It is my natural bent to be very aware of my faults and failings. So it is good for me to step back at times and remind myself of what I have done well. I was recently thinking about our first two years with Caroline and reflecting on what we’ve done well.
A part of me is reluctant to say “we’ve done a good job with X and Y” because we really won’t know if we’ve done a good job until we’re a lot further along in our parenting journey. I also hesitate to give too much advice about parenting because I’m the parent of one child and she’s not yet two years old. But at the same time I’m older, a former teacher, and a fairly insightful person. So somewhere in the midst of that I do want to share what I’ve learned and what I think I know without trying to come off as some kind of expert.
So that’s where I’m coming from in sharing some things we’ve done well.
1. We recognize that Caroline is an individual person, created by God for His purposes and in the way He needs her to be to fulfill His plans for her. Yes, I have lots of hopes and dreams for her. There are talents I hope she has. But I have a good understanding that we are only stewards of her life and are to raise her as best we can to live for Christ. She is not mine to mold into what I think she should be. She is a woman who belongs to God who is currently a child. My job is to help her understand who God created her to be and help her arrive at adulthood in the best way possible. So I study her and try to understand her motives. I listen to her and what she is saying through her words, her moods and her activities.
2. We have fostered a sense of belonging and helping. Caroline is eager to help. I believe this is because we have encouraged her and praised her in this area since she was tiny. She loves to do real things and we try to let her help as much as possible. For example, last spring when we were planting flowers and perennials, we had to take a lot of them from the back yard to the front yard where we were going to plant them. I could have picked up the flats and carried them up there in about twenty seconds. Instead, I spent fifteen minutes going back and forth while Caroline and I carried little pots to the front. She was so thrilled to help and felt a part of the process. I have purposely slowed down and involved her whenever I could so she will feel a part of our family life and see the need to help around here.
3. We read to her all the time. All. The. Time. I started reading books to her when she was a few months old. If she brought a book to me and wanted to read, I dropped whatever I was doing (if at all feasible) and read to her. We have surrounded her with books. Positive, cozy, beautiful, fun, uplifting books. We talk about the books, we discuss them, we look at the pictures… We read and read and read. We take her to the library and we participated in the summer reading program. Reading is SO IMPORTANT and we’ve made this a huge priority in our home.
4. We talk about matters of faith and try to live it out daily. We pray before our meals. We pray over her at bedtime. We talk about Jesus. We read Bible stories. We talk about Jesus. We use Bible terms. No, she doesn’t understand it all. But we are giving her a context and will slowly continue to teach her as she becomes able to understand more.
5. We have given her a peaceful environment. We use quiet voices. We listen to quiet instrumental and/or classical music. We have (mostly) quiet toys. We don’t raise our voices. We don’t have the TV on in the background. We don’t rush her around the house. We try to let her go at her own pace as much as possible and rarely tell her to hurry up. We try to be patient and remember that she is still a baby in some ways.
6. We let her develop at her own pace, not according to what the books say. I’ve read almost no parenting books. I do look things up online at times, but I decided I was going to use common sense and study my child. I will try to introduce new things to her, but if she isn’t ready I just put it away. When she is ready, she is ready. I truly believe a lot of parent angst comes from wanting children to do things before they are ready. We’ve let Caroline grow and develop at her own pace, without pressure.
7. We’ve had an attitude of fostering learning since the start. We provide her with all kinds of fun learning things to play with, but without the pressure of teaching her. We gave her the Fridge Phonics to play with and she surprised us by learning all her letters in just a few weeks and by the time she was seventeen months old! I bought some very large colorful button manipulatives several weeks ago and she learned her shapes and colors! We weren’t there drilling her on these things. They just happened because we gave her fun things to do that also fostered learning.
There is nothing spectacularly unique about what we’ve done with Caroline. They are things anyone could do. We’ve simply made some choices to adjust our attitude and expectations for her good. Studying her and seeking to understand her has made a tremendous difference in our lives and I’m very thankful God put this on our hearts before she was even born.