"I want better for my kids than what I had."
This is a phrase I have heard over and over again by so many parents. It's even been said in our household a time or two (or maybe more, if I'm honest!). But lately I've been ponding that phrase. As a mommy who is on the journey of a lifetime raising 2 incredible, busy and energetic sons, it's rare that I have time for much introspection. Today as I was fixing lunch with my sons underfoot, for some reason that often-used phrase came to my mind and the pondering began.
In probably 99% of the cases where I heard that thought expressed, it has been in the context of material possessions. It has been in the toy store where I see parents contemplating what to do for their child who is throwing a tantrum, or at least expressing his desire, for his parents to purchase the popular toy. Too often, the parents give into the child, stating their plan for THEIR children to have it better than THEY had it! (Been there, done that!)
It also comes up in coversations with other parents. We tend to "brag" about the most recent purchase to make our children's lives more enriched, more stimulating, more educated, more . . . well, you fill in the blank. It seems like the more we give our children materialistically, our peers and fellow parents applaud and express their desire to do the same for their kids.
To be honest, I've fallen into this popular trend too often. Why do we feel our kids need better than us? Are we so unhappy with our childhood? Are we so unhappy with our parents' parenting? What are our childhood memories and why do we want to "one-up" them with our children?
Now, let put in a disclaimer here. If there is a parent who is reading this who grew up in a terrible household with abuse, neglect, or emotional issues, I'm not referring to you. Of COURSE your desire is to give your children a better life --- one without the abuse, neglect, and emotional toil you grew up with. I'm referring to those of us who grew up in loving homes with two parents who loved us, disciplined us in a godly manner, supported us while teaching us of the consequences of our choices. I'm talking about those of us who had food on our table daily and new clothes at the beginning of each school year. Why do we desire so badly to remember those blessing as "not good enough"? Isn't that what we're saying when we say, "I want better for my child"?
This is what I remember from my childhood.
My parents LOVED me unconditionally.
My parents had TIME for me.
My parents LISTENED to me.
My parents LOVED each other and SHOWED me what marriage and committment means.
My parents TAUGHT me about God.
My parents ENCOURAGED me.
My parents wanted what was BEST for me, even if it hurt.
My parents didn't give in to my every demand, but TAUGHT me that some things must be earned.
My parents TAUGHT me that my choices brought about results --- some good, some bad.
My parents PROVIDED for all my needs, although some of my wants may have been denied.
My parents PROVIDED me with a stable home.
My parents PROVIDED the setting and foundation for me to have a solid relationship and bond with each of my siblings.
My parents TAUGHT me to put others before myself.
And the list could go on and on.
Were my parents perfect? No. They even admit to that. BUT ---- they provided me with a wonderful childhood, full of precious memories, love to spare, and a solid Biblical foundation that became a personal relationship with Jesus when I got older.
What more could I want for my kids than a stable home, wonderful memories, strong bonds within the family, and a personal relationship with God? Do I need to feel like they must have the latest toy or gadget to be successful in life? Must I give into their every whim just so I feel accepted by society? Must I fuel their desires to have THINGS and in the process forget what is truly important in their young, impressionable lives?
I know I will continue to make mistakes in my parenting. Just like my parents, I am not perfect. However, my prayer is that with the strength and help of God, my kids have an upbringing LIKE mine --- not BETTER than mine. For, in all the things that truly matter, mine couldn't have been better! Even if I didn't get my Cabbage Patch Doll on the day I wanted it.