“The process of parenting is one of the most spiritually formative journeys a man and a woman can ever undertake.” Gary L. Thomas (Sacred Parenting)
Although I am a new mom, and have only had my little boy on the “outside” for six months, I am already becoming so profoundly aware of this truth. I recently wrote a post about growth spurts – that of my child and my own – where I talked about the way I’m growing and changing and being shaped as a woman as I learn to give my life to my son. And I know that what I touched on in that post is only scratching the surface of where this journey of parenthood will take me throughout the rest of my lifetime.
Not the “how” by the “why” of parenting.
I’ve just started reading a book called Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes our Souls by Gary L. Thomas and I’m finding it so challenging and so refreshing at the same time. In my short few months as a mom I’ve read countless books and websites about how to take care of my baby – breast feeding, how to help them sleep, cloth diapering, pumping, immunizations, and on and on. I felt like I was spending so much time thinking about the “how” questions of parenting, that it was becoming easy to forget the “why” questions that are at the very heart of parenting.
Why do we have children? Why do we experience such a wide array of emotions? Why are we “allowed” to be parents when we are oh-so-less-than-perfect?
Children are our teachers.
In Sacred Parenting, Thomas puts forth the premise that having children is the single-biggest learning experience of our lives if we allow it to be. He says that having children is like living “in the midst of holy teachers” and I couldn’t agree more.
I can think of nothing in my life up to this point that has caused me to examine myself – my motives, my strengths, my weaknesses, my limitations, my vulnerabilities, my securities (or insecurities), my source of joy – more than becoming a mom.
Keeping perspective of the big picture.
Thomas says that our spiritual quest must drive our parenting so that we can keep right perspective. If we just let our children drive our parenting we will be living from one milestone to the next, from one bad nap time to the next, from one bout with teething or skinned knee or school program to the next.
Of course it’s important that we live in the present and enjoy the day-to-day aspects of raising our children, but in doing so we need to take care not to fall into “maintenance mode.” In maintenance mode we can get so consumed in the day-to-day that we easily forget that we are raising men and women who will go on to influence the world.
What are my motivations?
When our motivations in raising children are askew (ie raising them to make us look good or fulfill our own unmet expectations in life) then we are in danger of focusing on the minor things and forgetting the major things. (You’ve heard the expression, “major on the minors and minor on the majors,” I presume?)
For me this doesn’t mean to neglect or downplay the every day humdrum of motherhood – those diapers need to be changed… again. But what it does mean is that while taking care of the “little” things I’m doing it out of a deliberate motivation to raise a child who is healthy and whole so that he can ultimately fulfill his purpose in life. It’s doing the little things with the big things in mind. (Of course all parents desire this, but how easy it is to forget when we’re caught up in the latest growth spurt?)
Keeping this perspective means appreciating my child and loving and accepting him unconditionally even when he isn’t ‘behaved’ or ‘accomplished’ or whatever else makes me feel successful as a parent. It means remembering that it’s not all about me, because—if it is—then I will quickly grow resentful and frustrated by the little munchkin that has taken over my life and eats up most of my time. Because ultimately, as Thomas says, “when we don’t understand the purpose of parenting, the process becomes tedious.”
When purpose gets crowed out.
When we neglect the spiritual aspect of our parenting, we easily become resentful, controlling, intolerant and demanding of our children in ways that are not only unfair but unloving. God is the ultimate help for all that we face, and—if we allow—He is the one that will help us to see how our children shape our souls, mold our hearts, and experience life in deeper ways than ever before.
The transforming process.
While raising children is one of the most profoundly joyful and fulfilling endeavors, it’s also one of the most humbling endeavors often bringing frustration, and pain, and sacrifice. Although as a new mother I’ve yet to experience the depth of these things that I know is inevitably coming, I’m trying to establish a perspective early-on that will help me to understand the transforming process that I am in, as well as the purpose behind it all.
I’m so grateful for my little “holy teacher” that has come in the form of a sweet baby boy. I’m learning so much, I’m growing as a woman, I’m having my rough edges sanded down, I’m learning compassion, flexibility, humility, faith, and love on heights I’ve never scaled before
Yes, I have a long way to go. But I’m thanking God—and Levi, my little “holy teacher”—for how far I’ve come already.
Dear friends, some questions to think about:
- Do you ever have trouble remembering the “why’s” of parenting because you get too busy with the “how’s”?
- When is the last time you examined your parenting motivations?
- When is the last time you thought about the “big picture” of how you want to raise your child, and how do you incorporate that in your day-to-day parenting?
- How do you find strength to get through the potential tediousness of the day-to-day?
- When is the last time you allowed your child to teach you something? (Or recognized it?)