As mentioned in a post I wrote last year, Living a Life with Laughter, my family and I love to utilize our TableTopics at the dinner table. Most of the time we sit down to the questions when we have guests over, but sometimes we use them for our simple family dinners. One family dinner a couple months ago, the question came up, “What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do?” A couple answers that crossed my mind were, “Having to say goodbye to my Mom and dealing with my depression.” Both of those options sounded a little too deep for my young children. Then, the real answer hit me – being a Mom. I shared my answer and my husband responded, “Isn’t that supposed to be the most rewarding thing?” I agreed with him and clarified that motherhood was, in fact, both the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life.
Then, I got to thinking about this quote I read by Matt Walsh, a blog writer, who wrote, “Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do.” I know this statement to be true based on my inner dialogue alone. I have all these ideas and opinions about what parenting should consist of and yet implementing those ideals is near impossible at times. My optimal day of success in parenting involves healthy well-balanced meals, limited to zero screen time, reading, outdoor play time, a dance party, snuggle time and a solid bedtime routine that ends at a decent hour. However, a realistic day in successful parenting consists of all three meals making it in front of my children, a change at some point during the day from PJ’s into real clothes, and a bath before bed. See the difference? I’m looking at that optimal day scenario and wondering if such a day has ever existed in our home? I’ve taken pieces of each element of that day, but I don’t know that I’ve ever managed to pull off a day with all of those criteria met. Parenting is hard, it’s that simple. Anybody who tells you otherwise isn’t doing it right. You caught the irony in that last sentence, right? Please tell me you caught the irony.
We still do it though, don’t we? I’m not talking about the parenting part here, I’m talking about the opinion portion of Walsh’s quote. We still have our opinions. I know I do. Like I said, I have opinions for myself on the matter, not just others. There are two things though that I’ve learned about my opinions on parenting. First, the moment I’m convinced that my child-rearing will not produce the toddler heathens that I’ve witnessed at the park or grocery store, is the moment my child turns into said toddler heathen. Second, for the times that I’ve had an opinion on a child whom I’ve known and taken the time to genuinely speak with the parent, I am always humbled about how much effort they have already been putting in to the well-being of their child. Sometimes I get this idea that if the parent would just do x-y-and-z, then the child’s behavior would improve, only to find out that x-y-and-z was attempted years ago along with a hundred other ideas to help their child with their specific need. It’s so easy to have an opinion from afar, but there really is no perfect formula in raising a child.
I think the lack of a solid formula in child-rearing is exactly what qualifies parenting as the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It’s the miracle that sometimes my parenting ideals will result in success. Then being wise enough to realize that the techniques that proved successful with one child will not necessarily work with another. This is where I find that prayer is the most crucial tool in parenting. Nobody knows your child better than our Father in Heaven. Not the wisest of scholars nor the most adept physician. Nobody. If there is any opinion you’re looking for on parenting, I suggest it be the opinion that comes through prayer and understanding that is individualized for your sweet child. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of valid opinions out there to help raise a well-balanced child. But don’t count yourself a failure the moment your kid acts out like the heathen toddler you feared or you let them have candy and then go to bed without brushing. I remember when my eldest was born, I was feverishly reading the book On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the GIFT of Nighttime Sleep. I was convinced that if I did everything the book told me, I would have the perfect sleeper. I started to get anxiety over the matter and was constantly referencing this book to make my every move. It was getting ridiculous. The irony was that there were portions of the book that encouraged the reader to follow their instincts. It took me over a month to have a little faith in myself and throw the book aside. The moment I realized that Baby Wise’s idea of the perfect formula was not full-proof, was the moment I learned there is no perfect formula at all. However, if by chance such a formula exists in parenting, I imagine it looks something like this: Love + Patience = Enough. Now, good luck trying to sort out all the opinions offered up on what each of those words equates to in thought and deed when it comes to parenting.
Lastly, before you go thinking I’m anti-opinions, know that I’m quite the opposite. There is much to be said for opinions on parenting. I have benefited a hundred times over from the suggestions of other parents who have paved the way before me. I have just also learned that sometimes you can read the entire book front-to-back and still come to the conclusion that it needs to be thrown aside and followed by prayer. So, let me reiterate, parenting is hard and anybody who tells you otherwise isn’t doing it right.