If I Had Parenting to Do-Over Again…

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Schneider Girls keepin’ it classy!

It never ceases to amaze me how many young mamas, friends and strangers alike, ask me for parenting advice. I don’t think it necessarily has anything to do with the fact that my girls have grown into delightful, God-fearing women, but more so because as women, we want to learn from one another; we need one another. In terms of raising children, we want to know what worked and what didn’t work so we can adjust our course, if need be.

Sometimes we’re so desperate for answers, direction, or just need to feel we’re not in this unpredictable venture alone, that we’ll even heed the advice of perfect strangers. Such was my experience yesterday. A woman I had never met before and I found ourselves thrown together for a short period of time. Naturally, we struck up a conversation—about our kids. When I told her my girls were now nearly 21 and 16, she peppered me with questions, wanting to learn any inside information I might have, about what she should be doing differently or better or what she could expect in the future for her much younger son. Later that day, I found myself chuckling over the fact that I had shared the good, bad, and ugly of my parenting with a stranger and vice versa! Admittedly, I didn’t catch her name and I doubt out paths will cross again, but boy, was that an awesome conversation. It solidified to me just how much we need one another. We need to share our experiences, to build one another up, and walk this often tumultuous road shoulder to shoulder.

When I was pregnant with my first daughter over 21 years ago, I read every parenting book I could get my hands on. I underlined, highlighted, dog-eared, and thoroughly studied those books in more depth than I did any of my college text books. I prayed. I pondered. I daydreamed. I cried. I stressed. And I completely underestimated my ability and God’s sovereignty—but I didn’t know that for years to come.

All I ever wanted to be was a mom. However, I felt unprepared no matter my studious ways. Being a parent is one thing, doing it well is another thing entirely. Like most moms-to-be, I desperately wanted to raise my kids well. I wanted them to be well-adjusted, have the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, love all people, be givers, not takers, follow directions, live humbly– while at the same time understand they are treasures that exceed value. I desired with all my heart that my girls would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they belong to Christ and desire to live first and foremost for Him—not because we want them to, but in response to His love for them.

FullSizeRender (2)I envisioned being that spontaneous mom that would pull over to the side of the road when something in nature called our attention to it, so we could explore it in more depth. I dreamt of making thousands of wishes together as we blew tiny seeds from dandelions across the park week after week. I knew we’d dance in the rain, and splash in mud puddles until we were soaked through– and then do it all over again. I imagined oohing and ahhing over treasured creatures found in tide pools and eating sandy sandwiches while at the beach. I anticipated watching thunder and lightning storms late at night while huddled together under woolen blankets, just like I did with my own mama. I dreamt of telling stories around campfires and gorging on too many s’mores, not caring that bed time passed by an hour ago. Perhaps what I looked forward to most was cradling my girls in my arms after a long day of play together—and singing and praying over them as their heavy eyes found their way to a peaceful night sleep. I don’t think my dreams are unique to me. I think most mamas-to-be dream great dreams. We smile as we get swept away in thought. We run our hands over the soft cotton baby clothes, close our eyes and can practically picture our angel. For many of us, our DNA screams MAMA!!! It’s what we’re born to do and we know we’re going to be good at it.

Until we’re not.

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First haircut. Not what either one of us expected.

Until our thoughts start bombarding us with questions like:  what if I don’t know how to teach her all the things I’m supposed to or want to? What if I break her? What if I can’t nurse her? What if she doesn’t stop crying? What if she doesn’t sleep? What if she fails in school? What if she’s rebellious? What if she does drugs or gets pregnant or hates me, or… I had these questions and more. I didn’t obsessively worry about them, but the more I thought about them, the more I want to know the answers. I wanted to prepare. I wanted to plan. I’m just wired like that. (I like to think of it as being pro-active; my husband likes to think of it as being hyper-alert—tomato, tomatoe)! I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to combat certain behaviors or ensure I would raise a great, healthy, and happy child? So I called my mom—sobbing– because now I wasn’t only feeling unprepared, but feeling as if I might actually mess up a human being. I shared my concerns and short-comings with my mom, asking her how I was possibly going to manage to raise a child. I remember her words as if she had spoken them yesterday:

You’ll figure it out as you go”—Not what I was looking for, but she was right, I did.

Admittedly, our parenting has often looked like a plane sputtering along, thirsty for fuel, wearily doing what needs to be done, while other times, it has looked terrifyingly reckless and out of control– nose-diving toward jagged cliffs. This isn’t to say there haven’t been moments that feel very much like riding on the wings of clouds toward a setting pastel sunset, but there are fewer of these moments than I’d like.

It doesn’t mean my parenting is broken. It means my initial idea of parenting wasn’t complete.

Parenting is an act of enduring, sacrificial love and though I might have known this on one hand before my baby girl was placed into my arms, I understood it on a whole other level on the nights I cried myself to sleep because the day was so horrible. I beat myself up too often and didn’t ask for God’s help often enough.

FullSizeRender (3)Some days I am a stellar, on par kind of parent and others days I royally suck. Truth! So when people ask me for parenting advice, I tell them that I am perhaps the last person to ask because I am still learning.

