Lately, a lot of thoughts about parenting have been running through my mind. Part of my job at FHC is focused on parents - helping them be the best spiritual leaders of their family, helping them know how to bring God's word into their home, helping them know how to relate to their children, and equipping them to do so. For me personally, this has also been a big part of my life as we are now parents of a little girl who is all of a sudden a tween and beginning to look for her own identity.
One of the big issues in my mind over the last week has been about honesty. You know, being fair, upright, sincere, and genuine. It's an attribute we all want to see in our children, but do they see honesty modeled in us?
Since I'm a perfectionist, I often want to appear as the perfect parent. To everyone. And this includes Allie. I want her to think I have it all together. I want her to think Zach and I have it all together in our marriage. Although we get a lot of things right, we definitely mess up and I find myself wanting to always shield Allie from it.
If I am upset or feel like crying, I want to do it in private. I don't want her to see me broken.
If I am mad or frustrated, I compress my anger and frustration to the depths of my heart so Allie doesn't see me failing at being Christ-centered.
If Zach and I are having a conversation and disagree, I don't want her to see us disunited. I give him the look that means "We'll talk about it later when Allie isn't around".
Although I've had the best of intentions, I've realized that these behaviors of mine to "create the perfect home" or rather, the perfect facade, only hurt Allie in the long run.
How will she learn to manage her own feelings and sadness if she never sees me do it?
How will she learn to manage her anger and frustration if she doesn't watch me do it?
How will she learn to have a healthy marriage relationship, including conflict resolution, if she doesn't observe us doing it?
How will she learn to embrace the grace available through Jesus if all I've done is unintentionally model you can be perfect in your own strength?
Now I'm not suggesting you tell your children your every thought or share every conversation and topic, but there is a ton of value to being honest in front of your kids.
Share your hurts. Share your struggles. Share your mistakes and what you've learned from them. Share your heart. Share your personal need for grace and Jesus' sacrifice. Even in the last week, I've been reaffirmed that kids don't need perfect parents, they need real people in their life that want them to grow up to be real, people too that are spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy. If you don't, they will likely grow up to be someone who has unrealistic expectations of others and themselves. This only leaves them crushed and discouraged when life turns out to be less than perfect.
In our case, it's even more important that Allie sees honesty in us and embraces it for herself. Like me, she can tend to be a people pleaser which is all about concealing your own wishes for the benefit of others (basically being dishonest and hiding your heart). This is a very unhealthy behavior and we want to help her break free of it's chains, chains that have lingered around my ankles for most of my life too. We want her to learn how to express love while expressing her wishes. We want Allie to feel the freedom to be herself and not pretend to be anyone else. And to be the same person no matter where she lives of who she is with.
Even though I have just recently started to intentionally live this way, I can say it is already paying off. Being honest with Allie about some of my struggles has opened the door for her to share some of hers. It's provided me with some really important teaching moments as she begins to see people and the world through new eyes. I hope and pray that this openness and honesty can continue throughout the years. Even though I know her questions will just get harder and I'm sure I won't always have an answer, I hope I get the opportunity to look for the answers with her while guiding her towards the love of Christ and his hope for our broken world.