Becoming a parent is scary. From which car seat is safest to what school you will be sending your children to, there are so many opportunities for you to mess up. As Dane and I prepare to welcome our baby into the world, there have been moments of fear, frustration and excitement. We are trying to develop a parenting style, agree on how to raise our children and set up rules without even knowing the little people that God will be blessing us with. Sure we can decide that we don’t want technology ruling our house, but how will it really be once the baby comes? And as this baby grows, will we make the right decisions, will we have set the correct rules and will we be able to do all that without losing our relationship with that child?
All these worries have made me empathize with my parents. Sure they didn’t do everything perfect but I think they did pretty darn well under the circumstances. At 23 years old, I’m married to a nice catholic man, we go to church every Sunday, we are involved in our parish and we always try to keep the Lord at the center of relationship. I call my mom every day, and my husband works with my dad so we are very close to my parents. We go visit my in-laws (or they visit us) about twice a month and we often send each other emails and texts just to check in. We’re not rich, but we try not to place too much value on material goods and we are not irresponsible with our money.
I look at some of the people I was friends with in high school and wonder how we turned out so different. These girls are single, sleeping around with different guys, going clubbing 3 different nights a week and posting some really provocative pictures of themselves on Facebook. I went to the same school as these girls, we were raised in similar middle-class families in the same town, with the same influences and yet we are polar opposites. And although you could say that we have different personalities, that our college years were formative and we did not live them out the same way, I have to give the credit to my parents.
My parents made incredible sacrifices to guarantee that my sisters and I would be raised correctly. My mother gave up her dreams in order to stay home with us and my dad worked insane hours to be able to provide financially. We were not rich but our house was full of love and I never felt like we were going without. My parents brought us to church every Sunday and taught us everything they knew about having a relationship with God. They took time out of their schedules to volunteer for the church and gave back as much as they could. My mom and dad never hid their love for each other, sure they would fight, but I never doubted how much they cared for one another. They taught my sisters and I that great relationships are not something that just happens, they need to be worked on.
As we turned into teenagers, my parents set up rules to keep us safe and out of trouble. I remember hating my curfew and limitations but then I’d hear the things my friends got up to when I was stuck at home and I would be glad I missed out. Through the rebellious stages, my parents always kept the lines of communication open. Sure, I didn’t tell them everything, but knowing that if something happened they would be there, made me feel a lot better.
Eventually, I stopped being a rebellious teenager and turned into a young adult. That was probably the most difficult transition for me as I was trying to find out who I was. I tried different things, made some very poor decisions and when life had kicked me around a little bit; I would crawl back to my parents knowing that they would fix everything and take care of me. But the nice thing was that they let me make those decisions, even though I know it hurt them to let me go. I needed to learn, and I was old enough that they could trust that eventually I would figure it out on my own.
After moving out, getting married and getting pregnant, I see how difficult it will be to be a parent. Taking care of yourself is difficult, taking care of yourself and your spouse is even harder, but taking care of yourself, your spouse and these little people who are dependent on you for everything is almost impossible.
My parents did an amazing job with me. They were dealt some very difficult hands in life, and yet I look at my childhood and think “This is what I want for my kids”. I want to always keep Christ at the center of my family. I want to adapt my parenting style according to my kids’ ages and maturity levels. I want to show my kids love, even when they make terrible decisions. I want to punish my kids when they do something wrong. I want to set up rules to protect my children, even when those rules seemed dated or out of style and even when ALL the other kids are allowed to do it.
I’m willing to sacrifice my dreams so that I can raise my kids properly and give them everything my parents gave to me. Sure, Dane and I will inevitably screw up every once in a while. But as long as we can give them a childhood similar to ours, I think they will turn out alright and one day, want the same for their own kids.