When my editor assigned me the “Parenting” beat on PolitiChicks, I had to laugh. After all, I quit teaching parenting classes over twenty years ago – not because I did not enjoy the classes or the parents who took them, but because I came to realize that there was so much I did not know. And who showed me that? Well, my children, of course!
In the 80’s I was the Director of Youth and Family Ministries at a large Lutheran church in Florida. We added the “and Family” during my tenure there, because we recognized that we could not effectively minister to youth without including the whole family. Part of my responsibility was to create classes for parents – how to parent different ages, how to pass on the faith to one’s children, how to build your child’s self-esteem, how to discipline effectively and more.
I was pretty good at those things, I thought. After all, I finished my Master’s Degree in Counseling when my first daughter was nine months old. I learned from the best, Alfred Adler (The Education of Children), Rudolf Dreikers (Children the Challenge), and Carl Rogers (Person Centered Therapy). Like many of us, I knew I was not going to make the mistakes my parents made with me. I was going to use logical and natural consequences with my kids, and I was never, ever going to spank them!
This worked pretty well with my first two children. I had two children during the time I worked at the church and they were perfect examples of my excellent parenting method. They were polite and well-behaved, not to mention intelligent and attractive. (Of course that is what I thought; they were my kids!) My husband and I had this parenting thing down, and I learned later that some people really did have the idea that we were exceptional parents because of our wonderful young children. What they (and we) did not realize was that we had children who were naturally compliant – at least when they were young.
Then came child number three, where God taught me that he does not let the sin of pride go. Our third child, the second boy, did not enjoy sitting in his little rocker as a baby, fascinated with the ceiling fan and the flowers on the couch, just happy to be in the room with us. He wanted to be entertained! Not to mention that he wanted to eat – every hour and a half for three months! Once he started crawling, I put away all my sewing and crafting. He cared nothing for toys; there were way too many other interesting things to explore. He was fifteen months old when he caught the snake on our patio (requiring me to take it from him!), eighteen months old when he managed to make his way to the top of the refrigerator (where we had put the cookies out of his reach.) He approached life with a joyful and wild abandon and we never knew what he was going to think of next! I was exhausted for the first three years of his life – I actually thought my life was over…and I felt the stares of disapproval from the people who watched us out in public. Pregnant “friends” told me that they prayed that God would not give them a “Drew.”
I learned a lot from my younger son. I learned that I did not have nearly as much control over my children as I thought I did! I learned that every child is different and requires a different approach. I learned that each of my children was an individual who responded differently to the various methods and practices of our parenting. I learned that my children shaped me as a parent every bit as much as I shaped them as children. And I learned that if I did not have all the answers for my own family, I certainly did not have all the answers for everyone else!
Drew turned out well, in spite of our many mistakes as parents. In fact, he was my easiest teenager, but that’s another story. All four of my kids have turned out very well, in my opinion, although they are all different and have taken different paths. I like to think that the fact that we were willing to learn as we went as they grew up helped us help them figure out who they were and where they should go in life.
Back to teaching parenting classes – I haven’t taught a parenting class since Drew was a baby, but I’m willing to share my thoughts and the thoughts of others here in the Parenting section of PolitiChicks. Just remember, you are the expert on your own children. Take the advice of parenting experts with a grain of salt; their advice changes with each generation. Be willing to learn from your children, love them, and be their greatest advocate – do what you think is right, even in the face of disapproval from other people. Who is going to love your kids more than you do, anyway?