I started this blog six years ago, as a 21 year old newly married young woman. No children yet but full of ideas, dreams, plans and plenty of opinions! My whole life I've always been somewhat of a hurrier. You know that old country song, "I'm in a hurry to get things done, oh I rush and rush until life's no fun. All I really gotta do is live and die but I'm in a hurry and don't know why." Yeah, that's me. I am always eager for the next stage in life. In middle school I wanted to be in high school. In high school, I wanted to be in college, in college I wanted to graduate and be married, when I was married I wanted to have kids. I've always been that way. There are good things about my forward looking personality to be sure, but there's a danger in wanting the next season too soon. You miss things God wants to teach you and the beauty of the season you are in.
I'm learning this. Anyways, back to the story. So I charged into motherhood full force, per my usual M.O. As I mentioned earlier, I was brimming full of opinions on being a good mom. I'm also drawn to information and research so I armed myself with all manner of baby-scheduling/child-rearing literature. I was desperate for how-to manuals and wanted to be the perfect mother and raise perfect children. In hind-sight I can see this led to a well-intentioned yet insecure mom who was listening to a sea of voices and unable to follow confidently the plan God had for me. Every six months I was on a new kick from a book I had read and surely this was going to be just the right fit for our child. My poor husband held on for dear life as I was like a ping pong ball constantly coming up with new ideas and theories. It was like Ephesians 4:14 says, "tossed backed and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching."
The truth is, I was completely over-saturated with information and turning to way too many sources for guidance in terms of parenting. Yes, I would pray and ask God for wisdom, but I'd get impatient and the instant gratification of a how-to article on a blog was where I'd often turn first for ideas or inspiration. My wishy-washy yet determined ways were combined with a brilliant, strong-willed child and that combination eventually landed me in a place of real depression a little over a year ago. Parks was resisting all my efforts to "train" him. My heart was to honor the Lord by teaching my children obedience. That, by itself, is a good thing. I was also convinced that spanking was hands down the proper method for Christian parents to use as I had read in many well-respected parenting books. So spanking we did. And when it didn't work, the books said, be more consistent, i.e. reward every transgression with a spanking. So I did. It got to the point where we where spanking many times a day. It felt wrong. It felt sad. It made the environment in our home toxic. I was sad, depressed and defeated. My child was angry and I was scared. We finally stopped. I am so, so glad we did.
I can truly say I have witnessed a miracle in our home. My angry child became a sweet child. My "strong-willed child" is now a passionate, affectionate, amazing gift who makes me laugh every day. I have stopped reading "how-to" parenting books for now, that's been a really good thing for me. We still discipline. He still needs guidance and training but we use other means, and they really are effective. I am not some anti-spanking activist now. I'm not willing to say it never works for some families. But I can say it was not working for my child and I'm so glad we stopped when we did. Not every child responds the same to discipline and you must pray and seek the Lord for what he wants you to do with each individual child.
And to be clear, I believe the change we've seen in our family has been the result of a combination of things, including changing discipline techniques. Some of it has been Parks' normal growth and development. I also believe we are seeing some of the fruit of our efforts to discipline him, even if they weren't executed perfectly. He is learning to behave! Some of it has been growing in my confidence as a mother and just in myself personally. Certain stages with kids are just plain harder and more demanding than others. 3 was a hard year for us. 4 has been like a breath of fresh air. He's also in a sweet, amazing pre-school that he loves this year, which has been a big help. We are enjoying him so much more. It's not fun to have to correct all the time, it's nice to just be able to spend time enjoying your child. Praise the Lord!
I truly feel I am out of that season of depression and desperation and my feet are on a solid ground. Of course, the normal trials of motherhood still exist, but I'm on solid ground. I know now that the only opinion I need is God's, and my husband's. I don't need a million blogs or books to tell me how to raise my kids. God is the author of family. He is the designer of motherhood. He cares and he has guidance and grace for moms. He hand-picked me and my personality, to be the mother of my children. I pray for the courage to live for an audience of One, and not for the praise of man.
I have not arrived, but I do know I've made progress. And isn't that what it's about? God is so faithful and good. He has shown me so much grace. It only took me four years to learn He is all I ever needed. Here's to savoring this season with my kids, fully open to what God has for me and believing that I will thrive in his design for me as a mother. We'll move on to the next season in due time.