Sunday, January 16, 2011

Trust, Confidence and Peace

I have been a bad blogger, a bad volunteer and a bad mom lately. All I can manage at this moment is to gestate this baby and try to keep my family in some semblance of order. It's not pretty around here. The house is a complete disaster, I am eating pre-made, processed stuff that I would normally go hungry rather than consume, and my kids haven't done a Saint of the Day or a Devotions in weeks. I'm no longer doing my St. Vincent de Paul work, and I've cut down on the number of times I drive into Denver to see my Catholic Charities families as well. I'm not even attending Mass every single Sunday, let alone during the week, and have totally abandoned the children's Rosary group I started in 2009. Others have been picking up my slack for me, bless them.

I'm honestly okay with this. It's not a choice for me to cut back on the things I like to do. I am physically, emotionally and mentally incapable of living my normal life right now. Things will work out and hopefully I can get back on track by summertime.

For the past seven months I've been trying (mostly without success) to get a handle on my parenting method. This is my version of nesting for a third child! We have all the equipment and I'm well practiced at attachment parenting, so the real question I'm struggling with is: What comes after toddlerhood?

There are SO MANY models, methods, books, and theories that it makes my head swim. Since I don't live on a desert island with my kids, I also have to factor in wildly divergent grandparents and, of course, my spouse. At its core, though, parenting is about what's comfortable for me and my kids, and this is where the biggest problem lies. I simply do not have any confidence at all in my parenting.

My word for the year is ABANDONMENT, and it's come to me precisely because I am struggling so desperately with parenting issues. It's not enough for me to love my children and do my best. I have to know that the method I'm using is approved by this that or the other expert, that it has been proven not to have any long-term psychological downsides, and that it creates harmony in my home. Needless to say, I'm still searching!

There's no perfect method because there are no perfect people -- parents or kids. No matter how many books I read, I'm never going to hit upon the ideal method that works every time and results in adult children who are self-sufficient, holy, and an asset to their communities. The best I can hope for is a method that allows flexibility, focuses on character rather than behavior, and preserves the inherent dignity of each family member.

I have to be okay with the idea that I'm not really in control, that I'm going to make mistakes, and that, despite all my efforts, the chances are that my kids are going to have to struggle to find their place amid the chaos that is this world. They're going to make mistakes, too, and I can't blame myself for how they turn out (even if they blame me!) just as I can't take all the credit if they end up actually being holy, productive members of society.

I think the link between trust and confidence is much closer than the link between experience and confidence. I could let myself by stymied by the magnitude of my responsibility (this person's ENTIRE FUTURE is in my hands!) or I can trust that God is in charge and that my contribution, while important, is by no means absolute.

That thought is bringing peace to this harried, hormonal mom right now. Just thought I'd share it!

9 comments:

Katherine said...

Wow. Maybe I'm reading too much into your post, but you sound stressed. You made my head spin.

I don't usually comment, but I do follow your blog. I don't know exactly how old your children are so maybe you have more experience than I do. My oldest will be 5 years old in 2 weeks. My second turned 3 in November. My 3rd is a year and a half and Baby #4 is due in 2 1/2 months.

Let me just say I'm not saying how you should do things. I don't know enough about you even to be able to say such a thing if I wanted to. But in case my own experience is helpful at all, I thought I'd share it.

I didn't grow up with a good relationship with my mom. In many ways, we are polar opposites. We are cordial and can get along but I'd live in the country with a houseful of kids and she'd have an estate near the city with seasonal tickets to the theater if that gives you any idea. Mostly, I think she showed me what I didn't want to do as a mother, but I admit, not having a good model, when I became a mother, I was petrified, unbelievably uncomfortable and, in many ways, miserable. It took me til child #3 and 4 years to feel like I could do this motherhood thing with any degree of satisfaction. As someone who had no model to follow, only avoid, I did not read book after book after book on methods and philosophies and styles of parenting. I did/do my best to love my children and do what works best for me and them. That has included co-sleeping, exclusive breast-feeding and homeschooling. I'm planning to include cloth diapering with Baby #4 but it wasn't something I could do before. Now, my oldest is only doing kindergarten work, but while I generally insist we do some each day Monday through Thursday, if she really doesn't want to do any or only wants to do 15 or 30 minutes instead of my scheduled hour, I run with it. Being flexible makes learning more fun for her and easier on me. She loves to learn and that makes it easier on me.

