Thoughts on Parenting in March

*This post is more raw than I care to publish, but there is great healing in taking the chance. Please reserve criticism…it is a tender time.

The voices know how to melt my core. The voices can kick me in the deepest, most soft of places, in the depths of who I am. The voices I don’t know how to decipher. Some are mocking, some are encouraging, all are definite…moving me toward conspiracy, toward trembling, toward believing these voices and knowing the truth beyond a shadow, regardless if it’s actually the case.

Where do these come from? Are they our modern day demons that Jesus went from town to town exiling? Are they the words of shame? Are they what we imagine actual people are saying? Are they our conscience? Is it God?

What is so wrong with standing firmly in self-compassion, in grace, in do-overs and second chances? Why is everything so final, it must be done perfect or not at all? When I stand firm in anything it blows up, shards lancing every beloved soul and body within radius. Firm stances work for some and gain results, gain temporary results. I’m really talking about parenting here. We can talk about shame can’t we? I can force my child to stand there and take it, take whatever I believe he needs to hear, whatever point I’m needing to make. Does it change anything? The only time I see change in him, in us, is when there’s a bend, when there’s softness…not in forceful words or definite paths or “I’m gonna win this one.” Sure, short term results. But how does this prepare a child to be gracious, kind, compassionate, empathetic? If we don’t model it directly with them, how do we know they will know what this is?

I can’t do it. I’m crying uncle. Yes, there are consequences and discipline. Don’t get me wrong..not throwing the kid to the wolves just yet, however, it’s not about living perfect on the outside to gain my approval so I can brag in a Starbucks to a long unseen acquaintance all the incredible ways my children are succeeding in life. It’s about formation, growth, and not me.

I will take a chance on grace, on letting go the tight fisted grip, on results. I will take a chance on my child learning the paths that are best. I will take a chance on my child really screwing up. I will take a chance on letting my child go. It’s the only way to keep the relationship, to let him become who he was made to be.

I have never done this. All I have in my back pocket is how I was parented. It is now my responsibility to set it all down, in a pile, grab a chair and pick up each piece one by one…dust it off, turn it over in my hand, examine each facet. Which bucket will it go in? There are three: Save, Discard,  Later (aka. therapy). I am now the adult, raising the children. I have a choice. Go bull-headed forward with what I think I know, or choose grace and self compassion to not have to be perfect, to not have to be rigid, to reserve the right to change my mind. I am taking a chance.

Control isn’t working for me or my family. In fact, it’s ugly and I have become a raging lunatic.

If you see me in a Starbucks and tell me all the wonderful things about your kids, and I grunt in response and say, “We’re fine..the kids are still alive.” Don’t feel sorry for me, because I will not spell out all of the accomplishments and accolades. Those are reserved for the most trusted who will not use them to measure the worth of their own parenting. Nor will I spell out my fears and concerns, unless it helps you in some way. I will not be a part of promoting the competition, the measuring, the weighing of worth.

I will not.

As Ann Lamott says, as a writer there are always shitty first drafts. It’s important to write, get it down on paper or hard drive. As a parent, my first drafts are also going to be shitty. I’m not talking about my firstborn..I haven’t lost all hope. I’m talking about attempts, at first reactions, at things said but not exactly vetted, choices made in anger that produce regret. These first drafts, some are initially brilliant. Most are shitty, flawed, failed.

There must be a God, because there is always redemption. It may be today, it may take thirty years, but there is always a working together for good..always. Even in this mess, this stink, this pain and angst, regret and fear, there is redemption.