goodly parenting (yep, that's two o's)

my friend brian at the cheek of God is doing a guest posting series on parenting.  he’s been a faithful carnival commenter & i am so thankful to have crossed paths out here in blogland. love his writing, love his heart.  i thought since our readerships are really different i’d cross-post it here.

the question was:  how has parenting changed you?

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when i was pregnant with my oldest child, who’s now 16 ½ years old, my husband and i were at a group with lots of people just starting their families.  he was in the navy and we were at that age where pretty much everyone was popping out babies one after another.  i’ll never forget the night one of the mommies abruptly turned to me and said “do you want to hold her?” swinging her precious 4 month old baby into my arms.  i panicked.  “umm, no thanks” i muttered back, with a little nervous laugh underneath. my friend looked a little stunned that i had rejected her offer. jose & i  left a little bit later and i cried all the way home, feeling like the world’s worst mom-to-be.   how could i be so cold toward that beautiful baby?  it scared me, and for the next few months every evil “what if you really are a terrible mom and won’t love your child properly” thought rattled across my mind.  little did i know that a few months later my entire world would open up & the expanse of love and care for that precious brown bundle would overtake my heart.  and little did i know that that would happen 4 times again.  5 little babies to hold & love.  oh, yeah, and to parent.

creating them is one thing.  popping them out is one thing.  those are the easy parts (yes, that is what i am saying, labor isn’t the hardest part although every woman knows it hurts like hell).  parenting them, now that’s the hard part. it’s the part where i am faced with my humanity, my selfishness, my pride, my tendency to want everything to be as good as it can possibly be. but in that same breath, it’s also the place where i am faced with the magnitude of how much love resides in my heart,  how much i am willing to give up for those little people’s sakes, and how deep my desire is for their well-being.  parenting, a little like marriage, is the place where the sum total of all my ugliness & all my goodness somehow collide & i learn more about myself, other people, God, than i ever bargained for.

here a few that are on the top of my head:

knock the bar off the rack. the parenting bar has been set too damn high. take a browse through any parenting magazine or the parenting section of barnes & noble and you will instantly feel overwhelmed, sure to fail. the world (& the church), in my opinion, has become obsessed with more, more, more, and it has translated into parents working themselves to exhaustion to keep up with some magical bar of parenting excellence. if i am in a group of young mommies and get them talking, the #1 thing they will say is that they feel guilty that they aren’t doing “x, y or z” enough with their child. the best thing i did was throw away the parenting magazines & begin to take that crazy imaginary “good parent” bar down a few notches.

prepare to be humiliated. i wish someone would have told me this. i had no idea i would be embarrassed and publicly humiliated over and over and over again. tantrums in the target line. naughty behavior at a friend’s house after you had prayed feverishly the whole way there that everyone would be on their good behavior. class projects that didn’t quite have the pizzazzz they did at home when they are lined up against the professional mommies work. oh the list goes on and on and on. i know all about sweating profusely & wanting to rip someone’s arm out of their socket.

never say never. “we would never let our kids do that.” oh, never say never. that one has come back to bite me in more ways than one. you just never know what might evolve over time. you never know the shifts that could take place. you never know you might end up in exactly the same place you were judging someone for being. if there was one word i’d take out of my parenting vocabulary it’d be “never.”

remember they’re just people, too, trying to do the best they can. this is probably the biggest way i have changed over the years. my poor oldest child got the brunt of our wacked expectations of parenting perfection (trust me, i ask for forgiveness all the time). i had some weird light go on somewhere along the way where i noticed that i had the ability to pass on grace and mercy to grownups like it was nothing but when it came to the kids i had some unrealistic idea they automatically should do things right the first time. i think this coincided with me sort of accepting myself a little more, giving myself a little more grace and mercy, too, and somehow it became easier to let go and quit expecting so much out of them all the time.

lighten up. we just used to take ourselves too seriously. if i have one regret in my early parenting years it is that i didn’t laugh enough. i didn’t look at my life and see it as a fun canvas of a crazy and beautiful life evolving. i looked at it more as a performance that i kept screwing up. the more i was able to laugh at myself, at ourselves, the more free i have felt. plus, let’s face it, some parenting stuff is just comical. now, with my kids getting older, sometimes in the minute of something stupid i am about to do as a parent, we will just stop and laugh at how ridiculous i can sometimes be.

i’m banking on love. “love covers a multitude of sins” is a biblical truth that i hold on to when it comes to parenting. although i don’t think it gives us a license to just do whatever we want, i do believe that it is true, that love fills in the cracks. love prevails. love strengthens. love never fails. and love is sacrifice. love is care. love is presence. i have done a million things wrong as a mommy, but i do believe my love for them is more powerful than all of my mistakes.

so as i am writing this my kids are getting ready for school. i asked my 16 year old “how have daddy and i changed as parents?”  and he said “goodly.” yeah, the escobars are really good at grammar, but i’ll take it any day.

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ps:  jose and i are escaping for a few grownups-only water skiing days with some dear friends at lake powell so i’ll be quiet in responding this week.  then we come back and gear up for off the map live’s the born again church tour here in denver october 17/18th. if you’re local, hope to see you there!  buy your tickets here.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

11 Comments

  • Kathy,

    Beautifully put, once again. I’m still working on the “bar” and the “lighten up” parts. I’d add one more to the list, though, something like: “always remember, you’re sponge food.” I did a little piece about what I mean a few months back. Though you might dig it.

