Sunday, August 5, 2012

Parenting with the future in mind...

When PJ was little, complete strangers would come up to me and rave that I was the most amazing mother.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  PJ was an easy kid.  He was alert, even tempered and easy to calm when he got upset--which was rare.  Looking back, I was alert, even tempered and rarely got upset myself. 

Most of this I attribute to the fact that I had some great parenting mentors who taught me to first pray for my children and then train them with the end in mind.  I was taught by Godly women to parent him in light of how I wanted him to see  the world as a man.  They taught me to only ask him to do something if I really intended to follow through and make him do it.  Full obedience was immediate, complete, cheerful and without comment or it wasn't obedience.  The obedience I was to demand from him was the kind of obedience that he would one day give to God himself.  In the same way, if you could say yes, you did.  It was ok to say no, but the leaning was toward yes, not no--because we live the same generous life that God Himself does. 

When Katie came along, it was hard in so many ways, but the hardest was that I just couldn't envision her future.  What would she look like as a grown woman with Down syndrome?  Her future was so painful to think about, I lost my way as a parent to her, and to some extent to my son as well.  About that time, PJ had neurological issues that completely changed his entire personality as well and I floundered.  Our days became a flurry of therapies, worries, panic and grief.  I still don't know that we have completely regained our equilibrium.  I'm not sure we ever will. 

I have regained some of the future focus in my parenting.  It made a difference when it came time to talk to PJ about the facts of life.  Bringing his future wife into that discussion provided a context that I couldn't give him in any other way.  I'm still working on regaining a focus on character traits they will need as Godly adults.  Jon Gordon's quote really goes to the heart of the matter.  I could focus on getting them to behave the way I want, but mostly, I want them to be everything God created them to be, regardless of what occupation or life style they ultimately have.  I don't know if Kate will live independently, have a job or a spouse.  The thought of grandchildren seems too much to even entertain.  She will still need to obey immediately.  She will still need to think of others before herself and live with great sense of generosity.  She will need to know who God is and need to relate to Him for herself. 

Today, my kids were pretty wiggly in a women's clothing store and I ended up telling them the old adage, "Children should be seen and not heard"--mostly because they were being pretty frisky and a little loud. Later on, in the car, PJ and I talked about it more.  It does still apply, in that when anyone--children or adults--can engage someone else, looking to understand them and draw their real self out, they may earn the right to be heard and understood for themselves. 

I really look forward to seeing Him as a grown man, and I'm coming to terms with Katie's future, though there is still so much uncertainty there.  She wants a "truck" of her own, just like mommy.  I trust her and she acts independently in many situations with little fear.  She has been known to be a flight risk at times, but not for the sake of running away from us.  A few years ago she walked away from an evening family gathering at Downtown Disney without any of the 9 of us noticing until she was gone without a trace.  We had been talking about where we were going next and she just decided to leave instead of talking about it.  We found her at the Lego Store, contentedly playing, with absolutely no fear.  She and her brother played hide and seek (more quietly) in the fabric store later in the day today and they both came immediately when I called them.  She can feed herself at home, and often does, even if she can't reach the plates without climbing on the counter .  She's learning to ride a bike.  One of my closest friends sees my boldness and dynamic personality in Katie.  I have come to see her as Katherine, which means pure, undiluted, full strength--eu de parfum, not toilet water. 

I still don't know what kind of life she will have, but I know God has a plan for her life no less than He has planned for mine or PJ's.  I can try to teach her the character traits that will help her fulfill His dreams for her, but I'm not sure I could do much more than steer her, even if I wanted to.  The Lord holds her future and she loves and knows him for herself already--and that's enough.

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