I have spent a great deal of time thinking and writing about my feelings regarding various issues in my life over the past two years. For whatever reason, hand in hand with this practice, I have also been more aware of others as I observe and listen in a conscious way to those I come in contact with, directly or indirectly, everyday.
Although there are many problems in the world, the area of life which concerns me the most is the future of our children and how we (adults) are impacting the adults they will ultimately become. We have little control over many things outside of our homes, and more control than we sometimes think we have under our own roofs.
There are many days I struggle as much as the next parent when it comes to figuring out what is the best way to handle anything from the amount of electronic use to an appropriate curfew. I have, however, truly tried to learn from the years I have put into this mothering "gig", and the result of my experience has led me to formulate my parenting philosophy.
A Story of Faith, Calm, Courage, Patience and Grace, part of the title of the book I wrote in 2011, is not an afterthought to My Mothers Footprints. Every one of those characteristics represent an element of life my children have taught me, it also describes the way I approach each day AND essentially explains how I parent the five of them.
So...how are faith, calm, courage, patience and grace elemental to my parenting philosophy?
Faith is defined as the confidence what we hope for will actually happen; it is an assurance about things we cannot see. So much of parenting is done in faith. From the first moment we try to guess why the baby is crying, to praying our high schooler will be able to write an essay capable of gaining acceptance into the college he or she desires to attend.
I honestly don't believe I could parent WITHOUT having faith in a larger purpose to provide an explanation for the daily glories and problems life hands my family. With a deep sense of gratitude for life's ups and downs, I work to instill a sense of faith in my children everyday.
Having faith does not mean I can leave my life to chance, it means believing the choices I make will lead me to the outcome God desires for my life.
A great way for me to describe this characteristic is to share a story which happened to our family in 2007, shortly after we moved in Texas. It illustrates why being calm and working together is critical in parenting.
Tom and I, along with Allen-Michael, Brigham, Maddux, and Mia who were 14, 10, 5 and 2 years old at the time, were running errands one Saturday morning. Our first stop was the bank. Maddux wanted to come inside with Tom and I, so he jumped out of the minivan. As he got out, I hit the button to the minivan door so it could slide shut. Maddux was at an age where his attitude was "I can do it myself", so he put his hand inside the door right before it shut because he felt he was perfectly capable of closing the door. (He did not like the fact that mom had hit the button for him). His fingers got closed in the door as it slid shut. I don't remember if Tom hit the button again to open it, or if Maddux's hand forced the door to pop back open. That's how fast it happened. I literally saw it happening and could not move fast enough to derail the outcome.
Maddux screamed...I yelled to Allen-Michael to grab the towel from the backseat of the car. I wrapped his gushing hand in the dirty towel while Tom checked the ground to be sure there weren't any fingers we needed go grab before we headed to Acute Care. (Thank God he thought of this, I was more concerned with wrapping Maddux's hand as fast as possible so I didn't have to see more blood than I'd already taken in). We rushed to urgent care, Maddux literally screaming his head off as I am holding him to keep him from thrashing and Tom is driving as quickly and safely as he can.
Urgent care said we needed to get Maddux to Dallas Children's Hospital, they could not help us, his pinky finger was barely attached and he would need plastic surgery. (A) we have no idea where the hospital is located and (b) Maddux is still screaming. We don't know many people in town and there was no time to take the rest of the kids home. We got directions and the nurse gave us some pain medication for Maddux before we left.
Dallas Children's Hospital was about 35 minutes from the urgent care. Maddux screamed bloody murder the entire ride. I have no idea how Tom kept his head on while driving, I just held my screaming five year old and continued to tell him all would be okay. Three additional kids in the backseat were completely silent (actually, even if they weren't I would not have heard them anyway...).
We finally arrived at the hospital, the meds kick in (thank God!),and we wait in the Emergency Room. Half hour later Tom decides to take the rest of the kids home because we realize it is going to be a long day. We entered the hospital about noon. Tom returned at 2:30 p.m. after getting our other kids situated at home and leaving Allen-Michael in charge.
We wait, and wait, and wait. I have a lot of patience, but at 7 p.m. I finally demanded Maddux be taken care of next...long story short, by midnight we had left Children's, Maddux's finger was put back where it was supposed to be.
When we got home Allen-Michael reported he had made dinner (mac and cheese, hot dogs and corn) for his brother and sister and had put them to bed.
Staying calm and working together when a crisis hits out of nowhere has always been my method of operation. Don't worry until someone tells you to worry. But don't stick your head in the sand either. I am a no-drama mamma and with luck I am instilling that into my kids as well.
Over the years, with trial and error, I have a better understanding of myself and a clearer definition of what makes a successful parent and family unit. Part of my learning has come from going against the crowd. Making decisions for our family such as no sleepovers, waiting to buy cell phones, or making sure our kids are not over involved in sports so we don't have time for family.
By watching other families and listening to their successes and failures, we decide and then implement what we feel will work best for us. Tom and I talk about difficult subjects and we take the time to talk with the kids about the decisions we make so they understand (even if they don't always agree) why our house rules exist.
Courage goes hand in hand with consistency in parenting. We cannot make rules and family policies and then not follow through. Consistency is the toughest, most exhausting part of parenting. But, it also yields the highest rewards!
Courage also means asking for help when I don't know what to do next. I never hesitate to ask my mom or a friend for their thoughts when I don't know how to handle a situation. A trip to Barnes & Noble is also part of my parenting repertoire, if I am experiencing it at my house, someone else has as well and has written a book on the subject.
Bottom line, when I don't have the answers I am not ashamed to say we have problems under our roof and get the help I need to help the situation. Parenting is one tough job, everyone knows that, but many people won't admit when they have problems. I am not afraid to be different and to follow my heart when it comes to parenting my kids.
There are many times (daily) when it would be a lot easier to do things myself....like make a bed, wipe out a tooth-pastey sink, pick up a cup left in the family room. And the God's honest truth is a certain amount of the time I just go ahead and do it because it isn't worth waiting or I am not up for the complaining I will likely hear from my kids. But, I really try to remind myself by doing so I am not helping them become productive, independent adults. Sometimes I have to endure a bed that's made half-assed or allow a bowl to sit on the desk in the t.v. room until the next day AND go through the whining so my kiddo understands what is expected of him in the family and throughout life.
As an extension of that belief, I have an obligation to help my children through their rough spots. This includes not bailing them out of situations they walk into which they can learn from. Aside from that practice, the most important thing I can do for them everyday is show and tell them I will love them no matter what, they are worthy of love and acceptance for who they are.
Often life is unfair, yet to live life fully is to learn through mistakes made along the way. My children look to me as their prime example. It is a labor of love to give my children the best I have to offer by showing them how I want them to behave.
Sometimes I mess up, when I do I step forward and say I am sorry. I expect them to do the same.
To me, grace is doing all of the above with a sense of humor and pride in my family. My husband and children are my top priority, taking care of me, so I can do my very best for them is right up there as well.
Grace is living life honestly, with humility, and without apology for who I am.
Parenting with faith, calm, courage, patience and grace IS conscious parenting.
I am going to take a few weeks away from writing to enjoy my family, to think about what might come next for this website in 2014, and to work on getting my passion for conscious parenting to a larger audience. I hope you have a wonderful holiday and always know how much I appreciate your taking time to read my posts.
I welcome your thoughts, comments and ideas any time! We all have a story to share, and we can all learn from one another!
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many blessings, I will see you back here in the new year! ~K