Parenting: 101

A new month and a new holiday—one of my favorites—St. Patrick’s Day. Why do I like it? Well, there is my Irish heritage, the “wearin’ of the green,” and did I mention it is my first-born’s birthday? Certainly, it wasn’t planned that way. In fact, my little bundle came a week early. His name, Aaron, had already been chosen. Not for religious preference or rich family tradition. I was much too young to think of such things. My husband and I chose our son’s name for two reasons—we liked it and we knew no one by that name. Sound reasons for placing a lifelong moniker on a baby.

My grandmother suggested we give him the middle name of Patrick, seeing that he was born on St. Patrick’s Day and it was also the name of her deceased son. But being the “mature” young parents we were at twenty-two years old, Carl and I waited two days after the baby’s birth for just the right name to complement “Aaron” and came up with a middle name of “Wade.” Forty years later, I often wish I had listened to my grandmother.

Hard to believe my baby is turning forty! I’m still thinking that is my age. It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was celebrating my first step into this wonderful world of “motherhood” with late night feedings and sweet baby cuddles. How quickly it changed to toddler steps, pre-school, T-ball, Scouts, high school and college.

So what have I learned in these four decades of parenting? Here are my nuggets of wisdom:

Love your children unconditionally. Yes, there should be rules and discipline. Love sets boundaries. But there has never been a time when I did not embrace my children as gifts from God and love them unconditionally, no matter what they did or did not do. All children deserve such love.

Become an expert on your children. Study them. Learn every little nuance about them. I knew when my kids were sick, even when they said they weren’t. As they got older, I could recognize when they were troubled and lend a listening ear.

Give children responsibility. They need it to develop self-worth and independence. Start when they are young with skills building on skills until they are ready to leave the nest.

Help children reach their full potential, but guard against unrealistic expectations. There is a huge difference between “challenging” and “frustrating” a child. Remember that all children are gifted. Allow them to develop their own unique talents.

Be generous with praise. It contributes to self-esteem and the belief that all things are possible. My mother taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be. Hopefully, I passed that philosophy on to my own children.

Become an advocate for your children. That doesn’t mean running to the school when your child doesn’t get a perfect score. It means standing up for your kids in every arena of their lives when they are not shown proper respect. Children need to know their parents believe in them.

Teach your children about Jesus. My kids have never known a world where Jesus did not exist. They learned to pray and talk to Jesus when they were toddlers. I believe it is imperative that our children develop a strong faith in Christ—a personal faith that will carry them through life’s storms and help them discern spiritual things on their own.

Children are wonderful blessings. Hold them gently and know that one day you will have to let them go. You will make mistakes; we all do. The good news is that kids are forgiving. My eldest taught me that many years ago. Today, he is a loving son, brother, husband, and father who makes this mother proud.

Happy 40th Birthday, Aaron Wade Jones. You are loved!

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