Things taught

I've been thinking for several days...I'm surprised I can remember this...about how we learn to do things. I'm reminded on a daily basis that I am still learning every day. Learning something, whether it is about homemaking, parenting, managing finances, growing things, cooking, creating...mostly parenting. As I was reading a book the other day, still "Screamfree Parenting", it dawned on me that I should have read this book BEFORE I had children. As I browsed my own self-help library of parenting books, I realized I should have read ALL of these books before I had children. I remember thinking in the midst of one of my physical therapy clinical rotations that it was so great to put into practice some of the things I learned in the past several months in the classroom and that now (at that moment) I should relearn it in the classroom because it would make so much more sense. It is no different right now in my life. Had I read these books pre-children, put some of it into practice and then read the books again to reinforce the lessons, I would be 9 years ahead in my quest to be a good mom. When you think about it, we are prepared (or at least put in a position to have someone teach us) for lots of things. We are taught how to recognize colors, shapes and letters, read, write, do simple and even complex math. Most of us are then given the opportunity to continue to be taught and learn at a higher level to prepare ourselves to jump out into the world and have a career, make a living, sometimes even make a difference. Even on the extracirricular level, we are taught. No one would ever expect a basketball player to go out onto the court, representing a team, and play to win without ever having picked up a basketball before, or even not knowing what the object or rules of the game are. We are coached, we practice, we're given feedback to make us better. Parenting on the other hand is quite a different playing field, and for the most part, there aren't a lot of coaches, classes, or experiences offered until you are indeed the parent! I don't remember a college course called "effective parenting 101". This of course feeds my thoughts about the TV show "Secret life of a soccer mom". Is parenting regarded as something secondary and unimportant? There are certainly some great support groups out there...MOPS, all kinds of parent/child classes, seminars offered by Boys Town, authors of all these books on my shelf, etc, but who ever encourages a newly married couple to take these classes? Realistically, who would want to? The content probably wouldn't make a whole lot of sense without being in the trenches to experience it.
I guess I don't have an answer, just a lot of thoughts. Of course everyone has their own advice to offer regarding how things should be. Our own parents, grandparents, relatives and friends each have their own theories, and feel that they are already tested and true. No one can possibly have all the answers though, because last time I checked, no one else lives with us, and I know that it is certainly easy to offer a sensible suggestion that makes perfect sense to solve someone else's problems, especially when I have only experienced their problem for a short period.

I'm kind of getting off track of my initial thought, so I'll elaborate and then get back on track. We often hear things like "tell them they can't jump on the couch." "Don't let them leave the house without making their beds" "Your kids should bring in their things from the car and pick up their trash before they get out" and "they should hang their coats up". These are all splendid suggestions to which I always want to reply, "Do you really think we haven't thought of these things?" They make so much sense, and one would think these suggestions would be extrememely easy to apply, but I beg to differ! When those suggestions are made, the context of the remaining dynamics (the fact that I'm not sitting at home in one spot just waiting for teaching opportunitites to arise) are not realized or understood.

Anyway...it occurred to me again in another situation how important it is to teach and learn. Just as we wouldn't expect anyone to be a great basketball player the first time they touch a ball, we shouldn't expect a child to learn and perfect something that they're told once how to do. They need practice and opportunity. That is the challenge! Having a house guest reinforces that. There are things that I realize I have taught my children that others outside of our family may not have been taught. I see in others the things that I KNOW I want to be sure to teach my children: how to finish a job that is started, how to do things to the best of their abilities even if what is being done is not their favorite thing. I want them to be reliable, responsible and dependable. I want them to do what they're asked to do, and not just enough to get by. I don't want them to leave something undone just because they're not interested in it anymore. We all get excited about new things and then they get old, but if we've committed to something, then it doesn't matter that it isn't exciting anymore, it is our responsibility. I guess I've taken for granted that this is an idea that just is, instead of one that needs to be taught and learned.

Who knew being a parent could be so hard? No one offered that information in Lamaze. What happened to the information past how to change a diaper, the fact that a good night's sleep would be a thing of the past, that it would be expensive to raise a child? It may sound like I'm overwhelmed, not prepared, and having second thoughts...nothing could be farther from the truth! God doesn't give us more than we can handle and I'm flattered that He thinks we're capable. In fact I find great strength on the days that I think about it the right way...that He trusts us to take care of 6 of his children. I know He gives us the chance to fail, but He also gives us the chance to be successful. Bottom line is that all good things come from God and in Him we find strength. Just a reminder that we're doing the right thing here. It may be a thankless job now, but in time there will be visible results of our hard work, and it is ok to continue on even when it's hard. In a daily devotion I read that God helps us the most when we listen. "If you look back over My Words to you, you will see that My leading has been very gradual, and that only as you have carried out My wishes, have I been able to give you more clear and definite teaching and guidance."

My prayer for today includes "teach me how to listen and hear, to follow Your instruction and to ask for Your help at all times Lord, and help me to be sincere and genuine in my actions every minute so that I may teach my children without lecturing to them."

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