Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Where do I begin?

I am a mother of 4, married 23 years. I started working when I was 12, delivering newspapers. Since then I've worked in fast food, in 2 different grocery stores as a checker or in the deli/bakery. I traveled with Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Circus. I've been a lifeguard for neighborhood pools. I spent 3 years as a clerk/typist/data entry/stenographer for government entities. This last motivated me to complete my engineering degree. With the higher education I filled various roles in product development, including Simulation Engineer providing analysis of transmission lines and electromagnetics for electronic products. Currently, I am an Engineering Manager responsible for developing notebook computers for a large company in central Texas. Raising children has proven to be a lot more difficult than any job I've ever had. Although it is the easiest job to land (no experience required), it comes without training or adequate preparation.

With the birth of our first child, I was disappointed to discover the absence of a training manual or owner's handbook. Upon the arrival of our second I realized none of what I'd learned with Child #1 was directly applicable to Child #2. By the time our 3rd child was born, I thought I knew what I was doing. Shortly after we adopted our 4th child (who chronologically lands between #2 and #3) I realized I was wrong about most of what I thought I knew.

Now that our children are mostly grown and gone (all but our youngest), I've just about gotten a handle on parenthood. Our youngest, at 14, has a different set of parents than the oldest had at that age. Much of the transformation can be attributed to a few books that I wish I'd read 20 years ago, listed here:

The Five Love Languages of Teenagers, by Gary Chapman
Parenting Teens with Love and Logic, by Cline & Fay
Boundaries with Kids, by Henry Cloud

Chapman and Cloud have additional books that apply to relationships - also highly recommended reading. By the time I started reading these books, my 2 oldest children had already moved out. During the year that followed #2's departure, I started making significant changes in my parenting style. The most important change was to allow our children to accept the consequences of their actions. There's an element of "tough love" baked in to this parenting style. Although it is difficult to change the family dynamics, ultimately, it is a much less stressful style. The down side is the lack of support from the parents of the teen's peers. Child #2 and Child #3 each moved out when they turned 18, and moved in with one of their friend's family - where they were not fettered with accountability or responsibility. At least 2 of the oldest 3 found homes where they could drink, smoke and have sex freely. The 3rd moved out to live with her girlfriend's family. In response to our concern about the sexual nature of their relationship, the girl's parents reassured us that they slept in separate rooms. Our youngest seems to be doing fine, so hopefully we can get through high school without too much heartache.

I must also list the best reference book of all - the Holy Bible. In the last few years I have come to appreciate that my children are God's children that He has entrusted to my husband and me. We have done our best, and we will continue to do our best. I have to believe that they will return like the prodigal son, eventually awakening with a maturity that allows them to return to relationship with earthly and heavenly parents.

I am called to share our learnings in hopes that our experiences might benefit other parents. The Bible has a lot to say about parenthood, as well as life choices. The guidelines provided there are not for the fainthearted. It takes a good amount of fortitude to live as God wants us to live, and to raise our children to do the same. I know that we are never challenged beyond what we can handle, and I believe that suffering is not without purpose. Although we may not gain insight from our trials until they are long behind us, we can be assured that without trials we are less likely to grow closer to and maintain a relationship with God.

I pray that I hear back from anyone who benefits from what I publish here. I am stepping out in faith to share experiences that have brought me great pain and heartache. I know that I am not alone, and neither are you.


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