I had parents who enjoyed parenthood, but they were realistic about it.
When they were frustrated my brother and I knew it. We knew why because they would tell us. We saw them argue. We saw them greet each other with a kiss when my dad would come home from work. My mom would literally stop what she was doing, go to the door, and kiss him every day when he came home.
My parents, though, had some tough parenting education early in their lives in the example their parents set.
They both saw abuse in their homes. They witnessed parenting that none of us wants to offer our children.
They knew they wanted to be different than the example they received.
We don’t all get the perfect childhood, or perfect parents. But, our parenting is not bound by how our parents raised us.
In a book I read recently, the author describes always wanting her father to be the kind of dad who paid attention, devoted his focus to her. She hoped he would actually move in with her and her mother so they could be a “complete” family.
Her hopes for her father never came true, but God had a plan still. Her name is Alexandra Kuykendall, MOPS International team member, MOPS mom, and author of the book The Artist’s Daughter [Revell, 2013].
Sometimes our expectations for others cloud what they have given to us.
Due to her “gypsy-like” mother and her famous, but absentee father, Alexandra wanted the security that a regular and normal childhood could offer. Because of this, she planned on being a stay-at-home mom, being totally devoted to her husband, and living in one place.
She wanted the life for her children that she did not have offered to her by her parents.
My parents thought that way when it came to caring for my brother and me.
In her life, Alexandra came to know God away from her family. It was not her parents who taught her about Jesus. She said she felt “pursued by God” (p.43).
As I reflect on a sermon I heard at my church, it is often those moments when we feel the most alone, confused and frustrated, where God is providing his loudest messages to us.
Are we listening to Him?
In Alexandra’s life, her father never measured up to her expectations, but was it in God’s plan to help guide her to look for characteristics that would be best in a husband and father?Her childhood was what many of us would call exotic, but she wanted something more-“…the downside to adventure is insecurity” (p.25).
She felt best was to have a stable marriage, a normal life where you live in one place and don’t travel all around the globe picking up just as you set down roots, and two parents committed to their children while remaining committed to each other.
God provides us with challenges to reach us, teach us, and strengthen us. We can face the frustrating, uncomfortable, and trying times with faith.
Having my own children made me realize how much loving parents really do love their children. I do consider myself a loving parent-not perfect-but loving without end.
It also made me understand how much parents miss out on when they do not approach parenting in a loving way. They really lose by not viewing their children as a blessing. I appreciate both the experiences of parents who give love and the parents who never learned how. We can learn from both.
“But if it was true that my imperfection as a mother was inevitable, how did I balance what I wanted with what I could realistically offer?”
“Do what only you can do.” (p. 215)
“Honor your father and mother,” we know that commandment. We are not told to honor them only if they are what we expect. It tells us just to honor our parents.
We can honor them for what they have given us-by learning the lessons they taught. They may not have given you support, or hugs, or gentleness, or forgiveness when you wanted it, but they still taught you lessons through it all.
When we were blessed with a baby (or a few), it became our job to teach them life lessons. No matter the kind of mother or father we had, God has a plan for us and our children. He has unending grace for us when we feel that we fail in motherhood, and he has unending grace for our parents-no matter how we think they may have failed.
Alexandra, in her book, discusses how childhood does shape our expectations for our adult lives. At some point, we have to offer grace to our parents (and our children and our spouses and ourselves) even if we think they did not measure up. At a point we realize that the only one who needs to hold the ruler is God. He gets to judge others and us-we do not.
We can steer our life down a path based on what we have learned by way of our experiences. Which means, don’t ignore the experiences of your life.
Choose to do what only you can do.
God is calling us, but we have to be listening in the moments when we are afraid and when we are feeling strong. He is in both.
You can give your children the love that you did not have or continue to share the stored up love that you did receive.
Your parents do not define who you are, but they have provided lessons.
We can offer grace to our parents for teaching us both what to do and what not to do. God offers grace to us when we veer down a path that he does not intend for us to travel, because we will learn.
What lessons did you learn from your parents?
This post is featured in A Complete Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms: When You Need to Connect in Faith. For all the devotional posts click HERE.
I was invited by MOPS International to read Alexandra’s book and to voluntarily work on the MOPS, International
Street Team to help share it with my readers, friends, and family.