Five Favorite Bits of Wisdom

I wrote an entire post of all of the best and most helpful bits of advice I’d ever heard but since it was so long I thought I’d reduce it to just my top five. So here are the top five bits of wisdom that govern my life:

1-Your children are not yours. They belong to God.
It is really easy to be nice to other children. You’re around them for a bit, you nod very solemnly when they speak to you and follow it up with a bit of nonsense. But my own children. Ay ay ay! All day everyday it’s a constant grating on my nerves.
I heard someone say this once, in a very different context. I think they were talking about how we should bring our children up to know God. True. But this advice has also really helped me to keep up a third party like attitude towards my children. 1- because they’re not mine I HAVE to be nicer to them just like I do with my neighbor’s children and 2- because they’re not mine I’m kind of off the hook. I mean, not completely obviously. But ultimately their lives aren’t up to me, they’re up to my children and they’re up to God. It gives me a little breathing room that things don’t always need to be perfect and sometimes I can just roll my eyes and say “they’re all yours God.”
2-Focus on when your children are grown. Not just out-of-the-house grown. Imagine your life when you’re a grandparent.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the worrying parent stress. There are so so SO many pressures on parents to do everything and be everything for our children. And if they don’t “turn out” we’re on the line for it. But what does it even mean “turn out alright?” When people talk about when they’re children are grown they usually mean out of the house. But an 18 year old is not grown. Even a college graduate is not grown. Both of those ages come with their own worries and people rarely “have it together” by those ages. I think what we should focus on is not what your child is like the first third of their life but the other two thirds. What will they be like when they’re married and have their own children? What will they be like when you’re old and in a nursing home? Because when you begin to focus on the long term, the really long term, a lot of those old worries like getting into a good college or whether they’re responsible with their money seem so silly. Of course you want them to be happy, and things like having money and a good job are important, but when my children are grown…really grown…the only thing I really see being important are close relationships with our family. It really helps to give me focus on what’s important. Learning subtraction well? Not so much. Being kind to our siblings? Absolutely.
3-You have been given the gift of not being responsible for others actions
When the amish schoolhouse shooting happened one of the fathers told a newspaper that all he could feel was thankfulness that he wasn’t responsible for judging that man’s soul. And none of us are. We like to pretend that we are, but we’re not. We are people who should help each other, but it is not our job to condemn or to forgive absolutely. We can do neither, and we should be thankful that we are allowed to simply let things go and move on.
4-Be honest.
This is one of the best things I could say to someone about marriage. And I don’t mean be honest like tell them all your deepest darkest secrets. I mean when you’re annoyed, say it, don’t roll your eyes and do all that passive aggressive stuff. When you’re arguing and they say something really mean, tell them, don’t storm off and harbor resentful feelings. But it’s not just about negative things either.
When you’re feeling really lovey, say it, show it. The opportunity to be nice is something we pass up on very easily, always thinking I’ll do it later. But you don’t. As soon as you think it, say it.
They say communication is one of the biggest problems in marriage. But it doesn’t have to be. Stop hoping “he’ll get the hint” or assume  that “he should just know” and be upfront about things. None of us are very good at picking up subliminal signals (in fact, we’re phenomenally terrible at it) so stop trying to make your marriage a guessing game.
5-Children often do not have as self absorbed or manipulative thoughts as we attribute to them.
In Surprised by Joy C.S. Lewis constantly reflects on how his father always assumed that he was a selfish and self-centered little boy, which Lewis never felt like his way:
 “Adults often accuse a child of vanity without pausing to discover on what points children in general, or that child in particular, are likely to be vain. Thus it was for years a complete mystery to me that my father should stigmatize as “Affectation” my complaints about the itching and tickling of new underclothes. I see it all now; he had in mind a social legend associating delicacy of skin with refinement and supposed that I was claiming to be unusually refined…I was on another occasion called affected for asking what a stirabout was. It is, in fact, a low Irish word for porridge. To certain adults it seems obvious that he who claims not to know the Low must be pretending to be High.”
This seems like a very old fashioned example of something none of us ever do, but you only have to wait until a child loudly asks why someone’s skin in black or their face is deformed to see the same embarrassed look and scolding shuffle away that parents do. Explainations go a long way with children and are worth the time.
  I can definitely recall feeling the same way when I was little. I clearly remember once I got in a lot of trouble for hitting my dog with a stick. When my parents, who clearly thought I was just being mean asked me what I was thinking I just shrugged and mumbled “I don’t know.” But I did know. I was playing horse. She was the horse, and was pulling me in a cart, and the stick was the whip. I didn’t mean to hurt her, I was just playing and got too rough.
So most of the time when the books get knocked off the shelf for the tenth time it wasn’t vindictive, it was just honest forgetfulness. Even those times when you tell your child “no” and so they pick up a toy and throw it, it’s not “im angry and want to hurt you for making me angry” as much as “im angry and don’t know what to do about it so maybe ill throw this.” I remember being little and constantly being asked “why in the world did you do that?!” and never having the slightest idea. If a child’s actions seems incredibly incomprehensible to you, don’t place your ideas about adult behavior on a child. Because chances are they are just as boggled by their actions as you are.
Here is a video that is absolutely brilliant. In the midst of the circus that is reality talk shows the pain and confusion of childhood clearly stands out and impacts every person in the studio.

Behavior problems are just that…problems. Which means they can be solved and are rarely indicative of a “bad” child.

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