Monday, 25 November 2013

Intentional Parenting: Don't just be an ambulance

I seem to be having an identity crisis, blog-wise. I started this blog on a sort of high-and-mighty whim, where I wanted to save the world and give my opinion on everything, and initially I did that. Then I got pregnant again and enter hormones, oh joy, and I kind of stopped wanting to share anything with anyone. Let alone online. But I have this space, and it's mine, and I realised a while ago that I just really enjoy writing. I love to write. It is a fun way for me to spend some time. So because of that, I want to keep writing here.

Long story short, I'm going to try regularly writing about things relevant to me, and to attempt to swallow my anxiety about stating my opinion. Eeek. I'm going to write regularly about parenting and motherhood, since this is what my life looks like currently and I do have a heart for mothers and their journeys. I deeply appreciate blogs like Lisa-Jo Baker who write primarily to encourage mums. I hope that the things I write will be encouraging, and not preachy, or condescending. Let's go.

My husband and I were talking a couple of years ago about marriage, and about relationships we saw that were struggling and how sad we felt about it. I was feeling frustrated about what I saw as a lack of effort on behalf of most men to be pro-active in their marriages. (This is a generalisation based on what I could see around me at the time. I know this is definitely not the case for every man. Please don't bite my head off.) He made a telling remark after that, though, and said "Most guys tend to have an 'ambulance at the bottom of the cliff' approach to marriage" and to parenting.

Something I try to do is to be intentional about my parenting. I can't expect to cruise through my life without thinking about what I want it to look like, and then feel I can ask "WHY did this happen?!" when or if things go pear-shaped. I know there are no guarantees in life, and that sometimes things just go in a completely different direction than we had ever dreamed. I'm not saying that will never happen. I do find it really helpful to learn about parenting, to make goals, and plans, and to be intentional about what I do with my children and how I talk to them. Bloggers like Tsh from The Art of Simple (formally Simple Mom) have really helped me see the benefit in this way of thinking. And when Sarah Bessey wrote her Practices of Parenting it hugely inspired me and got me thinking about what matters to me most in my family.

Consider this a Part One, or a summary, and I'll plan to write more in detail about these things. These are some of the values that I'm intentional about with my kids:
  • How I talk to them, and how we talk to each other. I tell them I Love You a LOT. A lot. I list positive things about them every day. 
  • I apologise. We value the tone of our voices, and if I use a "grumpy voice" I apologise. I tell them not to whine and to ask nicely for things, I need to do the same. This sort of leads into:
  • We practice what we preach. If I ask my children not to whine, I need to not whine. This is a work in progress with things like what we eat - if I don't want them overloading on sugar, I need to not overload on it myself. If I want them to be active, I need to be active (Lord, help me). If I don't want them to yell, or hit, then by crikey I'd better not do those things either. 
  • Being positive about our body image. "Fat" is the banned F-word in our house. I don't talk negatively about any part of me or my body. I tell my daughter that we are beautiful (even when all our wobbly bits are hanging out!). I'm not falsely modest or ashamed around my kids. If they want to do raspberry's on my tummy, that's ok. 
  • I compliment things other than our looks. I tell my kids they are beautiful, but I intentionally follow that with "and brave, smart, funny, and kind. I love you so much."
Do I get this right all the time? No! And I almost don't want to write at all about parenting, for fear of making other people feel stink because she does this stuff all the time and I don't. Heavens, no. I fail every day at this. But I do apologise. Being intentional with our parenting isn't about being perfect, it's about thinking about what we do, what we say, and reviewing every so often whether stuff lines up.
There are other things I would like to be more intentional with as our kids get older, including outdoor time and active hobbies, book reading, helping around home, making decisions together, and of course our faith and growing in God together. I'm still learning and researching how to do this stuff.

I'd love to hear other peoples thoughts on this idea of Intentional Parenting.
What are some things you do that are intentional?
What are some things you want to work on in the future? 
Does writing and discussing parenting make you feel encouraged, or guilty? How can parenting be talked about openly without it becoming a bragging-fest or a guilt trip?!

Thanks for reading and please take my words in the heart I've intended. To share, encourage and inspire us to believe that life is more than just lack of sleep and peanut-butter smears all over our favourite clothes.

xx Sarah 

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