12 Sept 2017

You are the best parents for your child(ren): when you don't feel very confident about being a parent

This post is for the honest people. If you believe you are doing a near-perfect job, don't hardly get any jitters, never second-guess your decisions, lose sleep or shed tears, move on to a Ted talk or Mr Brown.

This post is for the hungry. Not just a growl in the tum that is settled by a quick wolfing, but those who like to digest things a little, because I am going to try to throw together a dish that isn't often served, and you need time to taste it and examine its nutritional value.

This post is for the happy people, the folks who want to keep getting up and doing stuff better.

This post is about Parental Confidence, which comes about this way: Parental + Confidence.

So you had a baby, she came out all squirmy and the room felt like heaven's entry way. Near exhaustion, you beam as if an angel had scattered gold dust (maybe it has). Congratulations! Just remember this: parenting is never, ever, automatic. It is a decision.

Recently, dear Jason Wong of the Fatherhood Movement/Yellow Ribbon, put out a short vid about not outsourcing parenting.

But guess what? We do.

We need the income.
I need my sanity.
I can't do this.
I'm not the ...type.
My in-laws are free.
I am not a child expert.

Some of these are larger realities and we need to stand together to say 'No' to it. Why for example, does Singapore have to be one of the most expensive cities to live in?

Most of the other reasons fall like cards. A child is a life. A gift. A trust.  God has chosen you to bring her here (well planned or otherwise). It's been said, anyone can be the CEO, but only you can be the parent to your child.

We all know that the family unit is the basic building block of any society, but we don't really believe it. Or we will not be knocking it down so much. From overworked parents, to stressed out children, families have become a mimicry of the corporate or bureaucratic structures of efficiency and order. We fear losing out, we hurry, we spend most of our energies on administration.

We imbibe all the stuff we hear without thinking clearly for ourselves. This is called conformity. There is stern warning about it:

Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds..." ~ Romans 12v1-2
Conformity is the enemy of originality, diversity, and of power. When we conform we hand over power. I am not anti-establishment for after all, the home is an establishment and institution. No home is ever one without the need for rules and for members to abide by them. That is not conformity, for a thriving home will have space for discussion and negotiation. The aim of the rules is not provide stability for vibrancy to flourish.

When was the last time we stopped to think if we really needed all that stuff?
Have we spent enough time to really know our child and to be able to nurture her soul?
Are our marriages dying for lack of love that is a slow and daily cultivation requiring sacrifice?

I am truly glad and almost envious for those who are created so specially to be able to build a thriving marriage, family life and work life that is all Instagram sweetness. Just that I haven't really met any in real life.

The thing is, with life, you cannot really look ahead to determine the outcomes. You also can't look back and say you ended up with the best outcome. I have successful friends who watch with anguish as their children become estranged. I have so called less-successful friends who experience the same. Equally, friends across the socio-economic spectrum have good relationships with their children and their home is a haven.

Since we can't predict or retrospect, where does that leave us?

Our values. 

I have no doubt all parents want to be the best parents they can be. What I sense is that most of us don't really know how great we can be because we never really attempted it. 

From the way society and couples go about it, I feel that parenting when placed side by side against so many other things, may not be such a high value. What we don't value, we won't make sacrifices for.

In what way have you chosen to be a parent, despite the odds?

The parenting choice is not a once-off deal too.

As the children grow, I have found that reminding myself of my scared trust is a daily necessity. It means I need to have resources to love, nurture, restore, pray, train, discipline, guide, protect, and coach.... It means that when there is strife, unhappiness, sloth, and a multitude of small and large offenses and challenges, I am still the adult who can influence the outcomes the most. I have been given a strange and marvelous power. It is a huge privilege. (I have asked God many times, why He takes the risk).

Is parenting your valued choice?

Image result for images of growing children asian

No one likes to feel like an ignoramus. But parenting can do that. It is very humbling. It's also too bad that we have forsaken our familiar networks for the nuclear family so that the load is much heavier, especially if we have other challenges.

But confidence can be grown, with time and practice. It also starts with value.

I was blessed to be number 7 in a family of 9 siblings. So I had some practice with nieces and nephews. I was also blessed to have a mother who is very skillful and adores babies. When I had my first child, my mother and my in-laws were in fact retired and available. But I valued my calling and privilege as a parent. I also know how it felt like not to have my parents available to me in my growing years. So I thanked all of them and despite discouragement, became the primary care giver and made the choice to stay-home and be the 'pastor of one' as it were (though it isn't true, folks came to my home when they needed).

Parenting is a very high value to me.

Who else does my child, chemically inclined, want to bond with so as to feel safe?
Who else is going to think through my child's needs?
Who else is going to witness the flowering of this life?
Who else is going to catch the developmental concerns as the child grows?

We need the support and help of others. But infant care and 12 hour child-care is not best way to go.

I like to think that I am one superb mom. As proof, my neighbor whom I seldom see, was startled to see me with my baby girl, and remarked that she had no idea there was a baby because she never heard crying (of course, my daughter cried, just not very much and I think it is largely due to my attentiveness).  But I have lost my confidence many times (my last post was precisely about times when we blow it. . Still, my value anchored me. I pray, forgive myself, learn, pick myself up and grow in my confidence.

Confidence comes with practice. We simply have to build it over time, hard knocks and experimentation.

I don't want to be that bewildered old person who feels awkward with her children, unsure what she has done with all the years she had as a mom, worried about loneliness or worse outcomes.
I don't want to be that parent who believes others can do a better job with my child than me, when she shares my genes and lives under my roof and longs to connect deeply with me.
I don't want to be that parent who blames school, spouse, society for how my child turns out and how she treats me.

I cannot guarantee the future, and I don't need to. I am called to live in the present, where God the I AM dwells closest to us. The present is shaped by our values, what is important to us at the eternity-moment. I am enjoying the moments of deep laughter, peace, stability and even challenges, moments that I have sown into over all the present moments of the years gone by.

It is one thing to occasionally lose confidence as a parent. It happens. It is another to relegate it away and therefore never own the parenting or grow the confidence.

And O, life is one long continuous conversation. I know some who think that they can work and earn first, then attend to the children when they are older. For the sake of the children and the future of society, I really hope the conversation did not get broken. It is hard to pick up a conversation when the sense of intimacy is lost and when the lingo is too different.

Onward parents, let's grow together in Parental Confidence. Our homes and our nation needs us.

Please share this post with every person planning to have children. 

Related posts:
 the slow cooker approach
 previous posts on parenting

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