Our older daughter turned 20 last week. Yikes, y’all! On one hand, I ask, “Where has the time gone?” On the other, I feel so very blessed to have walked with our children as they’ve grown to be the almost-adults they are today.
As I reflected over these 20 years of parenting, I came up with 20 lessons I’ve learned. There’s some hard-won wisdom that comes with all this parenting experience! And I know there’s even more I’ll be learning in this new stage of life as we parent young adults.
It’s shown me my lack of patience and my love of myself. Parenting has also revealed how much I like to be in control…and the fact that I really control very little when it comes to my children.
2. I’ll always love my children, but there are days I may not like them.
In the middle of a day filled with a child’s defiance or her attitude that constantly needs adjusting, I may feel like I deserve a serious break from my kids! Those days, while not easy, are to be expected. But I will always love my daughters and want what is best for them.
3. Having mom friends in the same stage of parenting is invaluable.
I’ve felt like a certain stage of parenting is making me crazy, like surely no one else has the same struggles with their child that I do with mine. But then I sit and talk with another mom and am reassured that I’m not the only one dealing with those issues. It’s comforting and encouraging to realize that other moms are in the same boat!
4. There’s no feeling like watching your child perform or compete in something they enjoy.
I have loved watching our girls at basketball games, cheer competitions, and fine arts performances. It’s one of the things I’ll really miss when our younger daughter graduates from high school in June.
5. I can’t parent well without God’s wisdom.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. God’s promise in James 1:5 to give wisdom liberally to those who ask for it has been a lifesaver in my years of parenting teens. There are many times when I haven’t know what to do or how to respond in a situation. Yet God keeps His promise and gives wisdom.
6. I’m so blessed to have a husband who parents with me.
He is so wise and sees situations from more of a long-term perspective than I do. It’s helpful to have someone who knows and loves our children as much as I do to speak into their lives. It also give me a great admiration for single mothers who have to handle parenting duties alone.
7. Children are sinners who sin…just like their mother.
I can tend to expect perfection which no one can live up to. I never wanted to be the parent who told the teacher, “My child would never lie/cheat/steal/say a bad word.” Because we’re all tempted, and sometimes we give in. This doesn’t mean that we make excuses for our children, but we recognize that they will sin and then deal with it when it happens.
8. Those siblings who fight like cats and dogs can eventually become great friends.
We had plenty of bickering in our house over the years. And do our girls get along perfectly now? Not every minute. But they FaceTime and text when they’re apart. They choose to go Black Friday shopping together. And whenever our college daughter comes home, they’ll stay up for hours catching up on each other’s lives – having actually invited their sister into their bedroom!
9. I am not my child’s Holy Spirit.
I can’t make my child ask Jesus to be her Savior. Neither can I force her to grow in her walk with God. I can teach her about God’s Word and expose her to what I believe, but ultimately, the choices she makes about her faith have to be her own.
10. Every child is different.
This is an obvious one, but so important. Each child responds differently to correction. One needs more boundaries or words of encouragement or physical touch. An interesting part of parenting is getting to know each child as an individual.
11. Prayer is an invaluable resource.
I can take everything to God in prayer – my child’s health, friendships (or lack thereof), habits, struggles, attitudes, decisions, and anything and everything else. God is in control. He can give me peace and help my child.
12. Biting your tongue is a valuable parenting skill.
This applies to interacting with your 15-year-old who knows it all. Rather than launch into a lecture when they’re spouting off about something, it’s often helpful to use phrases like, “You could be right.”
But it also applies to younger children. When correcting our girls, I’ve been guilty of going on and on instead of just getting to the point. That’s especially valuable when dealing with one of our daughters who definitely appreciates a direct approach!
13. Traditions are a fun part of family culture.
I actually wish I’d created more traditions when our children were young, but I treasure the ones we have! For example, we go out to eat and then walk on the beach the Saturday evening before Mother’s Day. An early Christmas Eve dinner at home is followed by a drive to downtown Charleston and dessert at Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe.
Some traditions have to change over the years, but I’m already looking forward to adding some new ones as our girls move into the next stage of life.
14. Reading aloud to my children was a great use of my time.
I know that not everyone loves to read, but it’s a pastime I so enjoyed sharing with our daughters. When they were little, we’d read books before nap time and at bedtime…and at other random times during the day. Introducing them to books that were my childhood favorites (and getting to re-read them myself) was a great pleasure during their younger years. And sometimes reading books together opens the door to discussing valuable life lessons.
15. Being a stay-at-home mom is a luxury…and also hard.
Not everyone has the option to stay home with their children during the workday. I’m so grateful for a husband who’s supported me in that – and has also been willing to listen to me unload about all that happened at the end of the day! Because 24/7 with two little ones – or two older ones! – can be a challenge. But I wouldn’t trade the years I’ve had with our girls for anything.
16. Start teaching them to handle issues for themselves at an early age.
In other words, don’t step in every time there’s an argument with a friend. Try to get them to work it out on their own. Explain to them how to address a teacher if they have a question about their grade or need to talk about something that happened in class. There certainly may be times you need to get involved, but try to make that the exception, not the norm.
17. Not every parenting hill is worth dying on.
I found this to be true whether it was my toddler or my teen. Put simply, choose your battles.
18. When they hurt, I hurt.
It can be a broken friendship, not making the team, or some other disappointment that brings on tears or hurt feelings. Because it effects them so deeply, I hurt with and for them. And I’m finding this doesn’t change, not matter how old they get.
19. Other people who pour into my kids are one of life’s greatest blessings.
Teachers, coaches, babysitters, piano teachers, or youth pastors – the list of people who can influence our kids for good is long. We have been blessed to have many of these in our daughters’ lives over the years.
20. Children are a gift from God and bring much joy to our lives.
There have been some really hard days of parenting. But what a gift that God gives us precious lives to steward for Him…and in the process gives us relationships that bless us over and over again all throughout our lives.