Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wholehearted Parenting

Image from Brené Brown

My word for this year is wholehearted, and in no area of my life do I need this idea more than in parenting.  I've always known that I wanted to have children one day.  My husband and I talked about kids on one of our very first dates.  I had pretty much figured out how to parent before we ever conceived.  I knew what I wanted to keep from my own family of origin and what I wanted to heal and transcend.  As a voracious reader of parenting books and blogs, I'm also a critic compiling my lists of how things shouldn't be done.

And then I had children.  And it was amazing, and holy, and terrifying.  Not only did I have no idea what to do, but these tiny creatures surprised me by having their own personalities, needs, and wills that I had not taken into consideration.  Nor did I realize how much the act of becoming a parent would change me and have me grieving over my own loss of self and my own inherent selfishness.

I echo the lament of many parents that "the years are short but the days are long."  It is simultaneously scary that there are twelve more years to get our youngest to college...and that there are only twelve more years until our youngest goes to college.  There is so much to pack into each day between the superficial demands of homework and general upkeep, to the deeper values and lessons we hope to instill.  I easily become frustrated at the "one step forward, two steps back" nature of little human development.

As I wrote in in my "Parts of the Whole" post, 

"My struggles (particularly with parenting) often come when I am unable to see the bigger picture.  Stuck in the frustration of a single moment (or daily reality), it's easy to fall into the faulty reasoning that things will always be hopeless and impossible.  Sometimes I think things will never change for the better.  Then some moments I turn around and wonder at how an often-taught lesson has finally clicked.  I can catch a brief glimpse at the big picture that is slowly being created and I find hope once more."

I have seen parenthood as a sacrifice--of my time, myself, the way I think things should be.  I realize the self-centered nature of this and how it sets me up to feel defeated.  But I heard something that has the power to change that.  In the audiobook The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting, Brené Brown speaks of her priest sharing that the word sacrifice comes from a Latin root that means "to make sacred."

What would happen if I viewed parenthood as sacred?  I think back to that first moment we held our firstborn, and in spite of the fear, there was an overwhelming sense of holiness.  There was grace; evidence of God's very real presence in our lives.  Sometimes I let that sense of wonder and mystery become overshadowed by the messy reality in front of me.  But then there are moments when our kids point right back to the Creator and I'm aware once again of the miracle of it all.

As I created my vision board for this year, I knew that I wanted to incorporate a vision for how I can embrace the messy reality of my life and be able to see the beauty in it.  My goal is to be more mindful in my interactions with my children.  I want to have the eyes to see each moment as an opportunity to model and receive God's love.  May my connection with them be a lifeline for all of us, a sacrament that points to God's grace.  May I begin to see the sacrifice as sacred, and parenting as holy work and play.   

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