Eyes, nose, hair, body, personality…they all get passed down through the gene pool. There’s so much of “them” in “us.”
Our parents…they shape us.
Our parents…how they step into our world impacts us.
Our parents…what they got, what they learned, they gave, they taught, they modeled.
They did their best.
Sometimes what gets passed down to us is obvious and intentional. Sometimes, it’s subtle. Sometimes what gets passed down can be lacking or unhealthy or maybe even non-existent.
As a daughter, I can name a million things that I learned from my mom and dad. They show up in the way I live and speak and engage. So many of these things are amazing and helpful and useful. So many of them are a gift. There’s so much good in me because they offered so much. Yet, sometimes I wish I had learned more, more of the “hard” stuff.
As a mother of a little girl and little boy, I’m now in my parent’s shoes. I have this role, this responsibility, this opportunity to show them, teach them, entertain them, love them, delight in them, connect with them…and many days it’s really, really hard. I have many moments of, “Oh, now that was awesome!” But, there are just as many moments when I feel like I’m doing it all wrong, when everything inside of me has no clue what to do.
As a parent, I want the best for my kids. Who doesn’t? I want them to be competent, caring, connected, creative adults. I want them to be kind and respectful and responsible and fun and strong and tender. I want them to trust…themselves, me, others, God. There’s so much their little eyes and brain and ears are learning every second. Every day it feels like the race is on. NOW is the time to instill in them all that I know, all that I hope for, all that I can. I’m watching their innocence become enlightenment within days, and there’s a world out there I desperately want them to be prepared for and engage with in honest and hopeful and healthy ways.
But, really, who gave us a manual on how to do all of this? On how to parent?
So, we have to dig deep, remember and process and execute what we’ve learned, what we know. And, the foundation for this is often times our story, our parents…what they offered, what we learned…it automatically trickles out of us. But, in the instantaneous moments of meltdowns and tantrums and disappointment and resistance and crying and fight or flight, what’s required of us is not something we have time to sit down, ponder and regurgitate. Response is needed, in the moment, now, right then. Sometimes, a flood of ideas come. Sometimes, the only thing that works comes. And, sometimes, nothing comes except a stare and a glare.
In these daily (sometimes hourly) moments, I’ve realized that some of what’s required of me is lacking, and I find myself wishing I had gotten a better education in the relational stuff – the disappointment, heartache, anger, fear. Sometimes, my own junk gets triggered. My unmet longings come rising to the surface, and I react personally instead of securely. All the good that I could offer seemingly left the room about a millisecond before, and I’m left standing there grasping at all I can to navigate through the unknown waters.
It’s hard. Parenting is hard work. It requires a level of groundedness and maturity that for many, hasn’t had a chance to develop, or maybe was never invited to the table.
So, here I am in the midst of this mysterious and glorious and heart aching and heart soaring and mind blowing season of parenthood. I keep breathing. I keep learning. I keep open…to understanding more of what the human mind and heart need. Physically and developmentally, it’s quite intricate and complex. Emotionally, it’s quite simple – the human heart longs to feel loved and understood and significant and safe. These longings are good. But, for many of us, the ways we were taught how to get those longings met were unhealthy, unhelpful, and sometimes hurtful…to ourselves and others.
We step into our relationships and marriages and children with some really good things, and some really unhelpful things. Some things we have to learn. Some things we have to unlearn. As I observe and soak in the parenting world, I often sense that parents can focus too much on correcting behavior and outcome and results. When, in fact, maybe we need to be focusing more on what it means to comfort and delight and believe in, what it’s like to experience grace and acceptance and forgiveness and trust. When we allow ourselves to be human, it has the potential to teach our kids what it means to be human. And then, together, we can learn what to do with our humanity…how to offer it to one another, to the world.
So, whether you’re a child or a parent or both, remember…
In the mistakes, in the rupture, there is always opportunity for repair. Always.
In the not knowing, offer who you are, what you know. And then be open. There is always opportunity to learn and grow and mature, and try, try again.
I’m learning that as I parent my children in old and new ways, God is mysteriously re-parenting parts of me. I love being witness to that kind of God.