I’ve been thinking of writing about this topic for a long time. It’s a topic in which I have experience and also training (during my college degrees in Family & Consumer Sciences (Home Economics)–both bachelor’s and master’s). It’s a topic I tremble to write about mainly because I made so many mistakes in raising my two children. There are many ways to parent; every child’s as well as every parent’s temperament is different. The only training we get for this very important job flows from watching how our own parents did it. We have never been required to learn about child development, marriage and other very important topics to be a parent ourselves.
I suppose I should start with my earliest recollections of the relationship between my parents and me, and also my sister and me. First, some background information on my parents. My parents married young-Mom was 18–having turned 18 in November and they married in February of the next year. My Dad turned 18 a month after the marriage, so basically they both were very young. My mother came from a family of eleven children. Her birth parents had 8 children but her mom died from complications at the birth of mom’s sister, Ola. She was three years old. My grandfather sent the baby to be raised by his sister, leaving Mama the youngest at home. He soon married again–a lady who had never married. The two of them had a set of twin girls born when Mom was six and a boy born a few years later. Mama’s relationship with her stepmother was not good. I’m sure Mama Veal was overwhelmed with seven children and she didn’t know how to parent at all. She would often lock the children up in the smoke house for punishment. It was very scary for Mama and she grew up very insecure. She graduated from high school (at the time that the eleventh grade was the last grade in high school). She desperately wanted to be a ‘beautician’ but her parents wouldn’t pay for further education.
Daddy, on the other hand, was the oldest of 3 boys. His dad was in construction–specifically building bridges. Consequently, they moved often to wherever the work could be found. Daddy was a very smart man but never had any opportunities. He told me that during his eighth grade year, he attended 12 schools. Also, by this time, he was growing big and strong and my grandfather needed him on the job. So, Daddy had an eighth grade education. He, too, worked in construction most of my life. He worked as a foreman at a prestressed concrete company. Daddy’s parents were partiers/drinkers and often left him alone at night to watch his brothers while they went ‘out’. He told of being afraid on those nights.
Life for my sister and me was somewhat better than both of them. Linda (my sister) turned five years old two weeks after I was born. She was the first grandchild on my dad’s side and they lived near his parents and daddy worked with his dad. She wasn’t very happy about my intrusion into her world. Also, Daddy was quite disappointed that I wasn’t a boy. Very early in my childhood I knew that he wished I had been a boy and I remember wanting to dress like a boy (jeans) and trying to kiss my elbow so I would turn into one. I adored my dad and wanted to please him. We were close and he took me everywhere with him until puberty and then he dropped me like a hot potato. I believe at that time he realized I was truly a girl. Discipline in our home was verbal or the silent treatment. I had never been spanked, or struck in any way. If my mom was mad or upset with me, I got the silent treatment. To this day, if I don’t get a quick response from someone, I automatically assume something is wrong–I did something wrong.
Early in my life (12 years old) I met this good-looking boy at the skating rink which I frequented. He appeared to be strong and confident and wasn’t afraid of anything, it seemed. I, on the other hand, was afraid of my shadow. I marveled at his strength and confidence. Long story short: we married a month after I turned 19. It was against the wishes of my parents and sister.
Doyle had been raised primarily by his mom and grandparents. His grandfather did not spare the rod and there was a lot of severe physical discipline in their home. Also, there was loud arguing and shouting in his home. And as our children grew, I was upset by his method of discipline. It was foreign to me, but he was the strong one–the confident one, he surely knew best.
At the time I didn’t know anything about emotional baggage and how it affects our relationships–especially marital ones. We both drug steamer trunks of it into our marriage and as we began to unpack it, neither of us knew what was happening. The only thing going for us was Jesus; we both loved Him and desired to live according to His Word.
It was years later when I went back to college and began to take child development classes and parenting classes that I realized how inept I had been in raising our children. They were 12 and 16 respectively. Patterns had been set and damage had been done all because I/we were doing the best we knew how. When I started teaching high school students in child development and parenting, I remember realizing that most every other task/job we undertake, we get training for in some way. To get a driver’s license, you have to train for a year, pass a written test and a driving test. In order to hunt, you have to complete a hunter’s safety course and pass. Any time we are employed, there is a training period. However, to be a parent one only has to have a sperm donor and a fertile reproductive system. There is so much that young parents could learn from a few parenting classes. If your nuclear family was functional, you probably will make good decisions for your own children. Yet, in my opinion there are far more dysfunctional families than functional ones.
I know that we stumbled and bumbled our way through parenting but I also know that we raised them to love God, to attend a congregation of believers and to pray. I truly don’t know how people who are not believers complete this incredibly gigantic task without the help of the Holy Spirit. Marriage and parenting are not for sissies. They are both extremely difficult, but extremely rewarding at the same time.
Doyle and I have both apologized to our children for our mistakes and now we just trust God to work it all for good in their lives. They both turned out to be wonderful adults and both have beautiful families. I’m sure they have an inkling of what this post is all about as they are both now on the journey of raising children. We pray for them and our grandchildren everyday.
If you are interested in what the Bible has to say about parenting, I found a few verses of scripture that you might find interesting:
In Proverbs, we are told, “Those who spare the rod of discipline (it is as though they) hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them” (13 v24) and also, ‘Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (22 v6). ( The statements in Proverbs are not promises of God, but rather good advice from Solomon, the wisest man in the Bible.) And in Ephesians 6 v4, we are told, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” In Deuteronomy, we are advised to, “Teach (God’s word) to your children. Talk about (God’s ways) when you are at home, and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Also in Deuteronomy, we are told, “You and your children and grandchildren must fear the Lord your God as long as you live. If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life.” (Fear in this context is a reverential awe–not fear as in being afraid.) When Jesus came on the earth, He reduced the commandments and decrees to only two. These two encompass all the others. He said, “You are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and secondly, Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”