    Have a great trip. Come back in one piece.

    Grace and Peace,
    Raffi

    Reply
  • Kathy, I’m not a mommy, but I could relate to some of the things you said. For instance the wanna hold my baby moment. There have just been times in my life, where I don’t want to hold someone else’s baby. Maybe not in the same sense you had. Probably more like fear of being drooled or spit up on. For some reason, I could handle that with my nieces and nephews, but not so much as a 20-year old who had no intention of having her own babies anytime soon.

    Funny, I am not a parent, but I get curious every once in awhile about how parenting is “supposed” to be done. I just finished listening to this really interesting book on CD called “How to parent your teen with love and logic”. Actually, really opened my eyes to ideas I had never thought of before. just like there probably is no perfect job, i imagine you are very right in that there are no perfect parents out there either.

    Reply
  • That’s a great picture of your family! Wish I had one like that of mine — Wow, you’ve really raised the bar 🙂

    I can relate on so many levels — remember being floored when the hospital turned my wife and I loose with our newborn son (the firstborn). I thought I should at least have to pass some certification test or something…

    Two girls later, we’ve definitely lightened up — noticed the volume of photos, videos, etc., we’ve taken along the way has decreased proportionally with each child…

    Re: embarassing moments, I remember taking the family to see the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie a few years back. Our youngest was 3 or 4, and she LOVED the first movie (calling it the Pirate Wovie) — even the scary skeleton parts we probably shouldn’t have let her see but she did anyway when her older siblings put on the DVD at home. Being the dutiful parent that I was, I read several online reviews that all said the 2nd movie was less scary than the first. So we took her…and she loved it until the part where the huge scary kracken sea monster thingy started devouring ships (admittedly louder and scarier on the big screen than at home). After burying her head in my chest for a time, she proceeded to stand up in her seat, look at her mother and I, then exclaim loudly — “WHY DID YOU BRING ME TO THIS MOVIE?!!”

    So proud… 🙂

    Reply
  • I think parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done – harder than divorce, harder than running a business, harder than moving away from family and friends.

    It’s definitely not for the weak or wimpy. If you have low self-esteem, I’d advise you to get that pumped up before becoming a parent. If you are independent, prepare to lose your independence for at least 18 years and often many more.

    My children have shown me myself – the good, the bad, and definitely the ugly. They have taught me how it is impossible to love one more than the other (you love them differently, not more or less). They have taught me how important it is to be consistent, stand by my promise (or threat) and that love and forgiveness can be given and accepted freely right alongside consequences.

    They have shown me that life teaches at least as well as I can, and most times, better. And they have shown me that parenting is a long term investment – you may be discouraged at the bumps and dips and sometimes you think you’ve lost it all, but if you wait long enough you may find that your return is far more than you can ever have imagined – for your children and for you.

    Reply
  • I am discovering that a great thing about parenting is somewhere along the road it gets a little fuzzy, a little hazzy – and then all of a sudden you are friends. That in their eyes I am no longer Superman, I can no more give them the moon – those times are gone – I am now their friend.

    It is me who needs a hand, it is me who needs a lift, it is me who needs some help – and it is they who are there.

    My daughter gave me $50 the other day – I said, what’s this for? She said, take it – go buy something it’s for you. As she drove off she never saw the tears roll down my cheeks. Our life up to now of giving physically had been one way – it had now become a two way street. I love you my darling … not just because of the 50 bucks either!!!!

    Hey, be nice to your children, they will choose your nursing home one day!!!

    Reply
  • Great post. My advice is don’t read too many, if not any books on parenting. They will make you feel like the slackest parents on the face of the earth. Don’t try strive to be the perfect parents. Just be the best parents God wants you to be.

    Reply
  • I’ve had many “How could God have thought this would be a good thing?” moments in my parenting. But parenting has definately brought me closer to God and made me a more ready, effective, gracious, part of the Body.

    Reply
  • hey all, back from our trip – it was great. so relaxing. no computer. no phone. no kids. good weather. now it’s back to reality but i have to say it is so good to be home!

    randi – 🙂

    minnow – thanks. i am so with you, that parenting is this place where we can learn so much about being part of the Body. almost every aspect of relationship is present there day after day after day, lots to learn from, that’s for sure

    lisa – yeah, what’s up with people handing babies over like it’s nothing (i never really did that, i think that incident scarred me). how’d you think of listening to love and logic for teens? that made me smile 🙂

    raffi – good to hear from you here. fun post. yeah, the kiddos give us spiritual metaphor after spiritual metaphor don’t they?

    steve – great story, i can so picture it. i have so had the same kind of moment where the kids bust us publically! it’s really great to have your kids announce to dinner guests–my mom said bad words in the car today!

    susan – thanks for sharing. yeah, i think you hit on something so important: it’s the long haul. this is a marathon not a sprint and it will include many many many ups and downs. it is not for the fainthearted but like minnow said, it is a place where we learn so much about God & ourselves. it’s been way too long since i’ve seen you, hope we can connect one of these days soon!

    mark – that is a beautiful story…that’s my hope, that over the years a deep and true and meaningful friendship continues to develop.

    toia – yep, those books do nothing but bring shame and self-doubt, in my opinion. i know they have good ideas in them but i guess i just wish some of them would be more honest and less sure.

    jeff – i remember reading this when you first posted it & being so touched. what a beautiful story of your love and heart for your precious son. thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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