I have finished writing a parenting book recently. I’m like, “Why am I writing a parenting book? I’m not even finished raising my children.”
I have been searching for wisdom and counsel from people to help me because I am in a season of struggle with my kids. I have teenagers, and I don’t really know how to parent in this season because I have not done it before. I reached out to mothers who had some experience. Honestly, I got empty counsel. I would receive advice like, “Just pray. I don’t really know how I raised good kids. I just prayed and then God did the work.”
I am led to believe that this is not all they did. They probably messed up a lot of things. They probably apologized a lot. But they just don’t recall it offhand. They haven’t reflected enough to give godly counsel to women who are trying to do the same things—who are trying to avoid the same mistakes that they made. They don’t know how to guide their fellow moms.
So I sought the Lord, trying my hardest just to bite my tongue and figure out how to get through this season. The Lord seemed to be telling me, “You know what, your thirteen-year-old daughter asked you to write a parenting book. Ask her if she still wants you to write it. If she does, I want you to do that next.”
I talked to her about it and said, “I don’t even know if you like the way I parent anymore. Maybe you want me to write a parenting book so you can know what not to do. I don’t really know. But would you still like for me to write down how I have raised you to date? If so, I am going to start that book because you asked me to.” She said, “Yes, mom. I want to know how you have raised us. I think you did a really great job training us, especially in the beginning.”
So I began to write this book. I didn’t know that God would show me wisdom and give me practical advice as I went back and reflected on raising my kids from birth until today. I didn’t know how much He would give me wisdom on how to move forward. I feel like He has made me a wise woman through writing this parenting book.
When you are writing a story, it is like holding up a mirror and seeing your own reflection. When I don’t see my reflection, I don’t really know what my flaws are. But when I look at a mirror, I can immediately see pimples and bumps on my face, ingrown hairs on my eyebrows, or wild hair. The closer I look, the more flaws I see in my face. That is what writing is like. It’s as if you are holding a mirror and you are just really reflecting on who you are and what you have done. You can see every flaw of your life.
When I began to write this parenting book, I started in my past. I started with my own childhood. I just recalled my own childhood and what made me want to become a different kind of parent than my parents. I reflected on my husband’s childhood. I reflected on those first years of being pregnant. I reflected on how I would wake up with my first-born and just feel like it was Christmas every day. I reflected on those terrible twos and terrible threes and how difficult those seasons were.
As I reflected, God gave me all the answers that I needed for the exact season that I was in. I may have a parenting book to share tips and tidbits for anyone who would like them but the truth is that it changed my life. It changed my family. It changed my responses. The process of writing this book changed my life. It’s not the book. It’s not what I did. It’s the process of drawing it out, reflecting and remembering.
The first thing I am going to talk about is my marriage. I remembered my husband’s story and how he was raised—he was actually abused by his dad. His dad would burn his fingers with cigarettes. He would hold his head underwater and yell at him. He was abusive. He beat his mother. Whenever his father would come in drunk, his mother would put him at the bottom of the clothes hamper and throw clothes on him, telling him to not get up or move until she comes to get him. Sometimes he would stay in the hamper for hours. He was three then. As I reflected on that, I thought about those events in his life and how that had to make him a timid guy. He hates temper and anger. He hates to get in trouble. It stems from that little boy who was under those clothes in the hamper. I reflected on what kind of wife I am today and how I nag him and get him in trouble. In what ways do I cause him to be defensive? In what ways am I stealing from him and making him feel like the little boy who was under the clothes in the hamper.
As I reflected on his childhood, I realized that it was all of that pain that made him the gentle man that he is today. A mutual friend of ours was flying from Houston to Oklahoma City and she happened to be on the same flight as my husband. It was midnight and her baby cried and screamed and flailed throughout the entire flight. She said, “It was such a God given blessing that I got sat next to your husband. He is the gentlest man that I know on this earth.” That gentleness comes from this man who was a little boy at one time. His parents chose him for a purpose that he wasn’t designed for. He was hurt. It created in him such a gentleness that if I become a radical, pushy, bossy, feminist woman, I can actually hurt him and cause him the same pain.
Reflecting back on this and his life made me really respect and appreciate my husband. I made a commitment to myself to watch my tongue more closely. I haven’t reflected on that for seventeen years. As I reflected on it, I just realized some ugliness in my own attitude. Sometimes it’s not even in my mouth, but the attitude towards him in my heart that needs to change. Sometimes we need to reflect because we need to look back in order to change who we become today, because we forgot somewhere along the way.
