to be full of love, not full of frustration. (I'm definitely not getting Mom of the Year Award after this post, huh?!). Tommy on the other hand is full of compassion and gentleness at all times, even at 1 am and then again at 3 am, 4:30 am, etc. Guilt, anyone?! Of course, her tooth broke through, she went back to her regular sleep habits, and her momma became slightly less paranoid. ;) But the lesson learned by making faith applicable to even the smallest things in parenting wasn't lost on us.
We learned one thing after being a parent for about a week-- there is not a "right" way to parent, so to speak. What works with Abi Kate probably won't work with another child. What works in our family won't work in another family. What we think is right for her may not be right for someone else's child. And that is ok! We all have a responsibility to look towards the interests of our children, and that might look different in different families. We would be foolish and full of pride to assume that her disposition and capabilities are accredited to our exceptional parenting skills. Instead, I've found that loving her has given me a better picture of God's love for His children, and has afforded me the opportunity to continue to work out my salvation and walk in faith. I'm grateful that He reaches me when I'm unreachable, that He soothes me when I am inconsolable, and that He willingly gave of Himself when I was most unworthy. Oh, that I would faithfully walk in those truths....