936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
My expectations? Who had time to think about expectations?
I was in the middle of an adoption process crossing my fingers and saying every prayer I knew, hoping everything would go through… my expectation was that it would work out!
Unknown variables like if a birth mom would choose us, if our home study would pass and if all the funds we needed would come through didn’t leave much room for identifying my hidden expectations of what parenthood would look like were the adoption to magically come through (which it did).
The first few years, things didn’t change. I was busy and caught in “keep the baby alive” mode. I’d not had any child development courses and my babysitting resume was sparse. Talk about feeling like a newbie – I had no idea what I was doing. Thankfully weekly Baby Center emails told me it was normal my child screamed her head off during a “witching hour” each night and when to feed her rice cereal.
I considered it a major success when she survived and made it to her toddler years.
By the time we hit the toddler stage of her life, I was still tired and it seemed like life kept getting busier. Like the ceiling cobwebs hanging over my stove that I conveniently ignored for over a year, I didn’t make myself stop to think about or evaluate my own expectations as a mother, or for my daughter’s life.
If I wasn’t running around chasing her, I was calming my shy self down after she complimented every single woman in the grocery store aisle on her hair. It had become very clear she was different from me in every way. I was a quiet, rule-following kid who soaked up instruction and stayed to myself.
She… was not.
The day she boarded the kindergarten bus, I did feel the ball of emotion I’ve heard so many other moms talk about rise up in my chest. A few tears leaked out as I let myself process that my baby was not a baby anymore. But sprinkled donuts and coffee in the school library helped soothe me and other parents who’d just sent their kids to kindergarten. I realized as I squatted down to enjoy my PTA-provided breakfast, things were going to change… I just didn’t know what.
As my daughter has grown older and hopped from age five to six and now seven, I’ve accepted that her needs have changed and will continue to do so. When she was younger, everything revolved around helping her physically. Get her dressed. Change her diaper. Give her a bath. Get her toys down. Keep her out of the street.
As she’s gotten older, she’s become self sufficient and does most of the jobs I used to do for herself. What she needs from me now is emotional support and encouragement. Things I am only able to give her if I’m healthy myself. That has required making time to identify my own expectations of what parenthood “should” look like, and how she “should” act.
I realized that without intentionality to parent her for who she is – I expected her to act like me. Like the other night I almost flipped out over a homemade musical instrument assignment.
As I mentioned, I was a rule-following kid – pats on the back, gold stars and straight As were my jam. A thrill of hope as exciting as Christmas came when my teacher issued a homework project, especially if it was creative.
I had been excitedly watching and waiting for a homework assignment from school and assumed my daughter’s first grade teacher hadn’t issued one yet. That is until the night before parent teacher conferences when pieces of the truth came out.
To make a long story short, my daughter had hidden away the homework assignment sheet because she “didn’t want to do it.” She’d needed to make a homemade musical instrument leading up to parent teacher conferences. Instead of following directions, she’d taken a harmonica and shakers from home and lied to the class, saying she made and painted them. My husband, a musician, was devastated to find out what she’d done, and sad to have missed out on such a fun project. I was a mess on the inside, freaking out about what to do with a defiant child, and beating myself up for where I went wrong in raising her. Walking by the table displaying all of the instruments her classmates made, only to see our harmonica and shakers – her contribution, poured salt on the wound. I was angry.
Everything from starting a civilized jail for kids to sending her away to a Harry Potter-like boarding school flashed through my mind. I was mad, frustrated, and scared about her future – what if she didn’t get good grades? What if she never learned to try? Would she go to college? Would she fall into drugs? Would she be able to support herself once she left our roof? Would she ever leave?
It had taken me years to process my expectations and thoughts about parenthood, but only seconds for fear to introduce me to many more. Fortunately, I captured them quickly and went back to the beginning. I expected her to be me – but she is not me. I had to parent her for her.
We set a new “empty everything in your backpack once you get home from school” rule. We began working on truth and lies. Intentional conversations about forgiveness and “do-overs” led to her asking to do the assignment on her own. She took a homemade guitar to class the next week, beaming with pride. Fortunately there was a lot of grace for her in first grade, grace I had to be willing to extend as well.
And since this showdown, she’s shown me future assignments right away.
It has not been easy to make myself stop and find time to process my own emotions and expectations, and then be willing to change. Sometimes it’s because I’m busy juggling life. Other times it’s because it is hard to think about those things. Especially if areas of the past bring up pain and tension.
Yet I have found that making time to identify my expectations of both myself and my daughter has been helpful for both of us – especially since we’re so different from one another.
Maybe a similar exercise will help you too. If you need a starting place, grab a journal, get away (hiding out in your van totally counts) and be honest with yourself about the answers to these questions. Then, find a friend, a fellow mom, a pastor and/or counselor to talk them over.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!