21 January 2007

Parenting with a human heart

I am awake far too early this morning having been driven from my bed by a combination of low blood sugar, a kicking baby, and a kicking toddler who never seems to stay asleep when Momma puts her to bed.
I don't like it when I wake up at this time of the night. For some reason, anytime after 4 a.m., my brain wakes up far too eagerly and I find it darn near impossible to just go back to bed and go to sleep. Instead I go back to bed and lay awake, thinking, imagining, turning whatever it is that's going on in my head over and over and over.
Tonight I got up and was thinking about being a parent and making mistakes. I've had a lot of fun being Annalivia's parent lately. I think I go to bed every single night and fall asleep smiling as I glow about some wonderful miscellaneous thing that she has done. (Tonight she was in a very kissy mood -- it's quite precious.)

But tonight I was thinking that as Annalivia matures, I think my daily mistake tally has narrowed when it comes to the obvious and increased probably exponentially when it comes to the less obvious.
Thinking about this led me to wonder -- do experienced parents ever look back and just grieve their parenting mistakes?
I mean this less in a beat-myself-up sort of way and more in the way one's heart feels a heaviness and true sorrow when a deep loss has occurred. Do folks think about their parenting mistakes and just grieve the loss contained therein?

I'm continually realizing -- the job of being a parent is just SO big. And one of the biggest parts of being a parent is being entrusted with nurturing, but also protecting, a child's sense of self. That's such a fragile thing in some ways. Oh, I know -- children are resilient and blah, blah, blah, but there is also a sense in which they just aren't. And how a parent treats a child throughout the child's life forms that child in a way that other relationships just don't.
So making mistakes with a little one is so different, I think, than making mistakes with the other relationships we've been given to nurture and protect. With other relationships, we can also do irreparable harm with carelessness. But as parents, we are powerful in a way that is so frightening sometimes. The things we say and do are stored deep, deep inside this little being and will be there for the rest of their lives. When those things will emerge will not be determined by us or by our children; those things will speak whenever they will speak whether our children are in our presence or whether they are alone at 5 in the morning. Those things don't silence when a child turns 16 or 21 or 31 or, I'm assuming, beyond.

I guess I don't know quite what to do in response to my failures. I work on turning them over to God and I try to apologize for my mistakes and ask forgiveness from Annalivia when I make them, even now when forgiveness is completely forthcoming. But I confess, I think that I will probably always grieve these losses and I imagine that when I start making the really big mistakes, which I'm assuming I will because I am entirely too human, after all, that those things will hurt my heart the way not much has before.

Yes, parenting is a big, big job. And the grace it requires, the grace I will need -- well, I'm just beginning to get small glimpses of just how vast that ocean of grace will have to be. I pray I'm smart enough and humble enough to bathe in it.

And now, I think I'm at least smart enough to go back to bed. Blessings of the day (and night) to all of you.


Holly said...

Oh absolutely...I grieve my mistakes. And there have been times of deep mourning, and repentance over them, once I have fully "seen" what I have done. Yes, I move on and grow and change, but still, when I think of them again I am sorrowful.

I must add, though...that we can't downplay God's ability to heal our mistakes in our child's lives. Just imagine something your parents might have done wrong, something they might have said that wounded you. (Not sayin' they did...just saying imagine...) Now, picture if your parents have come humbly to you and apologized, and said..."What I said/did was so wrong. It is not truth! Can you please forgive me?" And then they go on to live in a manner consistent with that repentance...

What kind of difference would that make?

ALL of the difference in the world! It can completely turn the negative effects around and use them for the good. And as a bonus, they are learning to be a better parent than you, even!

I can tell by your thoughts that you are a very good parent, April. Don't fear the future mistakes too much - just pray for wisdom to recognize them early and correct them.

April said...

Thank you, Holly, for your wise words. (as usual!) Your children are obviously blessed to have you!

Violet said...

Our four children are almost all grown now (ages 25, 22, 21, and 17). I can't count the mistakes I've made, and the times I have (and still do) grieve. But...I have seen just enough of the benefit from those mistakes to give me great hope and joy in knowing God can work ALL things together for good - even my biggest mistakes.

This last year, especially, I have learned that I can trust Him in everything - most especially in putting things right for "His own glory and [my] best good". We can trust Him to protect our children from our mistakes, and cause us all to learn more about Him in the process. How do parents do it without Him?!!

You're doing great, April. Keep looking to Him for guidance and you won't go wrong.