Craig and I are both children of divorce, and early on in our engagement we made the commitment that once we said our vows, we were locked in for life AND were committed to 'circling the wagons' so to speak, when either of us felt that things were starting to go off track. We haven't gotten to that point yet, but I'm sure there will be times in our marriage when it starts becoming a little difficult to LIKE the other person, and we'll need the tools and attitude to continue loving each other even when the feelings might not be 100% behind it. That's the commitment we made to God and each other.
So we've already established that to the extent of our knowledge, and the best of our ability, and with a continual covering of God's grace, we'll be providing our little girl (and future little ones) with the security that we will both always be there. And we hope that our commitment and love for one another despite our disagreements and the ups and downs of life, will help to build the self esteem and confidence of our little one; how we treat each other in our marriage reflects that we will always love her despite bad behaviours and the general teen years, and gives her room to grow as an individual, while always having a safe and soft place to land.
Beyond that, we know that we want to raise her to know God and to have a relationship with Christ that is real, and that grows and changes as she does. I Am by Nicole Nordeman pretty much sums up the relationship and love for Christ we'd like for her to have, and hope to help her to find.
But what else? For the more practical stuff, what is really important?
Should we feed her only organic foods?
When is a good time to have another baby (or two or three...)?
Should we put her into a Christian or private school?
What do we want our discipline to look like?
Do we want to limit the number of extracurricular activities she (and her siblings) are in so that we don't simply become chauffeurs every weeknight.
Who gets to give her her nightly bath or read her bedtime stories?
What role should grandparents have in her life? Can we be sure that others in her life have the same goals for her as us, and conduct themselves in a way that is respectful to others and pleasing to God so that she is surrounded by Godly examples?
When should we let her start dating?
I read a great article on Simple Mom a little while ago, that was kind of relieving. It said that we are not as responsible for our children as we are to them. You can read the entire post here, but what I best took from the article was that the way that Craig and I conduct ourselves as parents and as individuals will be one of the greatest influences on her life, even more so than the rules and wisdom that we pass on to her. If we are treating others with respect, refraining from judgmental comments about those from other races, religions, social circles, and even people we may dislike, there is a good chance that she will in turn live out those same principles. Parents may dole out a lot of "do as I say, not as I do" advice, but truthfully, if we are saying one thing and behaving another way, not only will our children learn that our words are largely empty, but as well will come to think that however we are acting is the correct way. If we teach her to love others but then sit on our front porch waving at neighbours while criticizing them under our breath, we are teaching her that love is conditional on who or what the other person is. Does that make sense? We can pour a lot of our time and money into trying to mold our children into good people, but our biggest contribution to her future is not the things we provide or the lessons we teach, but what we believe and what it looks like when Craig and I live that out.
We're still discussing what parenting looks like to us, and we're trying to use the knowledge of others who have gone before use, but I think at the end of the day, as long as we are forever moving towards the goal of being Christ-like in all that we do, despite our mess ups and failures, we are teaching our kids the best lesson: that God loves us despite our flaws and failures, and through his Grace we have the courage to pick up and keep moving forwards.
What kind of parent do you want to be?