However, if pressed, here are MY TOP 20 PARENTING TIPS: (Disclosure: some of these were learned through years of sweat and tears, others I am still actively learning)

1. Submit yourself before the Lord. This is not about you, but about Him through you.
2. Make self-care a priority. When you are filled up, you are a better version of yourself to share with your kids.
3. Parent intentionally, be present every single day.
4. Set realistic expectations for both you and your children—make them known to your kids.
5. Consider their learning style—not just what comes naturally for you.
6. Listen, even to the rambling and the inaudible words of their youth. If they don’t see us listening when they’re younger, they’ll assume we won’t listen when they’re older.
7. Whispering gets just as much attention as yelling. It quiets our stressed out kids (eventually) because they’ll want to know what we’re saying. My girls said they knew when I whispered it meant serious business!
8. Pray over and with them constantly. Some of my fondest memories are of my girls and I blubbering our way through some of our prayers.
9. Give them over to the Lord and allow Him to have His way with them. (This is hard and often painful—especially in their teenage years)
10. Allow them to fail, fall, and make mistakes.
11. You can be an authority without being an authoritarian.
12. Don’t rescue them (enable), but be there to help pick up the pieces afterwards.
13. Don’t do their homework, even when it’s obvious that other kids’ parents are—Kids need to take pride in their work, not yours.
14. Model godly character; and forgive yourself when you don’t.
15. Don’t stress about the little things. For example: It’s OK if your child’s outfit doesn’t match or if they go to school with two different shoes on. If they feel uncomfortable, they’ll fix it on their own. Allow them to be creative, even if it’s not your style. (When my daughter was in second grade, she decided to go to school in a pajama top, skirt and rain boots with her hair resembling a rat’s nest. And to top it off, she used her “Mary Poppins umbrella as a cane!) I cringed on the inside, smiled on the outside. She kept up with this creative dress for about a week. Now, she is entirely into fashion and make-up and has an amazing eye!)
16.Remember love is hard work. It’s not always stories and snuggles. Love means saying you’re sorry. And it means forgiving your kids when they mess up.
17. Allow your kids to see you cry, laugh, struggle, problem solve, pray.
18. Remember you are parent first, friend—later, much later!
19. Respect is earned, not just from them, but from us to them as well.
20. Treat them as little people—don’t underestimate their thoughts, questions, and ideas.

My girls…I cannot say enough about them. God’s fingerprints are all over their lives and boy, does that ever make my heart swoon. FullSizeRender (4)

9 thoughts on “If I Had Parenting to Do-Over Again…

    • Those toddler years!!!!! Such hard years for me, for my girls (especially my oldest). I had no idea those were the easier years. I wished some of those days away. I wish she’d stop crying/screaming seemingly over nothing. I wished her initial response to anything and everything wasn’t “no”. I wished she’d stop pulling off her diaper and pooping on the floor (OK, this only happened twice, but still.. twice!). I wished she’d stop imitating Houdini and crawling out of her car seat while I was driving on the freeway. I wished she would nap—or just sleep in general (bed time was a nightmare)! I wished she would stop throwing all her food off her high chair tray. I wished she’d let me comb her hair without screaming.
      I wish I could go back in time and love her better, love her more presently, love her with words that were meaningful to her, not so much to me. I wish I would have hugged her more when she was in trouble. I wish I would have been more patient. I wish I had relished even the hard times, remembering this is the child I begged God for, remembering that this child is on loan to me from God Himself.
      I know you might not believe me, but it gets harder because they develop language, reasoning, and critical thinking skills. They’ll be immersed in the world, where they will be subjected to all sorts of things–which is good, but then we are not picking up cheerios off the floor, we’re dealing with things significantly more life altering. (picking up cheerios for the thousandth time is easier than dealing with teenage pregnancy tests or missed curfews or car accidents, or…) We cannot control our kids so we have to teach them to think responsibly and through situations and for the greater good. They need to know the consequences of choices even when we’re not around–and the earlier they learn this in life, the better it is for them—and us! Sigh. Parenting is hard. Pray—pray hard, pray all the time. There really is no way to parent well without it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, thank you for the comprehensive answer. I know these years are to be savored, as my own mother and random moms and dads have told me, “those were the best years and the ones the kids loved me the most.” I don’t like to measure life in superlatives, but I do want to learn from these parents that I should relish all the hugs, kisses, cuddles, reading times, and all the togetherness we share now. I read a good reminder the other day that shifted my perspective in the midst of tantrums: I’m not going through a hard time, but my daughter is. I tend to get selfish and think she’s doing things to spite ME or God is punishing ME. But, it’s not always about me, and that I need to be more empathetic to their growing b
        o+dies and minds. It’s hard to grow up and learn about the world. And I do believe you about parenting getting much harder. Anticipating it now while they’re babies actually gives me much anxiety so I try to be present as possible, but I honestly don’t know how I’d handle bullying, loss of innocence, peer pressure, etc, etc. You are right, my friend, about prayer. I don’t know who I’d be without that relationship with God and hope that it is adequate for my role as a mother. Thank you for your response, Karyn.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Looking forward to being a parent when my time comes as approved of God.. but I was referring most of your advice with the way my parents where parenting.. sincerely it’s not easy to be a parent and like you say, we can learn from other but there is no particular formatted manual to parenting. Especially as a teacher and having to be parents to them.. I love those kids big time but there are some days we have to scream and say Ooh God, I need your help coz am losing it this moment😂😂. Thanks for sharing the Tips

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I knew you were a teacher! What grade? I’m in special education, specifically autism. I’m in my 12th year!!!! 12, I can hardly fathom that! I still love it just as much as I did my first day! But it is hard and some days I do want to yell, because kids are hard!!! But Love is patient, Love is kind…and I honestly feel the Lord’s presence working in and through me in my job. It is the greatest job in the world, next to parenting! I have no doubt that when and if you’re meant to be a mama, you’ll be one of the good ones!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks so much.. Am a secondary school teacher… we don’t do grades per se but that would be grade 9-11. However I am not now… about starting my masters in Educational management by the grace of God. I am a children’s teacher at church though…. I love the younger kids I won’t lie.. it takes grace to really train the older ones more so, I have a sisterly stature because am still young. So am more like a big sister, sometimes even young sister 😂😂 to some of my students.

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