I have been a mother for eleven years. I have grown and changed in a multitude of ways throughout this time, yet there always remains so much to be learned and to discover in this role. I have come to a few realizations recently that I would like to share with you.
For some time I have been following parenting related accounts on Instagram, through Facebook, reading articles, discussing with one of my sisters on this topic, as well as contemplating and implementing methods myself as I interact with my children. As often happens for me, thoughts have been swirling around in my head, fully formed some days, only a hint of solid phrasing on others, with many questions, reservations and opposing ideas floating through continually. Yesterday, in a wonderful phone conversation with my parents, I found myself acting and speaking in a way I have learned to do drastically better this year; I was speaking with complete honesty, openly, from my deepest convictions, with awareness of how those listening may take it but sure of what my words were presenting and at peace with them being sent out into the world.
Let me explain.
I believe that I am a useful, productive adult member of society. I do not cause harm to others nor do I create problems that others have to solve. I believe I am a moral, upstanding citizen of the world. I greatly enjoy my siblings, my parents and all of our extended family whenever we are able together. My parents and siblings are also moral, upstanding individuals who are motivated, contributing members of their communities. If my upbringing, while flawed in some way or another as everyone's is, could create this group of nine siblings who I delight in, and a loving family network who bring value to the world, I assumed that I would implement essentially the same training tactics. I went into parenting fully assuming that I would use spanking regularly. I did not question it or give any weight to the articles or studies contradicting it's usefulness. However, when my daughter became old enough that spanking would make sense and be understood by her as a training tool, I discovered, the first, second and only two or three total times that I performed it with her, that I deeply disagreed, even as I carried it out.
What I have concluded recently, almost nine years later, is that much of the applied training methods used in my childhood were actually not what created these positive outcomes in my siblings. I can take my swirling thoughts and conglomeration of methods and not question whether I am missing an essential ingredient anymore. The determining factors that actually created the positive outcomes for my family, I have realized, were:
Regardless of what training method was used, i.e. spanking, we knew that it was being done because our parents loved us and wanted the best for us and this was the best way that they knew how. It was a whole case of, 'you did the best you could with the knowledge you had at the time.'
Our parents prioritized their marriage always, even in the midst of raising nine children. They were and are each other's best friend and rock to stand on.
Our parents deeply invested their attention and efforts into their family. We knew without a doubt that we were important to them.
Regardless of the ups and downs of the family bank account, as the children, we never felt it. We were fed, clothed, housed, warm, safe and comfortable. We had no insecurity in this regard.
We had freedom to play and play and play. Inside, outside, upstairs and down. Oh, did we PLAY!
We were rooted and grounded in the love of Jesus Christ. Thoroughly, not always completely accurately, when other rules and legalistic viewpoints merged with the truth of pure forgiveness and love. But we were surrounded by prayer, verses, reading, speaking, discussing, learning, memorizing and encouraged to personally take the journey on for ourselves to continue.
We had a lot of siblings. We were and are a community in and of ourselves, even improved and expanded now through the marrying and further continuation of the family tree.
Our mother showed dedication to her task of wife, mother, household manager, caterer, taxi driver, teacher, planner, and more. We learned perseverance, reliability, responsibility, humility and other traits like these from her.
Our father showed dedication to his task of husband, father, provider, sports attendee, principal, business owner, and more. We learned dedication, persistence, trustworthiness, professionalism, ambition and other traits like these from him.
Our home was truly a home. We went to bed at night, cozy in the covers, after a bedtime story delightfully created in the moment by our dad, knowing mom was in the other room correcting our school papers or nursing the latest baby. We settled in with the sounds of siblings breathing around us, distant clinks ascending from downstairs where our parents finished the last of the dishes together or hung up Mom's latest decor acquisition.
These aspects I listed, these are what molded and shaped the delightful family I call my own.
I can drop the absolute requirement for spanking. "Spare the rod, spoil the child." I would like to look into the translations and context of this verse and see if perhaps this has been taken much too literally for a long time.