This process also prompted me to recount our first year of marriage and how in love I was with my husband. I remember thinking, “It’s not possible to love anything anymore ever.” When I thought about my firstborn child, I thought how could I possibly love her as much as I love him? Will I love her less? Will I love her more? I don’t really know, but I love him so much. After she was born, it was as if my heart grew seven times. Love expanded. I had never, ever loved the way I loved my daughter. I didn’t even know that kind of love existed.
As I reflected on that situation, I fell more in love with my husband. I had forgotten how much I loved him and his heart and how much I appreciated him. Can you believe that? Seventeen years, and I have forgotten how much in love I was with him. Reflecting and writing this parenting book reminded me of my new love. In the Bible, with God, it says, “Go back and do what you once did in the beginning.” Because I wrote this parenting book, it revived my love for my husband, and I went back and did what I did in the beginning.
Every person has a story. Writing down your story is like pulling up a mirror that allows you to reflect on the beauty and the pain God worked into your past. It will help you reflect on how you cared about someone once and how you let all these little annoyances and pet peeves get in the way and cause you to lose sight of what is truly important. For me, in my marriage, I once loved my husband very deeply. Some dumb things got in the way, but as I reflected, I realized I love him even more today than I ever have.
As I reflected on my own childhood and how I was raised, I noticed some little things that I had brought into the teenage years with my children. It is really frustrating to have your kids leave a pile of mess for you everywhere you go. The room is a wreck, they leave food on the counter, they come in and throw their stuff down, and they kick their shoes off. Their stuff is everywhere. You like your house to be orderly and clean. When people drop by, you don’t want crap everywhere, but yet that’s what your kids do. They fling it and leave it everywhere. In the last couple of years, I just heard myself hound and hound, nag and nag: “Pick up your stuff.” “Come get your shoes.” “Get your bag.” I have actually made fun of them and I do a little skit like, “Hey, mom!” I kick off my left shoe and my right shoe and I throw stuff all over the house. That is how our house ends up looking like a bomb went off half the time.
As I recounted being raised, all I can remember is being nagged for my stuff all the time. That is what I remember. I remember being nagged, “Pick up your room.” “Pick up your stuff.” “Your room is a mess.” “Your room is—,” like a broken record. I’ve never been like that in raising my kids. I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to choose relationship over cleanliness. I want to choose my children before I choose chores. Yet, here I am finding myself nagging and nagging and nagging. Maybe I even nagged them before I hugged them good morning. My first thought is, “Pick up your stuff,” not “Good morning.”
In your young years with your kids, they are ornery, and their ridiculous behavior is something that is so precious to you. You love it: “Oh, I love it when you’re ornery! Look at the mess that you made. I love this mess. Your messiness is so beautiful. Your rottenness is so cute!” All of a sudden, they become teens and instead of you going, “Oh, come here. Good morning! I just want to kiss your rotten face!” you go, “Your rottenness makes me mad.” There is a change that happens and it begins to separate the intimacy between you and your child. Your expectations changed. So did your love and your hugs. Maybe it has become more conditional because you are becoming more and more frustrated. Maybe you are keeping a record of wrongs. You are measuring—making a molehill into a mountain.
As I recounted my own childhood, I remember not being hugged very much. I remembered being told, “Hush, I am on the phone.” I remember my mom saying, “Listen. I am tired. Let me just go change my clothes and then I’ll talk to you,” but she never came back and talked to me. I remember feeling pushed aside. I remember feeling like the least important person on the earth.
Then, when I had my first daughter, Spencer, I was in the hospital holding her and my love just exploded. My mom was sitting in the room and I said, “Mom, did you ever love me this much?” She said, “I still do.” My mom has been gone for nine years. To this day, I am still baffled by that comment. When does intimacy between a mother and a daughter grow cold? When does intimacy between father and son change? The love didn’t change, but the behavior did. The action of showing the love was different.
As I reflected back on this, I realized that I don’t want to leave a legacy where my kids aren’t sure of how much I love them or how much I care about them. It changed my behavior. It shut my mouth. Who cares if my house is messy for a few years? Come over and step over some stuff. Come into our house that is filled with love, peace, and junk. We live in it. As I reflected, I counted what I really valued. I value their hearts more than I value a clean, organized home. How cool is that?
As you write your story down—because every person has a story—you will reflect and see where your weaknesses truly are so that you can change. It will empower you to make the change.