“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?)
The Planet Pink30 July 2010 at 1:41 pm
excellent post. I needed that today, thank you! I'll be checking that book out ASAP.
Livy30 July 2010 at 3:04 pm
I very much enjoyed reading this post.
I find it way too easy to get caught up in "maintenance mode" as you called it. Sometimes my thoughts are consumed with making sure she gets proper naps at the proper times, etc. etc. I think I need to relax and look at the bigger picture more often.
I think Laney is teaching me patience. Some days when she is fussy I just feel it all go out the window and I feel like I have failed.
ohmygoddess30 July 2010 at 4:06 pm
you got me thinking there, thanks.
hope i can find that book here.
Mandy30 July 2010 at 4:52 pm
This is a wonderful post!! Thank you so much!
Lori Vernon31 July 2010 at 1:49 am
Adriel-Thanks for sharing, really great stuff (as always!) However, my perspective is a little different than most moms I think, and I thought I'd share. I rarely get stuck in maintenance mode and I can't STOP thinking about the "Why". I think mostly this is because I'm living and working in a culture where children generally aren't viewed as people until they're teenagers (so the mentality is "why take the time and effort to discipline or teach anything… just leave it up to the school.")And I am constantly seeing the devastating effects of this type of thinking! So I guess I just wanted to say, if you need a sure fire way to get out of maintenance mode, visit another culture that has drastically different parenting beliefs and more likely than not, you'll remember what parenting is all about! 🙂
Mama Hen31 July 2010 at 1:57 am
Thank you for your sweet comment Adriel! This is a great post! I think perspective is so important. We need to know what we do today is shaping our little ones for the future. You brought up great questions to think about. I think that as parents we need to evaluate what we are doing and how we are thinking so we can parent the best that we can. Have a great night!
Melissa (Confessions of a Dr. Mom)31 July 2010 at 3:14 pm
This is so beautifully written Adriel. I'm going to get the book this weekend and start following along with you. I often forget the whys of parenting, this is such a wonderful reminder. I love how you describe your son as your "holy teacher". I'm amazed how early in your motherhood you have come to these realizations…it is a wonderful thing. It took me a little longer to get there probably b/c of my background I was a little more focused on the "hows". Thanks for starting such a beautiful and much needed series on sacred parenting. I'm looking forward to reading along with you.
Cameron1 August 2010 at 12:19 am
I really love this post & I am going to try to find that book soon! I really agree with keeping the big picture in mind. Lewis & I talk a LOT. We always have. And we were married for 5 years before we had Isis, so we had a lot of time to talk & prepare for the way we want to raise kids. While that definitely changes specifically in the day to day, the overall ideas we have & our overall goals were established before we had kids. In a general sense, our goal is to raise children into healthy, independent ADULTS who can live life with integrity.
We want to provide support & assistance, but don't do things FOR our kids – allowing them to discover on their own. At the same time, I completely agree that becoming parents has caused us to do some real soul-searching in ourselves. It's so important to model healthy behavior & lives on integrity. In a world that is presenting such skewed views of Christ – who is central in our lives – we find it important to really make sure we are focused where we need to be so that we can help our kids focus the same direction.
I look forward to reading more of these posts & hopefully following along in the book!
The Empress1 August 2010 at 1:44 am
HOW beautiful and inspirational was this!!!
"In the midst of holy teachers, our children."
You know what? I should hang the closed shingle up on my blog now… this is brilliance, and making people better persons. I can't compete, So glad I found you!!!!!!!!!!
I don't understand why people keep good blogs a secret, someone should have told me about you.
Beckyb3 August 2010 at 5:02 pm
I am also reading this book and thoroughly enjoying it. I need to be challened in my parenting to "step it up" occasionally and this read is doing just that! I would love to keep up with your series.