Personally I think you are too worried over what model/method/book you should use to dictate your parenting. Confidence is not something I have a lot of. The way I grew up, it is very hard for me to have much. But I have confidence that good people have raised good children without books, methods or philosophies simply by loving them, doing their best and trusting God. Personally, I think a child knowing that their parent really, truly loves them and thus that God really, truly loves them is one of the very most valuable things a child can learn and take with him/her into adulthood. It is something I struggle with. I know too well the pain and difficulty brought about by not having that innate security. The only equation you can follow to get that answer is to love your children, do your best, and trust God. As for the rest, do what works best for you and helps you most to do those things.

By the way, no person's "entire future" is in your hands. You play a critical, irreplaceable part, but others play parts as well from family members to guardian angels and saints. Every night we petition our children's saints to pray for us and my oldest has learned the Guardian Angel prayer. I call on St. Nicholas often.

As I said, I really don't know enough about you to know exactly what you're going through. But, if I can be of any help, feel free to email me.

God Bless

Tienne said...

Katharine--

Well, I apparently did NOT do a good job of conveying the letting go part! LOL

I do acknowledge that it's not all about me. That bit about their entire future being in my hands was meant a bit tongue in cheek, but things rarely come out the way I want them to online.

I agree with you: I think the love of a parent, and the love of God, is the key to an adult who feels whole and can give back to the world. If that's all I manage to teach them as a parent, that's a darn good accomplishment!

Thanks for your kind words of encouragement.

Anna said...

Out of curiousity, what does it mean to you to have a method that "focuses on character rather than behavior"?

And I'm totally with you on letting go of that feeling that everything about your child's future is solely in your hands. It's such a constricting, crazy-making feeling, isn't it? Things are so much more peaceful around here when I realize that things are ultimately in God's hands and its ok if I make mistakes while trying to figure out what God wants me to do.

Tienne said...

Anna-

I think the answer to your question is "something that doesn't dole out punishment but is more focused on what the child is learning." I am really against the idea that you have to break a child's will in order to successfully teach them right from wrong. This is the polar opposite of my upbringing, though, so it's pretty difficult for me to implement, hence the struggle to find a method that works for our family.

Rachel B said...

So, I have no wisdom but just wanted to let you know that I think I know exactly how you feel!

Jessica said...

Tienne, I just want to let you know that I, too, have been thinking a lot recently about the responsibility of motherhood, and also been coming to a place when I realize that while it is my job to do my duty, I am not the one who determines the ultimate result. I'm supposed to mother to the best of my ability, trusting in God to supply what I'm lacking.

I guess it boils down to saying: HIS is the sufficiency, not mine. I am not enough. But He is.

God's blessings on you!

Abigail said...

Benjamin1Hurrah for the new Baby! Prayers coming your way. This is something in parenting I'm totally struggling with also. I'm very interested in following your future insights.

Just recently I've felt totally adopted by St. John Bosco. His discipline method is totally cool--the preventative method. If you've got access to the Divine Office, his quote on Jan 31 is beyond awesome. Bosco's tips are just "aspirational" for me right now, but I feel so great to have a good guidepost now for how "attachment parenting grows up."

Tienne said...

Abigail: They have it online! http://divineoffice.org/

I'll have to remember to check back on the 31st, since you can't go more than a day ahead. Thanks for the encouragement. :)

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean. Our oldest is five, going on six, and I struggle every day to figure out how to parent him. Attachment parenting (more or less) worked well for us in the early years, but...it all just gets to much more complicated as they get older!

If you find the perfect system, let me know. :) Meanwhile, I just wanted to say boy, do I ever hear you!