Parenting. It’s a tough gig.
It’s even tougher when you are developing your own style and philosophies of parenting.
But even with my sometimes difficult children and my uncertainty about how to parent, at least I have one big advantage over all the people following a popular parenting guide like To Train Up a Child — I’m not following a formula to get a finished result. I like how Libby Anne put it — I’m just putting in healthy ingredients.
I know many parents stake their worth on how their kids turn out. If the kids grow up to be punks who smoke, date around, have sex outside of marriage — then the parents ‘failed’.
Other parents are stricter: If the kid grows up and reads Harry Potter — FAIL.
Others are more liberal: As long as they still have a good relationship with God, success! If not, FAIL.
It’s a lot of pressure to put on a parent, to believe you have to wind up with a certain kind of grown child or you failed.
I didn’t turn out how my parents wanted. I don’t know all the specifics, but I know that me not being a Christian will feel like failure to them. At other times, far ‘less’ has been called failure — and not just my failure, but theirs. They ‘failed to do it right.’
Did they follow the formulas perfectly? Nah. (Did they follow the perfect formula? Meh.)
Would it have mattered? Probably not.
See, I’m my own person. They succeeded in raising a thoughtful, intelligent, and conscientious person. I’m not a Christian though.
I know that’s important to a lot of people.
But children are not programmable robots or carrot cake or anything that you can just input the right ingredients/tools/steps and get a set result. Children are people, and people make their own decisions. Whether you parent harshly or ‘grace-based’, you can’t expect to get a specific outcome.
I feel bad that I’m going to let down my family by being not-Christian. But I can’t stick to something that I don’t really believe in, just for them. I have to be honest to myself (and God, if he exists). And I have to let my children do the same.
I end with Libby Anne’s plea to mothers who practice Gentle Discipline but promise to love their children ‘still’:
And so I suppose I would simply appeal to these mothers: Please, drop the last trappings of formula parenting, stop seeing their children as something you can program, something you can wind up and set running, and start seeing them as independent individuals who will make their own choices whatever they may be and that’s okay. If your children grow up to make different choices and you respond by draping your relationship with the disappointment of unmet expectations, those children will distance themselves from you. They’ll have to. It will hurt too much otherwise. But if you can start seeing them as individuals early and drop the expectations, if you can instead just focus on being loving and kind parents because that’s what’s right, not because you’re trying to get some specific result, your children—and your relationships with them—will be better for it.