Just read the manual! What manual?!
Kids don’t come with instruction manuals. Of course there are tons of books on the market, starting when a woman is pregnant, about child bearing and child rearing, but how do you know which one is the right one, especially for you and your child. I had babysat from the time I was 12 through my early twenties. I worked for several families and was pretty close to a nanny for one of them. I considered being a nanny for a long time. So when I was pregnant with Oldest I thought I had a pretty good head start on things.
Like most new moms to be, I read What to Expect When Your Expecting and my husband leafed through What to Expect When Your Wife is Expanding. They got us through pregnancy for the most part. They did not prepare me or us for the premature labor, bed rest and eventual C-section, but we muddled through and Oldest was born a very healthy, nine pound, plus baby. I remember thinking the first night we brought him home, even though I knew a lot about caring for a baby and my Mom was asleep in the guest room, “They actually let me take him home?! What were they thinking?! I don’t have clue about what I’m doing!!” I still feel like that, quite a bit!
Now I have five kids, ranging from 17 to three, and most days I’m winging it. Just when I think I’ve got things figured out, the playing field changes or the next kid acts completely different from the one I just figured out. You would think with five kids at least two of them would be similar, but no such luck! It has always amazed me that in a household where all the kids are being raised the same way, by the same parents, that each kid can be so completely different! All of my siblings and I are very different, just as my kids are. Every child has a completely different personality; they often learn differently and behave differently even in similar situations.
When Oldest was little I was consumed with whether or not he was doing things on time and right. Probably, like a lot of parents I wanted very much, for him to be ahead of schedule. I wanted him to be a brilliant child, ahead of all of his peers. When The Organized Child was born, I compared her growth and behaviors to Oldest, as well as other kids her own age. I made myself crazy trying to be sure they were ok, or better yet, brilliantly gifted. In one of my freaked out, rambling states, I remember a very dear friend, whose oldest child was two years ahead of mine, telling me “Keep your eyes on your own paper!” It was a very hard thing, to learn to do, but that advice was some of the best I have ever gotten when it comes to child rearing. God has made each one of our children completely perfect, exactly as He wants them to be. I needed to learn to relax and accept them exactly as they are, where they are.
By the time my little ones came along I was a much more relaxed Mama, probably too relaxed. When The Director asked if The Informer was doing a certain task yet, I didn’t have a clue. I had to stop and ask her,” Informer, do you know how to do the specific task?” She replied with a look of disgust “Of course I do, how old do you think I am?!” I am definitely enjoying my younger ones more than I did the older ones, simply because I’m not completely freaked out over every little thing. Although, I must admit that I’m probably a lot more freaked out about my kids safety now that I’m older, and know friends who have lost children to tragic accidents. But that’s a totally different post!
I think what I’ve learned over the past years is that no matter what book you pick up; there will always be one that contradicts it. No matter what anyone says trust your instincts. Always keep your eyes on your own paper, and know that God has made your children, no matter how many you have, perfect.
Another very dear friend called me today to let me know that her youngest (just six months younger than The Little Man) was giving her a run for her money. He reminded her of all the stories I used to tell about Oldest, especially when it came to specific male body parts. She also said that he is strong willed and into everything, just like Oldest had been. We laughed as I remembered things Oldest had done and we talked about discipline. I told her that even today I feel like a Soccer player, all day long I’m always sending someone to time-out, “go cop a squat”, “go sit in the corner”, “go to time out” – kick the ball to the goal, kick it again, kick it again. Time out isn’t my goal but rearing my child is, it’s my duty as a parent. God expects me to raise up these children for His kingdom and if that road consists of gentle reminders on how to behave, aka time out, than I must look beyond the corner and see the kingdom.
I told my friend that I have had numerous talks; I still have them now, with Oldest. I remind him repeatedly that God made him perfect! He made him exactly as God wants him to be. God gave him the gift of being strong willed for a reason and purpose which only God knows right now. It is important for Oldest to have this character quality, BUT, that doesn’t mean God will allow disobedience. God’s fifth commandment is honor thy father and mother; children do this by obeying their parents. I do this by obeying God. God has commanded me to train up my children so that when they are old they will not depart from it. Therefore, I reminded my friend that while sometimes you can come up with a fabulous punishment that fits the crime (I often get inspired by Bill Cosby on the old Cosby show, there were some great punishments on that show and they always fit the crime!), often it’s as Dr. Ray Guarendi says, be diligent! Even if it doesn’t seem to phase your child, do not sway; be consistent in whatever discipline you choose to follow. Kids need to know there will be a consequence for their actions good or bad.
So, while kids don’t come with instruction manuals God did give us a Manual on how to live according to His laws. And, that manual does cover parenting issues.
Think of it this way
B – Basic
I – Instructions
B – Before
L – Leaving
E – Earth
And remember as one of my favorite authors Matthew Kelly says (this is paraphrased, imagine it in an Australian accent) “The average life span is 77 years. How are you going to tell Him (God) you didn’t have time to read His book?! You get to heaven and have a little one on one time with the Almighty. After some small talk God asks “did you read my book?” You answer “bits and pieces, you know on Sundays.” Now that’s an awkward moment! God looks disappointed as well he should, it’s not like he’s John Grisham with a new one every six months, He’s just got the one!”
Have you considered it as a life manual or child rearing manual?
Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it. Proverbs 22:6
Some excellent tools!
For Instruction In Righteousness - A Topical Reference Guide for Biblical Child-Training by Pam ForsterClipart from http://www.watton.org/clipart/bible/bibles.shtml