I really appreciated all of the comments from my last post. Your words caused me to further reflect on the motivation behind the choices I make as a parent - so thank you!
Before I dive further into today's topic, I want to acknowledge that I have many dear friends who have used some of the methods that I reject and who downright disagree with my perspective. These women are excellent parents who I often turn to for advice! I know that their consciences are clear regarding the decisions that they have made. What I share, below, are the choices that I've needed to make in order to keep my conscience clear as well.
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When my husband and I were confronted with all of those first-time-parent questions, and when we couldn't see a clear reason to make one choice over another, we would always resort to the "What would have happened in the Garden?" answer.
Of course, Adam and Eve didn't have children in the Garden of Eden. And our home is nothing like that perfect paradise. What we were really asking was, "how did God design families to work?" In other words, so far as we can understand, how are we as humans made to relate to one another, especially as parents and children? If we really trust that God created this little person, and gave her to us, and remains sovereign over all of us, then what decisions are really important and which ones should be recognized as "little stuff"?
For example, consider the controversial issue of babies and sleep. Where should they sleep? When should they sleep? How much should they sleep? How do I make them sleep? Why can't I, as the mother, GET MORE SLEEP?!? When Maren was born, I felt like all the moms I knew were talking about their children's sleep "schedules". It seemed like their kids were as regular as a timeclock. So I spent the first six months of my daughter's life trying to figure out her sleep patterns and force her into a structure that I could regulate.
The problem is, I'm not a structured, regulated person. And my child hated every effort I made to make her into one. I remember breaking down in tears one day to my husband, frustrated that I never knew when Maren would need a nap so I couldn't plan anything because I didn't want to disrupt her sleep schedule. He calmly spoke into my meltdown - "honey, do you really think Eve spent her time worrying about when Cain and Abel would sleep? she probably just strapped them to her back, went about her business, and took care of them as things came up."
Translation: stop being someone you're not. stop trying to make your kid someone she's not. just pay attention to what your baby is saying to you, and act accordingly.
Thinking about the Garden, about the pure joy of walking in the presence of God and trusting him for every need, in every moment, changed the way I thought about parenting. I knew God had made me to be a Mama, and I was certain that I knew my baby better than anyone else. So I just started listening to them - to my perfect Father, and to my little child.
I know there are mothers of every shape and perspective, with different preferences and lifestyles. I know that life is no longer as simple and beautiful as it was designed to be and that we face a thousand complex issues related to parenting. But I believe that it is my sin, and the foolishness of the world, and the lies of our enemy, who keep me from fulfilling the Grand Purpose that God has for me as a mother.
I believe that it is only my weakness that ever causes me to ignore my crying child. I believe that it's my pride that says I deserve to have work outside of the home. And I believe that it's my selfishness that tries to make Maren do things my way, or in a way that would make it "easier" on me.
I want to live in the freedom that belongs to me in Christ, the freedom that allows me to delight in my child without worrying about what's going to happen next or how she compares to any other kid. I want to be so secure in my identity, which is hidden in Christ, that I refuse to manipulate my daughter or neglect my calling as her mother. I want to go back to the Garden and sing and dance as a child of God who knows that his hand is more than powerful enough to hold me up and provide for my every need.
So, that's how I try to make decisions about caring for Maren. I ask God to show me how he designed our family and to give me the courage to live like it.
What about you? What gives you freedom in your outlook on parenting?