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How to Grow Kids

When I was pregnant with my first child, Spencer, Karl and I used to attend a small group at church with other young families and couples. During this time we were studying a book about “Growing Kids God’s Way”. I immersed myself in this book, I was determined to be the best Mom and grow my kid(s) right. I listened intently as the young parents of the group discussed the issues in the book, how they were dealing with the topics of the book with their children and what they were having complications with. I underlined, starred, made notes throughout this book and studied it. I began doing this with many books while pregnant: books on discipline, sleeping (I have at least five books on how to get children to sleep), health and diseases (I over studied this book), the “What To Expect” series, books on how to speak to your children, teach your children and even a book on finding Mommy Time for myself. I still have most of these books and I have not referred to one of them, not even once, since the day Spencer was born.
Turns out my kids aren’t “by the book” type kids, as I suspect most aren’t. I often still think of the “Growing Kids God’s Way” book, particularly the times when I’m losing patience with my kids. The book tells me to speak to my children in a positive manner, don’t tell them what they can’t do, only tell them what they can...I thought of this the other day as Coen (my four year old) decided to dart into the middle of the street in front of a speeding car. What I should have said in a calming, soothing, but demanding voice is, “Coen, stay on the sidewalk with the rest of us,” instead what I said was something like, “COEN, COEN, COEN, AHHH, NOOOOO-STOP!” That was not book-like behavior, but it probably saved his life and it stopped the car when they saw and heard me screaming my head off like a maniac-as did the rest of my neighbors who I suspect are probably pretty used to it by now.
I also thought of one night in particular where the parents in the small group had a discussion about not counting down in order to get your child to do something; they should respect you and listen to you the first time. I thought of this tonight as I counted to five to get my child to sit in a chair, I counted to five to get them to clean up toys, I counted to eight (Hadley sometimes gets a little more) to get up the stairs to brush her teeth. To be honest, I have probably counted to either five or ten over thirty times today- Hadley’s been able to count to ten since she was twelve months old, it’s no coincidence, and she hears it all day, every day. I’m a counter, its how I roll and how I get a response. It may be wrong by some books, but in “Jenny’s book of parenting”, this is allowed.
But tonight I lost my patience. The kids were so out of control and I was not in the mood-at all! The last straw occurred when Spencer kicked a ball in front of Hadley that caused a nosedive and face plant into the floor (unfortunately this is not unusual for us). I didn’t even want to look at her because I knew it would be bad and I wasn’t in the mood for blood. Last month her tooth turned black and is now crooked because of a similar situation so I picked her up to see a busted bottom lip and the screaming came seconds later. Totally flunking everything I had learned from my books, I lost my temper, sent Spencer to his room (even though it was just an accident) and tried to soothe Hadley as Coen continued to dance to Big Time Rush in the middle of the family room as if nothing had just happened. (There are no books that even come remotely close to understanding Coen). It took me a minute (or five or ten) to calm down and calm Hadley down before I asked Spencer to come back downstairs. I apologized for sending him to his room for what I knew was most likely an accident and told him to be more careful, and then I held him on my lap as he sobbed into my shoulder. All I could think of was-I’m a FAILURE! I didn’t handle that situation properly at all, I completely sucked at it. Not a single parenting book would ever approve of that behavior. I felt terrible for what had happened and, for some odd reason, I thought of this ridiculous book, of all the ridiculous books, telling me how to respond in situations such as these. But, none of these authors know my children, none of these authors know me as a person and how I handle situations and none of these authors are perfect parents either. I do the best I can do, some days I will screw it up, some days I will succeed, but I will never stop trying to learn how to grow my own kids my own way.

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