Friday, April 11, 2014

When Angels Shed Their Wings

The two cherubs as details of Raphael's painting
The Sistine Madonna
A mother's encounter with an angel is an indelible snapshot.  Mine appears in thumbnails or animated clips and kept safely archived.  I have been blessed to remember the times I have brought my 4 children in this world and all of them were through normal childbirth.  The moment I saw them I was convinced that they are not the closest things to angels but they ARE angels.  Life looks different now : good and conquerable.  I am different now:  better and determined. I've become an advocate of Drs. Spock and Dobson, avid reader of parenting books and magazines only to realize there is no one good handbook.  That parenting strategies are not like Ikea bought furnitures that you just assemble with wrenches or screw drivers and you have a table 20 minutes later.  Personally, at times it was rocket science for me and my husband. (Yes, the "Houston we have a problem" kind a thing)

As days, months, and years pass my angels go through what I call a reverse metamorphosis - they shed their wings into adulthood instead of growing them.  They throw tantrums, become stubborn, cuss, and could sometimes physically hurt other kids or people.  The moment they say "I Hate You" never failed to break my heart. I also have experiences wherein people tell me the horrors they've had with my kids such as: 

"That was the first time I have seen so much hate from a child!"
"Where did he learn to say that?"
"They are so violent!"
"Bring them with you when you go, I cannot handle them."
"What kind of a parent are you?"

My kids have solicited various reactions as well.

  • stares from people
  • people talking behind them or us (The pleasure we give them when they look at our kids and say "At least my kid's not like that) 
  • violent head shakes of disapproval or disappointment
Experiencing these 

offended me,
hurt me,
embarrassed me, and
made me feel ineffective as a parent.

Through the years of adding one child after another until we decided to stop counting at 4, we are learning to raise our children that will comfort them during times when they are scrutinized under people's lenses. We are learning to:

1.  Adjust our perspective.  Love comes with an open mind.  Criticisms can either be true or false.  Open the mind even if the heart resists at first. Sometimes as parents, we get offended and hurt by such comments mainly because we know our kids beyond those monstrosities other people see in them. How we know them should also be our leverage of understanding them.  We understand them better than others.  The monster in them is not the entirety of them.  You know the good in them because it is the same good in you. 

3.  Change our approach, if the undesirable behavior poses as a challenge to correct. As they say, "There's more than one way to skin a cat." Cat ok...not your kids! Even if we invest our time in reading books yet fail to read our kids' (totally unique) personality, we'll end up frustrated.  Our "cardio" workout as parents was to constantly look for better options for them. 

4.  Allow them to assimilate in an environment of adherence and conformity. Kids can learn  both good and bad behavior in socializing with people.  The key here is our consistency as parents in promoting, emphasizing, and rewarding the good behavior as they see them practiced by friends, family, and groups.

5.  Set and enforce rules. One time when my second son was trying to win an argument with me he  retorted "This is a free country."  "It is." Mom x 4 responds. "As much as it is a responsible one." Rules don't delimit kids, it is a tool for pruning them

6.  Help them express themselves through meaningful words.  Cussing seem to give kids (and even adults) an easy way to demand for prompt results or it can be the quickest word/s to say when we are upset. Since I am with them most of the time (dad's looking for that bacon to bring home), I play referee between sibling arguments and tempers. When one is verbally offensive we try to "rephrase" the argument through non offensive words.  It is a process really (like this labyrinth of flow charts!) We are trying to learn to express why we are frustrated, what vexed us, how do we feel when we disagreed.  As we help them express, we help them communicate and understand each views with respect.  

7.  Hold them.  There is no other powerful tool of affirming a good behavior but a hug or a  tap.  No words needed.

8.  Seek help.  Husbands and wives are always tag teams in rearing kids. We talk to family, friends, teachers, and church mates on how they can help us on some of our kids' behavior issues.  Most of the time, they respond to your kids in a more patient and  understanding way thus making them another friend or ally.  

9.  Enhance their spirituality.  As Christian parents we do not only teach our children to be right with men but more importantly to be right with God.  Spirituality elevates our actions enabling us to conquer our erring ways as humans and to depend on a God who is the source of all good.  

Parenting is not just a job but a calling. It may last for a lifetime but it's all worth that time. So even when our angels shed their wings, we love them just the same.  In their frailties and inadequacies they remain to be our heritage and reward from the Lord (Psalms 127:3). 

One documentary I love is Freakonomics as a portion of it discussed what a good parent is and I agree that a good parent is the one who tries to be one.