It's the end of another year. Time to take stock and evaluate the things we did and learned. As I looked back over 2014, I realized that this is one of those years where I learned a lot about parenting. I learned a lot that I didn't know I didn't know. I made mistakes, and I had some triumphs. And I learned more than I thought possible.
We're in a season of transition around here. With 11- and 13-year-old girls in the house, we're moving out of the "little kid" stage and into the teenage years. That means I'm learning new things about parenting. And it means I'm learning a whole bunch of stuff about myself and my kids.
So, here's the top five parenting lessons I've learned this year. I thought I'd share them with you as an encouragement that this is a process -- for both us and our kids. And even when we screw up, even when we make a mess of the things we should get right, God is right there with us, waiting for us to ask for His help.
1. I can't fix everything. As my girls get older, they face more and more situations that I can't control. They have to make choices that I can't make for them. They encounter mean girls and situations with no good answers. And I have to let go and let them deal with it. When they were 2, I could jump in and make it all better with a kiss and pat on the back. Now, I can offer advice, pray hard and be available for a lengthy hug. I can wipe away the tears and point out their options. But I can't fix it. My best option is to point them to the One who can fix things, it's to remind them that God is in control even when their world seems out of control. But my days of being the one who can fix everything are over.
2. Failure is an excellent teacher. As my younger daughter has struggled to adjust to the organizational demands of middle school, I've learned that failure may well be the best teacher. Forgetting homework at school and having to figure out how to still get the work done before class is a much better deterrent to making the same mistake again than me rescuing her. God lets us make our own choices and to fail when we make the wrong ones. But He's always there to pick us up and tell us to try again with His help. So, that's my role, now, to be the one who picks up my kids when they fail and encourage them to try again with God's help.
3. Technology is a blessing and a curse. This is the first year that both of my children have had cell phones. There are times when I think we should just implant them in their hands. They seem to be attached there anyway. I love being able to reach my kids no matter where they are. I like having instant answers to questions in my hands. But I hate the deterioration of face-to-face relationships that only communicating via text leads to. I hate seeing my kids in the same room with their friends ignoring each other for the sake of a text or game. So, I've learned that cell phones and tablets only have to take over as much of our lives as we let them. We've set rules on when phones can be used (not at the dinner table or in the car, and they have to be in the basket on the kitchen counter at bedtime). I've become the mean mom who asks for my kids' phones and their friends' phones when they walk in the door. Because I'd rather be the mean mom and have my kids be able to carry on face-to-face conversations with others than have them only be able to communicate via text.
4. I need a village. This parenting thing is tough. And a lot of times, our kids don't listen all that well to us. We need support. We need people who are older and wiser and sometimes younger and more hip to help us raise our kids. We need our kids to be surrounded by people who love them and genuinely care about them. We need to be surrounded by people who understand our parenting struggles and who can boost us up when we need it. There have been so many times in the past year when I've been at a complete loss on how to deal with my kids. In those moments when I'm crying out to God for help, He so often puts someone in my path that can point me in the right direction or who can simply offer up some words of encouragement. If you don't have a village surrounding you and your kids, you need to create one.
5. I am not enough. There are too many days when I don't know how to be a good parent. There are too many moments when the weight of being these girls' mom is far too heavy for my shoulders. There is no way that I am enough. But I don't have to be. I simply have to let God be enough. God didn't make a mistake when He chose me to be the mom to my girls. He chose them, and He chose me. And He will never let me walk this parenting road alone. When I'm not enough to handle the heartaches, the frustrations and even the joys of being a parent, He is. And when I let Him fill me up, then my girls get the best of all possible worlds -- they get God's love, grace, patience and joy through me.
What lessons have you learned about parenting this year?