After working through yesterday's post, I started thinking about the decisions we make daily as parents to our kids. While I processed this in my own mind, it became clear to me that a lot of choices we make for our families are based on pressures we feel from outside sources. Sometimes, this is cultural. Sometimes, it is fear-based. Sometimes, decisions are made on the fly and when we look back on them, we wish we had done it all a bit differently.
What if we released ourselves from some of those pressures and changed our focus from fear to freedom? What would our parenting look like then? What if we let ourselves embrace not the "have-to" but instead the "don't have-to" in life and focus our decisions on what we want for our families today?
Here is a list of things that might help us to find our way:
1. I do not have to be afraid what might happen if I ______ (insert your own idea here or choose from this list: put off potty training, co-sleep with my child, turn off the TV, say no to constant demands, allow a pacifier, breastfeed, bottle feed... etc...). I need only pay attention to my child's needs and the quiet voice inside that tells me how to respond. I will not parent out of fear.
2. I do not have to keep with the Jones or the Smiths or any other neighbor down the street. I need only to provide what I feel is important for my child and my family. This applies equally well to clothing labels or techno-gadgets. I will not parent out of pressure.
3. I do not have to make my child happy all day, everyday. In fact, it just might be my job to help my sweet little one to figure out that happy has little do with having and much to do with being. I will not parent to meet my child's desires but instead to meet the goals my husband and I have for loving and raising my kids.
4. I do not have to say yes. Not to video-games, not to snack requests, not to co-ed sleep overs or Spring Break trips or anything else that raises the hair on the back of my neck. It is my job as their momma to see the big picture... delights and dangers... and help them to learn to choose well. I will not parent out of a desire to do the "next big thing".
5. I do not have to: let my kids watch movies I think are too much for them, allow video games to be played whenever asked, provide email addresses for grade school children, allow them on social networking sites they are not ready for, provide cell phones for texting, say yes to what Johnny's mom says yes to, or do anything else that I think might be inappropriate for my child. I will not parent to meet common culture but instead to prepare my child to engage and evaluate common culture.
I do not have to do any of these things and do you know why? Because I am a mom to four sweet children that I love with all my heart, and with that job comes much responsibility. Mark and I are the ones that God blessed with their whole, young lives and we are the ones that will have to live with the choices made on their behalf. We are the ones who dream about what this family can be and we are the ones who can make or break that dream. We are the ones that they will come home to and the ones they will question about all of this and so much more. We know them best. And from that place, with my husband by my side, we will choose the path to take together. Though, with all that said, we also know that as they grow, we can and will change our minds.
My friends, hear this: You don't have to. You don't have to do the things that you know are not right for you and your kids. There is a time to embrace culture and a time to set it aside. All of it is a choice and the making of that is yours. Parenting is fluid, moving, dancing, changing all the time. The choices you make today may need some tweaking down the road... but for today, know what you choose and why. Know what you want for the family around you and be purposeful in the things that you pick. You will not answer to the Jones or the Smiths. Your accountability is not to them. Instead, it is a to a God who loves you fully and graced you with the babies at your feet. What would He have you do? What would He have you change?
It is still January and there is time for making goals. What does your family need today and how can you bring about needed change for them? Not because you have to... but instead because you can. Dream for them today and set aside the fear that drives your decisions. Freely choose... and embrace the blessings you will find.
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