I finished writing a parenting book recently. I’m thinking, “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 struggling season 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 done it before and gone before me. Honestly, I got empty counsel. I would receive counsel 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 is not all they did. They probably messed up a lot of things. They probably apologized a lot. But they don’t know. They haven’t reflected enough to give godly counsel to women who are trying to do the same things and are trying to avoid the same mistakes they made. They don’t know how to guide them.
When I began to write this parenting book, I started in my past with my childhood. I recalled my childhood and what made me want to become a different kind of parent from 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 firstborn and 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 I needed for the exact season 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, my family, and my responses. It is when we reflect. 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 my husband’s head underwater and yell at him. He was abusive. He beat my husband’s mother. Whenever his father came in drunk, his mother would put my husband at the bottom of the clothes hamper and throw clothes on him, telling him not to get up and not to move until she came 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 they had to make him a timid guy. He hates temper and anger. He hates to get in trouble. It stems from the 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 all of that pain made him the gentle man 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 sat next to your husband. He is the gentlest man 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 he wasn’t designed for. He was hurt. It created in him a gentleness such 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 truly 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 recognized some ugliness in my own attitude. Sometimes it’s not even in my mouth, but the attitude in my heart towards him needs to change. Sometimes, we need to look back and reflect because we need to change who we are becoming today, and we forgot somewhere along the way.
The second thing writing this book did in my marriage is it led 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 any more ever.” When I thought about my unborn first child, I wondered how I could possibly love her as much as I loved my husband. Would I love her less? Would I love her more? I didn’t really know, but I loved him so much. After she was born, it was as if my heart grew seven times. Love expanded. I have never ever loved the way I loved my daughter. I didn’t even know such 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 with him I was. Reflecting and writing this parenting book reminded me of my new love. The Bible talks about our relationship 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 have gone back and done what I did in the beginning.
Every person has a story. Writing down your story is pulling up a mirror and helping you reflect on the beauty and pain God had in 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 loved my husband deeply once. Some dumb things got in the way, but as I reflected, I came to love him even more today than I ever have before.
As I reflected on my own childhood and how I was raised, I noticed some little things I had brought into the teenage years with my children. It is frustrating to have your kids leave a pile of mess for you everywhere you go. The room is a wreck, they leave the food on a counter, they come in and set their stuff down, and they kick their shoes off. Their stuff is everywhere. You like your house to be picked up and cleaned. When people drop by, you don’t want crap everywhere, yet that’s what your kids do. They fling it and leave it everywhere.
In the last couple of years, I 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 with 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 about 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. So, I’ve never been this way while raising my kids. I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to choose relationships over cleanliness. I wanted to choose my children before I choose chores. Yet, here I am finding myself nagging and nagging and nagging. Maybe I’ve nagged them even 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. Ridiculous behavior is something so precious to you. You love it like, “Oh, I love it when you’re ornery! Look at the mess 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 saying, “Oh, come here. Good morning! I want to kiss your rotten face!” you want to say, “Your rottenness makes me mad.” A change happens, and it begins to separate the intimacy between you and your child. Your expectations change. So do 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 childhood, I remember not being hugged much. I remembered being told, “Hush, I am on the phone.” I remember my mom saying, “Listen, I am tired. Let me 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 and placed last. I remember feeling like the least important person on the earth. In fact, when I had my first daughter, Spencer, I was in the hospital holding her, and my love had just exploded. My mom was sitting in the room, and I asked, “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 a 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 upon this, I realized 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 filled with love, peace, and junk. We live in it. As I reflected, I counted what I truly 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 you can change. It will empower you to make the change.