I have decided to be a little bolder. This may rock (pun intended!) the boat in the parenting sphere but I am getting old and tired and more and more convicted that, just as God does not make cookie cutter children, He does not make cookie cutter parents.
Earlier this morning I was thinking in the shower. I do my best thinking in the shower, which is unfortunate because by the time I get out of the shower I have forgotten everything I was thinking about. Maybe I should check into a waterproof voice recorder and rant along with the soap and shampoo and listen later and see if anything of substance was going on between my brain and my mouth. But I digress....
I was thinking in the shower and ranting to my husband, who is an expert ranter himself. We were talking about all of our regrets as parents. The list is endless and could likely circle the globe a time or two or four.
One of the biggest pressures that we have felt over the past 23 years of parenthood is that of structure. In our culture, structure seems to be the foundation of all competent parenthood. We are told how how children need structure and thrive in structure and if we do not give them enough structure they will turn into tiny despots or quivering, insecure waifs, or totally government dependent deadbeats. The lack of structure seems to be the root of all developmental evil.
Now I understand that children need to have the security of knowing that they will get loved and fed and clothed and bathed every so often. They need boundaries. They need to know where their power starts and stops and all. There is an element of basic structure that is inherent to survival.
To be sure, I nursed my babies when they were hungry and picked them up when they cried and bathed them so that they wouldn't be sticky and crusty. We slept when other people slept and woke up in the morning and toiled with the rest of the world.
But anybody who is a parent knows what I am talking about. There are the basic rhythms of life and then there is structure with a capital S. And, well, we (both Matt and I) suck at that kind of structure. I mean really, really SUCK. I have complained in other blog posts that I have no managerial skills whatsoever. NONE. I don't tell people what to do. Even it they are short. I guess most people would see this as a problem when you have four kids in six years. I KNOW people saw it as a problem. I felt horribly guilty that I didn't have designated nap times and reading times and homework times and chore times (chores? bwahahahaha!) and family worship times and family reading times and family tell-me-about-your-day times and family dinner times and play times and tv times all set out. We didn't have charts and written out rules. We didn't require certain levels of performance. We just, well, did life. Frankly, we were happy to survive.
Oh, I felt plenty guilty about this. I would try to read books and follow the rules but I always ended up hating my children and hating myself. It was like it went against everything in me to try and be something I was not in order to fit into the Good Parent category. Sometimes I feel that, based on what is required to be a Good Parent, I probably should have never had children at all. But, DANG! I love them so.
Our kids are older now, 17-23 to be exact. The past few years have been rough. I am sure that a lot of people would say that is because we were not structured enough as parents when they were younger and if we had done it right things would have gone along just swimmingly. They might be right. All I know is that we are worn out. Yet, looking back, our biggest regrets are the times we spent trying to structure our children instead of trying to love them. I have always felt that I could only parent in good conscience if I err on the side of grace. I wish I had erred more often.
I know there are plenty who will disagree with me. I fully expect an all out assault. That's ok. I know I have failed plenty. But God has called me to love MY children the best way I can. And that may mean, for me, a little less structure and a lot more grace.