The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs 21:5
I think we would all agree that parenting is a serious undertaking. And yet, not many approach parenting with a plan. We develop a plan for most other things including preparing dinner and shopping for back-to-school clothes. But an overall parenting plan?
Our parenting plan for Andy and Caitlyn developed over a period of time. And to be honest, I think Caitlyn (our younger child) was in high school before we realized we had a plan! But looking back, I can see God’s hand developing it. Here’s a bit of the story:
We moms are quick to talk to other moms, particularly those who have kids about the same ages as ours, especially when we have infants and toddlers. Some of the covered topics include bed time, hours slept, how much and what kind of food, new skills, etc. I truly believe we enter into those conversations to learn from the other mom. But without warning, these conversations turn on us. I would often leave feeling like the other mom had it all together, and my poor kids were stuck with me. As I’ve grown older (and I hope wiser), I realize that the other moms probably left the conversation feeling like I had it all together and feeling sorry for their kids. Because that’s what we do. We try to look like we know exactly what we’re doing, while inside we’re shaking in our boots and screaming for help.
When our kids were 5 and 2 years old, we moved from a Indianapolis to a small town. In Indy, we attended a very large church. Our Sunday school class and our social life consisted of couples who had all married around the same time and started families around the same time. Lots of camaraderie and, probably, lots of comparisons.
Soon before we moved, one of our pastors explained to me that in a small town, in a smaller church, my husband and I may not find so many friends our own age. But she encouraged us to be open to other possibilities. “Don’t shy away from making friends who are 10, 15 or 20 years older than you are.” Looking back, that was great advice.
In our first 5 years in the small town, I met lots of women, some my age, some younger, some older. While I continued to play the comparison game with moms with same-aged kids, I was blessed to build spiritual friendships with a few women with kids 5-10 years older than mine. What a gold mine!
I traveled weekly over an hour one way to a Bible study with a dear friend, Dana. (I told you, we moved to a small town!) That gave me almost 3 hours a week in a car with a woman who loved God and was farther down the parenting road than I was.
We talked about what most moms talk about — our kids. Of course, situations she was facing were foreign to me because my kids weren’t the same ages. Her oldest was dating and her youngest was interested in dating while my oldest still wanted the latest Lego collection.
I didn’t understand all she talked about, because my kids weren’t there. But I have a curious nature, so I asked a lot of questions. She answered. I didn’t literally write things down that she shared (although I now wish I would have), but I filed bits of information away in my memory for a later time. I found myself doing this with my friend Debbie, too.
They’d talk about curfews, dating, friends, high school pressures, faith… and I’d mentally take notes. Simply through “mom” conversations, I heard things that worked and didn’t work. And I remembered. I gained a lot of valuable information on parenting that I could never have learned by limiting my close friendships to women who were my age with kids the same age as mine.
Another benefit of these relationships was getting to know high school students (their kids) who were following Christ. We were also around other high school students who seemed uninterested in other people (particularly adults), straight-A students who studied nearly all the time, and athletic kids whose sports schedules dictated the family’s schedule.
By really taking time to look at kids who were older than ours, we were able to, intentionally, put together a picture of what we wanted to see in Andy and Caitlyn: love for God, respect for people around them, responsibility for their own actions, and balance.
Together, Gary and I envisioned the end.
This wasn’t a “product development” process we went through. It wasn’t like we developed a mission statement, vision plan and 5-year goals at a meeting one day. I wish I could say that we were that forward thinking, but again, most of this process I only see in hindsight.
But I can tell you that defining these end goals helped us make decisions as we navigated their middle school, high school and college years. Obviously we couldn’t force things to happen so that they would automatically love God, respect others, be responsible and achieve balance in their lives. On the other hand, these “goals” gave us clear reasons and guidance in navigating those years.
Do not for one minute think that our years through middle school, high school and college were idyllic and frustration free. Nor did Andy and Caitlyn always like our decisions. (In the interest of “fair and balanced” reporting, I may one day let them guest post about rules they hated and how they found Gary and me to be “so unfair!”)
I’ve heard it said, “In parenting, the days are long and the years are short.” (I like that phrase; don’t be surprised if you hear it repeated in this blog.) Sometimes, during a long day, or in a season of long days, it’s easy as a parent to simply get tired of arguing or trying to explain one more time that you’re making a choice they don’t like BECAUSE you love them. At that point, it’s easy to throw up your hands, give them the answer they want and move on JUST TO STOP the discussion, or argument or frustration.
I’ve had those moments. And I’ve thrown up my hands. And I’ve regretted it. I’ve regretted it like I’ve regretted carefully watching my food choices for several days and then gorging on something that looked good for a moment, but did not give lasting satisfaction.
But after those moments, we could get back on our parenting course because we had a plan. More than anything, we wanted Andy and Caitlyn to love God, respect people around them, take responsibility for their own actions, and live balance lives.
Have you thought about a plan for parenting? Have you taken time to prayerfully “envision the end?” Is there a way I can help you process through that?