The Best Parenting Advice I've Heard!
I am a self-help guru. A relaxing day for me would be to read a few more of parenting books, or searching for a few more to add to my overflowing amazon cart. On my way home from my parents lakehouse today I binged Parenting Great Kids Podcast (highly recommended!). While all of these efforts spent studying how to talk to my kids, what the best books to read, what limits to set, and on and on, are good, this weekend I was wisely reminded about something even better. What is your best parenting advice to us? I asked my happily-35 year-married, raised-8-wonderful-faithful-children parents. I think I was searching for an affirmation of things we are already doing, or maybe something I recently read - talk to your kids often, give your kids chores, limit screens, pray with them, read to them…but their unison response had nothing to do with their kids “Take care of each other. That is the best thing you can do for your kids.”
Take care of each other. But how easy it is to forget that in the trenches of child-rearing! I need a break, when will he be home? This kid is talking back, we need to spend all night figuring out what we’re doing wrong, and read my highlighted parenting book! This kid won’t sleep, it’s your turn! Kids are draining. The 24/7 not-for-profit, not-for-recognition parenting gig is hard. And of course it is meant to be, as part of our gateway to heaven. Why do we forget, what came before the kids? And who is there after they are gone? Your better half. Your ticket to sanctity. I have to refocus my energy to him first.
The research is clear that kids are happier and healthier when they see their parents loving each other. The Bible is another great affirmation ;) We know date nights are pivotal to good marriages, and spousal communication outside of work, finances, and parenting is a must! Yet, in this stage of young parenting when energy reserves are low, and we are still learning how to not save our worst for our spouse - putting motherhood over marriage is tempting, and our limited time alone easily turns into all children-rearing discussion. Let’s learn from the wise ones. I’m laughing at myself how aware I was of my own self-confidence and feelings of security as a 31 year old woman watching my parents ride their boat on the lake today and talk about their fun date night. That is the gift they gave to my siblings and I. It’s so simple. Happy marriages make happy kids, in that order.
Whatever parenting struggle is keeping you up tonight, instead of wasting time worrying, or wasting words venting, turn to your spouse and give them a long, loving embrace. You don’t even have to exert energy into your ‘care’ tonight. Just look into their eyes, smile, cuddle, relax, binge, anything. If you have extra grace, add words and tell them you are so happy you are in this together. You are happy you choose each other. It’s hard to break bad habits, but I’m trying to nag him less, compliment him more. I promise when you do, suddenly tomorrow’s parenting challenge will become all the more do-able!
How can we be the best parents to these amazing, crazy, children we love? What are we doing right, what are we scared to do wrong? Yes, lets take it to prayer, call all the saints and storm heaven. But then, and immediately then, turn to your spouse, put your energy first into each other. “Take care of each other. That is the best thing you can do for your kids.”