I remember it like yesterday: We were visiting my husband’s parents, where my mother-in-law—a fabulous cook—had prepared a veritable feast. The table was piled with so many different Southern delicacies, it was hard to know where to begin. But over in the corner of the kitchen, my sister-in-law was quietly unwrapping a package of Ramen noodles for her 6-year-old. My eyes rolled as I shot my husband a look which unmistakably said, “That is ridiculous. When we have kids, they can eat what’s prepared or go hungry!”
Fast forward about seven years to the same kitchen, another unbelievable spread, and me standing in my sister-in-law’s spot, quietly making PB & J, praying to heaven that it might somehow go unnoticed. You see, I’d birthed my own incredibly picky eater and been brought to my knees by his food ultimatums. He was eating very little of what I prepared while I was eating all of my pre-mom, know-it-all words. They taste like liverwurst, by the way.
It’s funny how much we “know” about raising kids before we have them and how much less certain it all seems when we’re on the job. So pour yourself a latté and have a laugh at my expense while we explore 5 stupid things I said before I had kids:
It’s funny how much we “know” about raising kids before we have them and how much less certain it all seems when we’re on the job.
1. “Discpline isn’t rocket science—you just have to be consistent.”
While this principle holds true on many levels, catch the “just” I loved to throw around back in the day. You just have to be consistent—as if there’s a convenient switch you can flip everyday to ensure consistency in your rules, your expectations, and the consequences. The truth from the front lines is this: Consistency is HARD. You have to fight for it. You have to gut it out when you are too tired to really care whether anyone finishes the chores or turns in the assignment. You have to dig deep for it when stopping what you’re doing to enforce a consequence is as convenient as walking to Greenland. Discipline does require consistency, but I’ll be honest: Sometimes I win at this game, and sometimes I lose.
2. “My child will respect me—or else.”
Sure, I can force my kids to act respectfully toward me by demanding it and lowering the discipline boom when they don’t. But actually respecting me of their own volition in their heads and hearts? That has to be earned. It has to be cultivated. They have to see my life match up to my words. They need to see me model respect for others in the way I treat them and my husband.
3. “When we have kids, they can eat what’s prepared or go hungry.”
While there’s some truth to this one, it’s much more complicated in real time than in theory. The pace at which we live life often forces us to eat on the go or dine out. Different children have different health challenges—some need more calories based on their level of activity, others need less. I often find myself trying to determine what the best choice is for our food dilemmas in the midst of a lot of other pressures. Do I really want to fight about food with the child I also had to fight with over homework this afternoon? Sometimes, the food war is not the war that demands to be won this very second, at the expense of your relationships. I try to do my best and get it right more than I get it wrong.
4. “Show me how a child acts and I can tell you a lot about his parents.”
While we have a major impact on our children, they are still individuals. Human beings with their own distinct personalities, strengths, and weakness—which sometimes look nothing like mom’s or dad’s. Even parents who do everything “right” can have a child who struggles. And sometimes great kids emerge from a home environment that you know to be a straight-up mess. My pre-mom statement on this was one that overlooked the God Factor. What we excel at or get “right” is often a product of God’s grace in our lives as much as it is a direct result of pushing the right parenting buttons and making the right choices. It’s humbling to realize how much we depend on his mercy in our lives and in the lives of our children. Thank goodness he’s a God who loves us, and we can rest in that!
5. “I’ll say who my kids can or can’t be friends with – because the right friends are important.”
The right friends for your child are, indeed, important. But the older they are, the more difficult it becomes for you to micromanage this area of their lives. Sure, you can limit the amount of time they are allowed to spend with certain kids, but you can’t force them to have a connection with the kids you’d prefer for them to hang out with. Friendship chemistry is either there or it isn’t. Older kids and teens won’t engage with kids they don’t “click” with easily. Your parenting here has to become more nuanced and savvy, and you have to channel your child into environments where good influences are more likely to be found…and pray. Pray a lot.
Let’s Talk: Did you make any bold statements before you became a mom that you’ve thought better of?
Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.