Our first grandchild was born two years ago, and somewhere in the past few months he’s transformed from a baby into a charming toddler. I recently spent three delicious days playing with him while his parents and my husband tended to some weekend projects.
The long drive home gave me time to reflect upon how many parenting truths one small person could teach his grammy in such a short time. Several of them would have made a difference in how I parented our children way back the 1980s and 1990s. Since it’s too late for that, I’m passing them along for you to use in the here and now of 2014.
Parenting Truth #1: More Alike Than Different
The first parenting truth learned was this. Parenting kids with special needs is more like parenting typical kids than it is different. Both kinds of parenting takes a great deal of time and energy. Both require constant and continual sacrifices. Both are incredibly rewarding endeavors, as long as you’re good at the delayed gratification thing and can handle snot, slobber, pee, and poop.
Parenting Truth #2: Parenting Is a Young Person’s Game
Suffice it to say, I would not have survived three days with a toddler had I been in charge of meeting all his needs. Yes, we spent many hours together each day. But I did not change diapers, do laundry, feed him, or get up with him at night. Even so, it took me a day or two to recover after we arrived home. Parenting really is a young person’s game.
Parenting Truth #3: Appropriate Choice Is Essential
This is one of those parenting truths that requires translation. Here it is: I used manipulation rather than appropriate choice far too often during my parenting years. And how, I now wonder, did I fail to see that saying things like “Are you ready to go downstairs now?” is not a good question because when a child used to being presented with appropriate choices says, “No,” I become manipulative? I am presently training myself to say, “Do you want to go downstairs after we read this book or that book?” in hopes of doing better next time.
Parenting Truth #4: Prayer Is a Grandparent’s Privilege
You know all those books about how to pray for your kids? The ones like my book Different Dream Parenting, which come with monthly prayer guides to use for your kids? Well after a few days with a toddler, I was scratching my head wondering how parents of young kids and kids with special needs carve out time to pray consistently for them. But I also realized, that as a grandparent, I do have time to pray for my grandchildren. So I’ve resolved to do so. Maybe your parents would do the same for your kids, too, if you give them one of those books with all those prayer guides.
Parenting Truth #5: Parenting Is About Kids, Not Parents
When I was a young parent, I worried way too much about what other people thought of my parenting ability. As a grandparent, I have slightly less skin in the game. Therefore, I now see that parenting is not about the parents. It’s about the kids. It’s about providing an environment in which kids can explore and grow and learn how to become as independent and secure as they can possibly be. So, young parents, concentrate on creating the right environment and don’t worry about what other people think. Because parenting isn’t about the people watching you. And it’s not about you. It’s about the kids.
Parenting Truth #6: Children and Parents Need Each Other
Interacting with my grandson reminded me that parenting (and grandparenting) is more than a job. It’s a relationship based on mutual needs. Children need love and stability if they are to grow and thrive. But meeting children’s needs stretch parents to become strong in ways they didn’t know they could. Children and parents need each other if they are to become all they were created to be.
Parenting Truth #7: A Child’s Trust Is a Precious Gift
The first time my grandson trusted me to comfort him, my heart melted. It brought back memories of the unique bond of trust I shared with my children when they were young. The gift of a child’s trust, which may feel like a burden when a child is young and very dependent, is a rare and precious gift. No matter how sleep deprived, frustrated, spent, poop-covered, and frazzled you are, treasure the gift as long as it lasts.
Parenting Truth #8: You Will Fail As a Parent
My grandson has really good parents. Parents who do a much better job than I ever did. Even so, they will sometimes fail as parents. And so will you. Because we are frail vessels of clay, cracked and broken on our very best days as parents. But that’s okay, because we are the children of a Heavenly Father who never fails. He is a Father who took our parenting failures and gave them to His Son, who bore them on our behalf. I Peter 2:24 says this:
and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross,
so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness;
for by His wounds you were healed.
That’s a parenting truth above all parenting truths. A parenting truth full of promise and healing that comes straight from the Father who gives us parenting truths to rejoice in, parenting truths we can to cling to. It’s a parenting truth this grammy is claiming for herself, for her children, and for her children’s children. For now. Forever. And for always.