This morning I’m spending some time researching in preparation for a parenting workshop I am presenting in September. The concept of intentional parenting is very personal. I adamantly believe in shaping safe and accepting environments for children to develop, expanding the definition of discipline pass punishment, and of being present and available for our children. I don’t believe there is a time we ever stop parenting. I think parenting should be a celebration of wins and losses with balloons and crepe paper.
I started reading Intentional Parenting by Goff, Thomas, and Trevarian. The first few pages of Chapter 1 describes a scene of parents dropping off their son at college for the first time. The father is weeping and says over and over again “I love you.” The mother is rattling off a million last minute pieces of advice and directions. Both parents are showing their love and attention for their son in that moment. They have an understanding that the window for teaching and instructing and influencing their son has just gotten a lot smaller. And I have to stop reading to gather myself. The crepe paper gets a little ripped off the wall for after reading that first chapter.
It’s one of those things I hate to admit I still need. I hate admitting this is still a hangup for me after years of counseling and books and prayer and just pretending it doesn’t hurt. My maternal mothering stopped at age 12 with the death of my mother. The paternal parenting of me stopped at about 17 years of age. I didn’t make parenting easy. They still write books about kids like me. I couldn’t sit still. I would talk back or better yet refuse to talk. I would push and push and push the limits. I intentionally screwed up. I had spent my whole life messing up and being inappropriately over-punished. And then I feel like I got dumped.
I don’t have a memory of being dropped off at college. I have a memory of being dumped at my first apartment by a highly angered father who was missing some game on tv to move me into my first place as a 17 year old. I figured out lease agreements, roommates, car repairs, college payments, how to not starve, and illness on my own. I have had the blessing of marrying at a really young age to a wise man who has intentional parents of his own. We’ve been able to navigate through young adulthood together and figure out all those other life lessons. But even this morning, as a 42 year old mother of three married for 23 years, I could use some parenting of my own. The last few years have been hard. I had incredible love, support, insight, from my husband and countless other friends and supporters. But there is this re-occurring theme in my thoughts and my writing. I still grieve a childhood. I still feel that I should be somebody’s child. I wish someone was proud of me. I wish I didn’t have to walk on eggshells because I’m still pissing my family off and irritating them because I’m still not what they want me to be. I really wish my mom was here to talk through some things or just tell me it’s going to be ok. I really wish I had a dad that would recognize my stress and strain and just come up to be at the house with me, or change the oil in the car, or just want to hang out with my kids because they are my kids. As a supposed grown up, I still identify with my fantasy world characters of Annie, Matilda, and Harriet.
This is why intentional parenting is so personal for me. We have been given gifts from God in our children to cherish and mold and love and to point back to God no matter their age. Children are resilient but somehow so fragile at the same time. We need to come through for them more than just at birthday parties and other crepe paper events. We need to be in their daily lives. We need to be present. We need to teach them service to others by serving them in a balanced approach that is not over protective or spoiling them. We need to really really understand what unconditional love looks like by how it demonstrated to us through our heavenly Father.
Maybe then we will have even more reasons to hang up the crepe paper to celebrate rather than feel like the crepe paper that has been torn down and tossed aside.