I can drop blaming all negative and challenging childhood behavior on mankind's fallen sinful nature. Sometimes, often times, they just need a nap, or a hug, or a lap to sit on for five minutes with their darling little arms wrapped around your neck breathing as you are breathing and regulating their emotions to your calm. Sometimes, often times, they need food or a snack or a drink or all of the above tumbled together, swirling around, tangled messy, need, need, need, I want, I need something and I want you to figure out for me, hold me, delight in me, love me, stay with me even when I scream and fight and kick you but then beg for you to not step away. "Can I have some water?" "A snack?" "I just need you to hold me." "Momma, momma." I need, I want, am I safe? Am I allowed? Is this okay? Are you here for me? Tomorrow? The next day? One minute from now? Five minutes later?
Parenting has been crazy recently. These four children, at these ages, with this personality mix, have been giving me an emotional education I was not prepared for or aware that I would undergo. I am earning a degree level growth in my emotional capacity, that requires no official paper or stamp to award. I know it, feel it and am watching it happen and don't need someone's permission to claim it. I told my parents in our phone conversation that I had realized something. It is not my job as a parent to keep my children "well-behaved" and comfortable for other adults to be around. An example being, in a grocery store scenario, if my child is having an absolute meltdown, my only responsibility is to my child, their need in that moment, and maintaining my own calm so that I can help them sift through their emotions, their response and how to bring themselves back to a state that is functional for the setting they are in. I do not owe other adults in the aisle an apology, I do not owe them an explanation and I do not need to listen to any comments. My sole focus and requirement in that moment, is to lovingly, intentionally, helpfully, mother my child. I do not owe society or other adults standing there anything. In the long run, me doing what is best for my child, in the mental, behavioral stage of growth that they are in during these moments, will ultimately BE the best contribution to those other adults in society that my parenting can provide.
Spanking is not for me. But my children still know right from wrong. Spanking is not for me, but my children still know how to be respectful, helpful and successful in friend's homes, in classes, sports and school. I can hold my child, I can talk to my child, I can model appropriate behavior for my child, and I can separate them for a few minutes from a sibling if they cannot find a way to get along. I can explain to them over and over the same lessons verbally and hope that someday, sooner rather than later, the lessons will sink in.
But when my child is asked to clean their room and instead flops to the floor screeching and complaining, almost bursting into tears, I can take into consideration that maybe they have been redirected from something they were enjoying and their entire being is geared towards play at this stage. Maybe the mess is too many items mixed together and they don't know where to begin, maybe I can come alongside and offer assistance, choosing a category of toys to begin with. Maybe none of these are right, but I am confident that continuing the search until I find what is right each time, as closely as I can get it, is the course I will take, rather than selecting a time on the clock it must be done by, before a spanking is the result of the disobedience.
I was not abused.
Abuse would have had to have malice behind it, ill-intent or neglect. I was not abused, but perhaps I was harmed. I was not abused, but perhaps I could have learned to talk through my problems earlier, or reached out for support or emotionally connected with my parents more closely, if any step towards assertiveness, differing desires or lack of immediate compliance was not met with physical consequences to teach me what the result of disobedient actions were.
My children are allowed to be children. Children are not quiet. They are not compliant. They have their own desires, interests and personality from the very beginning stages. They are not broken humans in need of shaping into obedience. They are blossoming miracles ready-made with soul, heart and fire within them to be handled with care, love and delight. The testing and trying that they put you through, is yours as the adult in the relationship to deal with, in appropriate and healthy ways that work best for you.
But children will be children. They are allowed to test their limits, to scream and yell and shout and dance and run and fall and get back up and climb and play. Pushing, pulling, expanding and forcefully engaging in every way, and with all senses available to them, with the world, people and circumstances they find themselves in.
My children are allowed to be children. And I will not apologize for it.
P.S. If you enjoy my writing, please subscribe and read through my previous posts! I would love to hear your thoughts and stories too.