24 June 2016

my most heartfelt advice on parenting

Recently, I was talking to someone who is about to have her third baby.
"You have six kids," she said, "what's your best advice for someone that's about to add another baby to their family?" 

Because most days are filled with craziness, and because when she asked, I was surrounded by all six kids, and because it's summer and my kids eat constantly, and they were all asking for food at that exact moment, I was a little frazzled.

In the midst of our conversation, I gave her some thoughts on laundry. Obviously very practical, and truthfully, I could talk about laundry at length. I know, you guys, I am very exciting. But I walked away from our conversation wishing I could've shared what I would have, had I taken two seconds to think it through. So, I circled back with her and told her this:

Give yourself abundant grace. Ten percent of parenting is knowing what you're doing, and ninety percent is winging it. Nobody has it all figured out, we just try our best to do the right thing and raise these little people into adults who love God and love others well. It's hard and messy and you will spend too much time second guessing yourself. Have fun, give yourself a lot of grace and understanding - the same you'd extend to your dearest friend - and remember, God loves those babies even more than you do. He can carry and sustain you when you need it most. All that, and lots of coffee.

I kind of laugh whenever we go in for a baby check up and our pediatrician asks me if I have any questions. Not that I have it all figured out, but babies are pretty manageable to me. I do have a million questions about fourth graders, though. Navigating through eye rolling and hurt feelings on the playground and not getting picked to pitch in a little league game. I have questions about first grade boys, too, even though this is my second and third time around. Like, why do they think that poop is so hilarious? How can I protect their hearts while also letting them experience real life a little? How can I explain to them why some kids aren't that nice or don't get why our family looks a little different? Is there a cure for the drama that is being three years old? How have my kids so acutely developed the ability to filter out my voice but can hear snacks being consumed two rooms away? Kids are a mystery to me.

I admit wholeheartedly that most of the time I feel like I don't know what I am doing. I don't feel like I am getting the things done that need to be done. I don't have any secret formulas for getting certain results because all of my kids are so vastly different from one another. You think we'd see some kind of pattern with six of them, but that hasn't happened yet.

But here's what I know: we really are trying our best. We fail a lot, no doubt about it. I pray that I can somehow be a reflection of His love in their lives, that in all the craziness and messiness and imperfection, they see Him. And that they know we love them.

You'll never have it all figured out. There won't be a moment that clicks and you think, "NOW I get it!" (And if there is, surely you will realize five minutes later that you actually do not.) Just do your best, give yourself lots of grace, know that He's got your back, try to have some fun along the way, and surround yourself with people (or even just one person) who get it. I am so grateful for the friends in my life who are walking through these things with me, who struggle and wrestle with the desire to love their kids well. A little community of support as you live this role as a parent is invaluable.

Parenthood changes you and challenges you, and stretches your heart to love beyond capacity.

It's awesome.