Have you ever met a family and looked at their lifestyle, or traditions, or way of interacting and thought, ‘yeah, they’ve got that something‘. Maybe they are travelling around the world, or homesteading on an acreage, or left the rat race and moved to an island for the slow life.
These are the kind of people who always make you stop and look at yourself a little crooked. Holding an iPhone in one hand, a baby in another, putting on yet another show of Diego, tossing toast around the breakfast table and talking into your coffee cup about wishes and dreams.
What’s different about them and me? It isn’t a coincidence in how they are raising their kids. It is intentional.
You could even say, ‘oh that’s Lisa for you, she’s always doing something weird like travelling the world in an RV with her family….for fun’. It is more than that. She has purpose, passion and follows through. She’s moulding her kids with intention by following the dreams in her heart instead of making excuses for reasons not to. Which, life with little babies, that’s kinda my jam. I’d rather stay at home where there are beds for everyone, and snacks, and my sweat pant collection that’s been carefully curated to match my lipstick.
I’ve said before I feel like I’m leaving that bottleneck of the baby stage, really I’m kind of pushing myself through the door because my youngest isn’t even crawling yet. It is just time. I’ve felt a push to recognize where I am running on autopilot and make some changes to take the wheel.
This new year Conor and I were sitting at our table at the end of the night and did something we’ve never done. We talked about our own goals and dreams for ourselves individually, and our family. I’ve talked about it here. It’s been almost four months and I struggle because I feel like I haven’t really put those words into much action yet.
One of our questions was, finish this sentence: We want our kids to grow up to be…..
Of course, we want our kids to be the total package (and if you ask their Grandma, they undoubtedly will be!), we could make this an unrealistically exhaustive list. We tried to narrow it down and think of those qualities that have longevity and versatility for wherever their life takes them. Though, maybe, the first things out of our mouths were traits that we struggle with or use as a crutch to deal with conflict.
So we have this list of what we think a kick-ass adult looks like and we overlay it on the toddler version of our children. It is not an easy fit, of course, because you can’t put a three-piece suit on a caveman and call him Don Draper. Unless you are Clinton and Stacy, then carry along Makeover Savants.
So this is where we’re at, how do we get from ‘I hate pants, tea bags and white toothpaste’ to ’emotionally intelligent, productive citizen’? (or whatever traits you deem valuable in adulthood).
Some things are easier to teach than others, but I’m starting with a couple of thoughts….
One, like Lisa and her husband, making their kids travel companions for a life-changing adventure, the best way to teach them is to model it.
Well….crap. Unless we are raising cheese-eating, floor-sweeping, laughing women who randomly break into song, let’s hope they pick up some more useful traits from their father and the people we surround ourselves with. Pretty sure this is why Godparents were invented. Also pretty sure I should start being more like the qualities we listed instead of spending too much time letting Netflix ask me if I’m still watching.
Two, this is the intentional part. This is where I feel most lost with what to do next because what is next is another day of practicing it all. This is the training, the daily mindfulness, the reactions we have to them, the proactive things we chose to do, our habits and actions, how we treat our spouses, ourselves, our friends. Some parents pursue intentional parenting to the point of taking courses, following monthly plans and workbooks how to do this. I say high-five to them. I’m still struggling with getting the toilet scrubbed and sleeping through the night on the regular.
I don’t feel guilty that I have been on autopilot over these past four years. Not totally proud of some stages, but the recent years of my life saw lots of breaking down, lots of new growth, and just drenched in God’s grace when I had none.
I’m starting to watch my parenting through this overlay of words we’ve assigned as goals. I see times I’ve been on autopilot to scold a toddler, or referee a sibling scrap, or blurred over the answer to a question they have. Or even more than that, times I did not honour who my child is at their core. To try to get them to react or behave like I would, instead of letting them behave the way they are made and coach them through the messy bits. Because, as the Enneagram has opened me up to see, we’ve all built a shell of a personality to allow us to navigate through life comfortably. My kids don’t have this veneer yet, and I can’t give them mine.
So! New year! New resolutions! It started with turning the TV off more often. And I’m ready to make some more changes and scramble around to find the next route to more parenting with a game plan (google tells me this is called Intentional Parenting)
A part of me is overwhelmed by getting this list to become lesson. The other part of me rolls her eyes and sips her coffee, my kids will be fine, I know. But like every parent we always want our kids to be more, have more, do more than we were ever able to.
I’d love to hear from you, what qualities do you want to see in your kids when they grow up? What are some ways you try to parent with a game plan?