Hey parents, remember how before we had kids we thought we knew everything about how to raise kids? Anyone? At ages 28 and 24, somehow my husband and I were sure we had the parenting thing in the bag before we'd even started.
A few months before my first child was born, we decided to write a letter to our moms and dads, outlining all of the things we would and would not do while raising our tiny human.
It's ok. Go ahead and laugh. It's pretty comical. And while you're laughing I should probably go ahead and make a public apology to our parents for our arrogance.
Guys, I have to be honest: the things I'm going to share with you make me laugh out loud and also turn 50 shades of red from embarrassment. We had the greatest of intentions, but we were clueless. See below for confirmation (each "ideal" is a direct quote from the letter we wrote nine years ago):
IDEAL: "We want to raise her mainly on whole, fresh foods – not processed junk."
REALITY: Her favorite food is Kraft Shells and Cheese (specifically the microwaveable mini-cups). Don't get me wrong -- we do our best to feed her fresh fruits and veggies as often as we can, but I'm pretty sure I thought my kids would never touch something as processed as microwaveable pasta. I thought wrong.
IDEAL: "We will make most of our own baby food, not only because it’s healthier, but also because it will save a bunch of money!"
REALITY: She hated baby food, but if I did try to force her to eat it, you better believe it was purchased buy-1-get-1-free from Publix, because who has time to make baby food when you're learning to adult? (I realize some of you do have time to make your own baby food; that means you're already adulting well, and I applaud you.)
IDEAL: "She can obviously have natural sugars in fruit and occasional juices and things that naturally bear sugar, but desserts, soft-drinks, and other junk food like that will be few and far between."
REALITY: I'm fairly certain she lived on watered-down apple juice from age one to age three, and I kept lollipops (or, as I called them, "zip-your-lips pops") in the glove compartment of my car for my own sanity. She also knew how to say "cookie" before she could say "mama," because her free cookie was the only way I could make it through the grocery store without a complete meltdown happening. Today you will find a bag of Oreos in my pantry. #SadButTrue
IDEAL: "TV time will be measured, as we want for her to be able to create her own activities, and to be able to entertain herself."
REALITY: Elmo was my salvation in my daughter's early years, and I'm pretty sure my kids vegged out in front of the TV a LOT this summer. I know the theme song to Liv and Maddie, if that tells you anything.
IDEAL: "Once she becomes old enough to understand, we want to to adopt a family in need each Christmas and to shower them with love and gifts. We want to have our own Christmas tradition that focuses on the REAL meaning of the season. We will still have our own Christmas day tradition, and will still do our own gifts, but we won’t go overboard with that. Instead, we’ll try to make the truly exciting thing about gifts at Christmas all about GIVING to others"
REALITY: We have adopted a family for Christmas exactly TWO out of NINE Christmases. Usually we run like we're contestants on The Amazing Race through the Dollar Tree with an Operation Christmas Child checklist in hand because I've forgotten that the deadline to drop off our shoeboxes is TODAY at NOON! Rushing through gift giving is super meaningful. Not.
IDEAL: "Most importantly, as far as we as parents are concerned, we want to choose our words and our tones of voice VERY wisely when encouraging and disciplining her."
REALITY: While I wish the above was true all the time, let's get real: it's not. As much as I might want to choose the right tone of voice with my kids, my flesh and my impatience get in the way from time to time, causing "Mean Mommy" to come out. Just today I snapped at my weepy son, "Oh, I will GIVE YOU something to cry about, mister!" I know. I KNOW!
Everything we were aiming for pre-parenthood stemmed from a deep love for our unborn child, from a desire to do right by her and the Lord. We were simply naive. What we didn't realize was that in parenting (and in life), formulas don't work. Parenting changes daily, and each kid requires a new tactic when you least expect it. We make the mom/dad thing up as we go at least 98% of the time, and we will probably fail more than we get it right.
I need to own this mug as a daily reminder of what I've learned:
I now know that I can't perfect-parent my kids to Jesus. It's impossible. Even in my best moments I'm subpar, and if my children's relationships with God were up to me, I'd destroy them on day one. All I can do is show them how badly I need Him, and teach them His ways. Whether they choose Jesus is between them and their Father.
I now know that I can't micromanage every detail of my children's lives. I can do my best to make healthy, wise choices on their behalves, but I'm also gonna give my kids a bowl of ice cream with hot fudge and sprinkles, and I'm gonna sit down and eat one with them! Good GRIEF, life's too short to miss out on special moments and tasty treats.
I now know that when it comes to parenting, and to our walks with God as a whole, we should never say never. He is a God who moves in mysterious ways, and He wants us to keep all options on the table, open to Him and His leading. I said I'd NEVER put my children in public school during their elementary years. Guess where our children were the last two years? Mmhmm.
The older my kids get, the more I realize I know nothing. I'm often driven to my knees out of desperation for God to step in to my parenting mess and do what He does best -- the impossible. He's my own personal Mr. Fix-it, repairing the jobs I've botched up. I'm reminded that my kids have their own wills and personalities and charm and flaws, just like me, and that they're not going to be as perfect as I am. (KIDDING!)
Thankfully we have a perfect Father to walk us through this imperfect life.
As I'm writing this, my son is laying next to me watching TV and drinking Gatorade. Of course - two things I said I'd "never." He just asked me if he can have a chocolate birthday cake with Skittles and Sprite on it for his birthday. Which is in 10 months.
I've taught him so well.
Feel free to laugh!
QUESTION: Is there something you said pre-parenthood that you'd "never" or "always" do with/for your children? If so, tell me about it!! Leave me a comment below with your response.