By Julie B Cosgrove, guest blogger
When I was a young parent-to-be, I asked my mother what made her such a good one. She winked at me. “I was there when you needed me, even when you didn’t want me there. Still am.”
How true. I recall as a teen I didn’t particularly want her around, but I wanted to know she’d be around when I wanted her. She represented my refuge. And I knew, without a doubt, that even if she didn’t like the way I acted or approved of a decision I made, she would always love me. That was, above all, apparent.
No matter their age, the most important thing a parent provides their child is time and attention. In my Bunco Biddies Mysteries Series, Janie Manson gets her Bunco playing friends in her retirement center to help solve crimes so her son-in-law, the chief detective, can have more time for his kids, her grandchildren. Despite his chagrin, eventually he realizes that he needs to back away from the pressures of the job and become more attentive to his wife and children. A lesson well-learned. (He also discovers his mother-in-law truly does have valuable deductive skills.)
When both parents work outside the home, it is important that their kids always know how to get in touch with each of them, and that both parents realize that their kids are #1e in priority, even if the parents are divorced. Jobs are jobs, and if your employer doesn’t realize that raising kids is the most important career in the world, find one who does. Once I explained that I required permission for my son, as a latch key kid, to call me every day so he could tell me he was safely at home, my boss approved. Being a dad himself, he knew my request was reasonable. His understanding helped me work harder for him the other seven hours and fifty-eight minutes each day.
The definition of apparent is to be visible, clear, and evident (from the Online Dictionary). The key word is “be.” That denotes active involvement. By being an involved parent, you are creating an environment of trust, love and acceptance.
Recitals, sports games, and competitions are all very important. Try to get to as many of your kids’ events as possible. When your child sees you in the audience or the stands, they know you love and respect them enough to take time out to watch them. They probably will perform better as well. Plus, a deeper bond will develop because you have demonstrated you care about the things that are significant to them. Since it is a shared event, it is a topic of discussion and can make wonderful memories in years to come.
However, remember to emphasize that doing their best is more important than winning. Not everyone can win every time. Expressing this attitude will bolster their self-esteem and encourage them to try harder.
But there is a fine line between being attentive and being a deterrent to your child’s development. Think of when you learned to ride a bike. Your parent probably hovered with both hands on either side of you. But they let you pedal, right? Perhaps a couple of times you wobbled and fell. Your mom or dad stood by, ready to bandage the scrape and give you encouragement to try again. Soon, they stepped back and watched you pedal half a block, then a block. Eventually they gave you permission to ride to your friend’s house a block or so away. Even so, you knew home still would be there when you returned.
In the same way, being the parent who is always available—just in case—allows your child to face the world and still have permission to reach up and grab onto your hand, so to speak. One of my favorite verses in the Psalms is 132:2: “But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” A child who is weaned doesn’t need to be constantly coddled and held. The child is content to walk along side, in full confidence that their parent is close by if needed.The psalmist relates this to his walk with God, our Perfect Parent. God is the ultimate apparent parent. He is always there, loves us unconditionally, and yet honors our free will. When we stumble or fail, He lovingly guides and corrects us. He is the God of second, and third, and twentieth chances. He never tells us we are a hopeless cause.
We can often do things that undermine our love for our kids. For example, I sucked in my breath when a friend posted on Facebook that she often follows behind her kids and redoes the chores they do. This only shows them that they can never please her or do things correctly. Who cares if their sweater dangles from the hanger, or one side of their bedspread is longer than the other, or the towels are not folded perfectly square?
The next time, I suggested, why not do the chore together and, while nicely correcting them, compliment them on how much better they are getting at accomplishing the task? Don’t thwart their desire to please you, or send the silent message that they can never accomplish anything to your satisfaction. They will face enough negativity in the world. It shouldn’t be the attitude in their home as well.
Give your kids space but keep them in your peripheral vision. TV home renovation shows now feature parents who want open concept floor plans so they can always keep an eye on their kids. What message does that send? Sure, younger kids need more supervision, but slowly you have to convey a sense of trust. If you do, your children will most likely live up to that expectation. Agreed, there will be the child who wants to push the boundaries, but what they really are trying to do is make sure the boundaries still exist.
When she is playing in the backyard and you are doing laundry inside or fidgeting with a project in the garage, your child is secure, knowing you are close by. Allow them to figure things out for themselves and to also have some privacy. It will teach them to respect your privacy as well. Helicopter parenting, however, thwarts the child’s creativity, sense of responsibility, and self-esteem. Smothering is for meats, not your children.
By letting your kids slowly make independent decisions and make mistakes while you still remain their safety net, you will be assuring two things. First, as they enter adulthood, they will successfully face the challenges life throws at them. Secondly, they will one day be apparent parents to their kids.
About Julie B. Cosgrove
Freelance writer, award-winning author and professional speaker, Julie B. Cosgrove leads religious retreats, workshops for churches and writer groups, and Bible studies. She writes regularly for Light from the Word, Faith-filled Family Magazine, Thoughts About God, Good News Daily, and The Journey, and is on staff with Campus Crusades of Canada’s Power to Change digital ministry as editor and writer for The Life Project. Julie has published three Bible studies, a devotional, two inspirational guides, and has 12 faith-based fiction novels published with three more contracted, including two cozy mysteries series, The Bunco Biddies Mysteries and the Relatively Seeking Mysteries. Learn more at www.juliebcosgrove.com.