Revising the “Rules” of Parenting

If you’re even a semi-regular follower of this not-so-regular blog, then you know that I published a book a few years back. That book offered 5 rules, in a bit of a tongue-and-cheek sort of way, for being a good mom. The 5 rules:

  • Rule #1: Don’t beat yourself up (even when you’re certain you deserve it).
  • Rule #2: Laugh a little (or a lot) (and especially at yourself).
  • Rule #3: Listen to everything (and hold onto the good stuff).
  • Rule #4: Love (even when you don’t like).
  • Rule #5: Give it (all) to God.

Though 2 of our 3 children were already teenagers (ages 16, 14, and 9) when the book was published, much of the content was based on experiences and anecdotes from when the kids were younger (toddlers to elementary/early middle school perhaps).

Now we’ve got an 18-year-old about to graduate high school, a 16-year-old (boy) driver looking for a job, and an 11-year-old teetering the line between sweet baby boy and full-on tween like an out-of-control seesaw.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot of late as to whether my “rules” still stand. Will these rules see me (and others) through the turbulent waters of raising a child all the way through to adulthood, or will I reach a point where I simply throw my hands up and hope I don’t drown?

Photo of the 3 kids holding hands.
The Professor, Wonder Boy, and The Girl. December 2018, Pigeon Forge, TN
Don Fields Photography

Well, I can tell you, I’m not throwing my hands up (at least not yet); so I think the rules stand, though some revisions and/or addendums may be in order. To wit:

Love (even when you don’t like) (and especially when you’re not sure they like you).

A common conversation in the house lately is that the kids don’t like us (parents) anymore. We joke with them about it and then consider it seriously when just “us parents” are alone. That happens a lot now.

I see posts from Facebook friends whose children are younger commenting on how much the friends would like to pee in private (sans little eyes or the constant “mommy” call), and I certainly remember those days. I’ve always valued my alone time, needing it like air sometimes for my sanity. And when your children are young, it’s much harder to get time alone with your spouse – “date night” is a major production.

But just know, there will come a day when those precious moments will be the norm. All 3 of the kids are busy all the time – school, theater, soccer, wrestling, and so on. The older 2 drive, volunteer at church, go out with their friends; and the youngest has a whole clan of friends in the neighborhood to keep him occupied. Even when we’re all 5 in the house, we’re in separate rooms – playing Xbox, watching Netflix or YouTube, or just sleeping – teenagers sleep a lot.

Even over the holiday break, because we traveled a lot, it felt like we didn’t actually see each other much.  Lately, I’ve been trying to “schedule” family dinners – given that I’ve never been the greatest of cooks, no one’s getting excited about this.

Listen to everything (especially what they don’t say) (and hold onto to the good stuff).

So, we’ve resorted to a sort of “debriefing” scenario – where we call the kids in, usually one at a time, and ask them a myriad of questions about their days, their lives, etc. The Professor HATES this – he thinks he’s being interrogated and he’s always been a …

I realized I was about to type “man of few words” and the “man” part freaked me out a bit. Ahem. He just doesn’t like to share.

The Girl, who used to LOVE to share every little detail of her life, now starts out suspicious of us, reminding us that she’s done nothing wrong. Once we reassure her that we’re just talking, she relaxes, but still maintains an air of “I have so many better things to do than talk to my parents” in the sweetest way possible.

Thankfully, Wonder Boy still enjoys sharing every excruciating detail of his shenanigans – so much so that it’s easy to get lost in all the details and literally wonder, once he’s left the room, just what in the heck you just heard.

I’m convinced, though, the best of these “debriefings” happens truly one on one – one child and one parent. The kid will tell you more if he/she doesn’t feel ganged up on.

Give it (all) to God – no revision necessary; this rule stands the test of time/age/stage.

It took a couple of true one-on-one sessions to get to the truth of something “us parents” had missed.

About a year ago, one of the teenagers (I’m going to try my best to not identify), while at a friend’s house, had gotten into the parents’ liquor cabinet with the friend. The two drank enough for the friend’s mom to catch on and confront them. The mom then agreed not to tell me on the condition that the two never do it again.

After a few one-on-ones, I learned about it and that my child regretted what had happened. I didn’t have the whole story, but I knew enough to reach out to the other mom. I was disappointed in my child and angry at the other mom. I mean, that’s a straight up violation of the Mom Code, right? The other mom filled in details and apologized profusely for keeping it from me. Nobody’s perfect. While I would not keep something like this from another mother, I’m quite certain that I’ve made decisions that others haven’t agreed with.

Here’s what it comes down to, though: I can’t be with my kids every second of every day. I can’t make decisions for them. I can hope and pray that I’ve raised them to be level-headed and responsible, but they’re also still developing human beings. They’re individuals, uniquely created with free will, entrusted to me for a time from God.

I’m going to worry (all the while with the 11yo reminding me that “worrying is a sin”), but I can’t stop them from growing, learning, making decisions and making mistakes. I have to give it all to God. I get to give my worry to Him.

What are your kids telling you? Or not telling you? How do you handle the “they don’t like me anymore” feeling? What do you need to give to God today?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.