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Archive for March 1st, 2012

Parenting Without Regrets

Is it possible to parent without regrets?  Everyone has character flaws and bad days, so I imagine we can all think of times when we wish we had responded differently to our kids.  We recently watched the movie, “Courageous,” which is aimed at fathers.  I challenge any man to watch that movie and not squirm.  The snarky side of me wanted to tell my daughter to ask my husband to dance with her, just to see how many times he’d give in to guilt this week and do it.  (The week’s not over…)  Even though no parent is perfect, I do think it’s possible to make choices that allow you to be your best as a parent and not wallow in the sea of regret.  How?

Live In The Present
I don’t know why it’s so hard for us to be present in our kids’ lives.  If you’re a planner, like me, it’s easy to pass through an entire day preparing for the future (which may not even go according to your plans) and completely miss the adventure of today.  I used to spend hours planning vacations so we could enjoy a magical week together, but I wonder how many magical moments I missed out on during the planning process.  Sometimes we’re so battered and beaten by our mistakes and failures that we let the past define our choices instead of moving forward.  But parenting without regrets means being present with your kids, seizing opportunities to enjoy the fleeting moments of childhood together (which, at our house, currently means shooting each other with Nerf dart guns).

Live Seasonally
Parenting without regrets also means saying no to commitments that aren’t critical for you personally to do – my rule is that if I won’t be missed, I don’t need to do it –  so you can say yes to your kids more.  When my daughter was a toddler, she was constantly asking me to do puzzles with her or play with her, and I would hear myself saying no.  A lot.  I realized that there were things I was doing that I could do after my children are no longer in my home, so I chose to step down from those things and save them for another season so that I could say yes to my kids more.  This season, these 20 years I have with children at home, is already half over.  I can sing in the choir and serve on committees when my children are grown, but I can only build forts with my son and twirl my little ballerina today.

Living seasonally also applies to our kids’ schedules.  I’m a firm believer in only having my kids involved in one or two activities at a time, and spreading out a variety of activities over the course of the year.  There are many wonderful options for children’s activities, but kids don’t need to do all of them all the time.  Being perpetually busy does not make you a better person, it just makes you stressed.  By guarding our time together as a family and making it a priority, we make room in our schedules for spontaneous play and enjoyment of one another, instead of being run ragged by our schedules.  It’s those moments of spontaneous play that bond us together and create lasting memories, but they won’t happen unless we intentionally leave enough room in our schedules to allow them to happen.

Live the Way You Want Your Kids to Remember You
This one concept has had the biggest impact on the choices I’ve made as a mother.  I used to feel guilty about sleeping in and having my kids come and beg me to get up and make them breakfast.  I would imagine them as adults, recalling their childhood mornings to a friend.  I didn’t like the picture I was painting in their memory, but I realized that I could change it.  I began to visualize what I wanted them to remember about their childhood.  I wanted them to remember that their mom got up and made her bed while they were still asleep.  I wanted them to recall seeing me fix breakfast for their dad and give him a kiss before saying, “I love you,” as he walked out the door to go to work.  I wanted them to remember seeing me go straight to the Bible afterward to have my quiet time, knowing that they were always welcome to snuggle with me while I read.  I desired for those snuggle times to turn into discussion times when they can talk to me about their deepest desires and questions.  These images that I visualized years ago have prompted me to make several gradual changes over the years.  The result is that this is how I started my day today (and yesterday, and the day before that).

Live Your Walk With Christ in Front of Your Kids
I used to think that devotional times needed to be private, when no one else is around.  While it’s good to have uninterrupted quiet time with God, I’ve realized that my kids need to see me modeling what Christianity is all about.  They need to see me reading the Bible, praying, tithing, singing a love song to Jesus, and being involved at church.  I need to invite them to help me prepare a meal or pick out items to go in a gift box for someone in need.  They need to hear the stories of God’s faithfulness to us, so that those stories will be incorporated into their story of God’s faithfulness to them.  I don’t know of anyone who regretted sharing their faith with their kids, but I bet there are plenty who regret that they didn’t.

Live By the Power of the Holy Spirit
None of these things can be done in our own strength.  None of it.  It’s only by the grace of God that I’m able to live in the moment, say yes to my kids, make intentional choices that help us live more joyful lives, and share my faith.  If you could fast-forward to the future and listen to your kids talking to their friends about their childhood, what would they say about you?  If the impression you’re leaving is not one you like, I encourage you to ask God what He wants your kids to say about you.  Then ask him for the wisdom and strength to live that life.  With God’s help, you can parent without regrets!

“Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.  God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful” (1 Thess. 5:23-24 NLT).

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