I am not a parent, but I like to think of myself as a parenting expert. I’m 28 years old, married, and totally equipped to raise a child. I have the whole thing figured out and feel confident I can navigate most of the problems parents face.
Okay, I’m just kidding. I work in the family ministries division of a church and have been around the block enough times to know that parenting is a continual journey, full of unexpected adventures. Over the years, I’ve made a point to refrain from uttering the phrase I would never let my child act that way. Chances are someday my child will act that way.
I have no way of knowing the crazy things my kid will do and how I will respond. But then again, I don’t intend to reinvent the wheel either. One of the benefits of volunteering* and being on staff in Family Ministries over the past several years is that I have picked up quite a few tips and tricks from the people I work alongside.
If you are a parent or planning to be a parent in the future, you need to have next-step ahead mentors. You will have problems that will make you hit your head against a wall that they have already solved. They will celebrate milestones in their kids’ lives that you will want to celebrate in your family. They will have practical advice for the simple day to day routine.
My friend Karis is an amazing mom. She is super creative and it spills over into her parenting. I’ll never forget helping her family move into their new home when they moved from Michigan. We were unpacking dishes and I asked Kar which of the upper cupboards she would like me to stack them in. Her response was, “Oh no, if you put them in an upper cupboard, Kohen (who was 5 years old at the time) can’t help set the table when it is his turn. Go ahead and put them in this cupboard below the counter.” She had taken a problem (Kohen was too short to take part in a regular family activity) and found a solution (store the dishes in a lower cupboard).
My friend Danny’s daughter kept getting out of bed far too early in the morning. She was too young to learn time, but old enough to understand and follow instructions. So he and his wife installed a timed night light in her room that would glow in the morning when it was okay for her to get up. If she woke up early, she knew to wait for the light to turn on before she went and pounced on her parents.
My friend Darren has a daughter who is now in college. When she was in high school, Darren noticed that Brynn was chattiest when she came home at night after hanging out with friends. So he would plant himself in the basement around the time of her curfew, and pretend he was there for the purpose of watching tv or reading. When Brynn would come home, he’d ask a few key questions that would make her come alive about what she was thinking and processing. He has a similar trick for his son, but I’d hate to share it and spoil his fun.
Like I said, I really can’t forecast all the things I will or will not do as a parent. But I’d be crazy to start from scratch. To wait and see. During this time in life when I am not a parent, I am going to watch carefully and keep track of the wisdom I observe. When I am a parent, I am going to unashamedly beg, borrow, and steal from the mentors I respect. After all, parenting is hard work and requires a ton of thinking on your feet. Why expend extra energy trying to solve things that someone else already figured out.
Steph is the Family Ministries Coordinator and Family Map Champion at a growing church in Northeast Pennsylvania. She lives with her brilliant husband Tim and their dog Amelie. She loves to read, travel, hike, absorb music, drink (and occasionally try to quit) coffee, and laugh with friends. She is not known for an ability to sit still for long periods of time. You can see more of her blog here.