Aidan’s ninth birthday brought a realization that we’re at the “halftime” point of our hands-on parenting years. Join me as I reflect on what I’ve learned in the last 9 years of parenting, as well as what I want to improve in the second half of the “game.”
**Links in this post may be affiliate links. This means that if you click that link and purchase the product, I may receive a small compensation. I am, however, committed to honestly assessing the products mentioned. Please read my disclosure policy for more details. **
Our oldest child, Aidan, turned nine last week, and it’s stirring up a whole mess of feelings for me. On the one hand, I’m basking in the memories of these last nine years with him and savoring the joy they’ve brought. On the other hand, I’m so incredibly aware that he’s now halfway to adulthood. Which means we’re at the midpoint of our hands-on parenting years with him!
This realization is causing me to do some “halftime” reflection. I’m thinking back on what I’ve learned over the last nine years of parenting and how I want to proceed with the next nine. I don’t know what the second half of the “game” is going to look like, but I do know I want to finish it out as well as (if not better than) we started it. Join me, then, in my halftime reflections from 9 years of parenting.
“Halftime” Report: 9 Reflections From 9 Years of Parenting
What have I learned about parenting so far? So much! Check out the following “halftime” report for 9 reflections from 9 years of parenting.
1. It’s going so fast!
I’ll start with the most obvious one – those nine years went fast. I mean, everyone told us they would (and that the second nine go even faster), but it’s still shocking just how quickly that time passed. Sure, the stages and seasons didn’t always feel short at the time, but looking back now, I can see that they were. It makes me realize that the season I’m in right now will seem like a blip in a few years, as well. And it motivates me to be even more intentional with my time in the years to come.
Related Post: How to Love Your Season of Motherhood
2. Parenting is harder and more wonderful than I expected.
I know, I know. That line is so cliche it makes me gag – but it’s just so true! Parenting is HARD. I want to take back every judgment I ever made before I became a parent because now I get it. Being responsible for not only keeping another human alive but also nurturing them, teaching them, and raising them into people of character… it’s a lot! But it’s also the most amazing privilege I’ve ever been given, and the most fulfilling purpose I’ve ever had. Watching my kids grow, learn, develop, and mature is the absolute BEST.
Related Post: 6 Prayers for When Motherhood is Hard
3. The investments are worth the cost.
The third thing I’ve learned over the last 9 years of parenting is that investing the time and energy required to steward my kids well is always worth the sacrifice. Connecting with them and developing our relationship is worth the opportunity cost of just about every other thing I could be doing or accomplishing. And I know I will never regret any time spent teaching and training, making memories, and filling their love banks.
Related Post: 30 Ways to Show Your Kids You Love Them
Realizing this reminds me to resist the pull to prioritize productivity over my people. It certainly does not mean I can’t do anything apart from my kids. But they do need to come first. As a mom in the thick of my child-rearing years, investing in them is one of the most productive things I can do.
4. I can’t control THEM, but I can control ME
I’m actually learning this lesson more from my strong-willed middle child, but I have to remember it with all three of my kids. As much as people like to say otherwise, I’ve become very aware that I can’t actually control my kids. Not long-term, anyway. I can teach them, I can motivate them, and I can discipline them… but I can’t control them.
What I can control is me. I can control how I love them, how I respond to them, how I instruct them, and how I discipline them. I can control how intentional I am, how diligent I am, and how consistent I am. Beyond that, I have to let them (and God) do the rest.
That includes leading them to Christ. Many people like to use Proverbs 22:6 as a guarantee that Christian parents (if they’re doing things “correctly”) will produce Christian kids, but that’s a misinterpretation and misapplication of that Scripture. We, as human parents, can no more make our kids follow Jesus than our Heavenly Father can make that decision for us.
We can, however, do everything in OUR power to teach our kids about God and lead them to Christ. The rest, as I said above, is up to God’s influence and our children’s free will.
Here are some helpful posts for discipling your kids:
- 7 Ways to Disciple Your Kids at Home
- How to Make a Family Discipleship Plan
- My Favorite Resources for Building Character in Kids
- How I Read the Bible to My Kids (to Teach Biblical Literacy)
- How to Teach the Bible as One Continuous Story to Your Kids
- 8 Scripture-Based Prayers for Your Child’s Heart
- 30 Days of Prayer For Your Kids
5. I NEED God.
On that note, my fifth (though it should probably be first) lesson I’ve learned in 9 years of parenting is just how desperately I need God in order to parent well. I’ve realized my utter dependence on His wisdom, His strength, and His grace. On my own, I would be a mess of a mom, but He has equipped and empowered me for the role He called me to do with the children He gave specifically to me.
There are MANY times I feel like I’m floundering as a parent – faced with a struggle I haven’t the slightest clue how to solve or taken so far to my limits I don’t know if I can (or want to) keep going. In those moments, I remind myself that while I might be inadequate, His grace is more than sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). And when I call on Him, He is so faithful to give me what I need from moment to moment.
6. Hard isn’t something to avoid.
Motherhood has made me a better person in 1,000 different ways, but one of the biggest is that it has forced me to do a lot of hard things. And not just do them, but reframe my entire attitude towards them. I’ve learned that hard isn’t necessarily something to avoid; hard is often good. It pushes my limits and makes me stronger. It builds my endurance. It sanctifies me. If I’ve learned anything the past few years, it’s that embracing the hard will produce far better fruit than finding the easy way out.
Related Post: 6 Prayers for When Motherhood is Hard
7. Developing a close relationship with my kids requires being a student of them.
Another thing I’ve learned as my kids have gotten older is that in order to really get to them and develop the kind of close relationship I want with them, I have to become a student of them. I have to watch and observe them, taking notice of what they like and don’t like, how they operate, what they’re interested in and passionate about, etc. And then, I have to find ways to work with those proclivities as I help them become the men and woman God created them to be.
This seems like a simple thing, but it takes a surprising amount of intentionality. It takes spending time with them. It takes paying focused attention to them. It takes engaging them in meaningful conversation. It takes picking up on little clues. And it takes fanning the sparks of interest whenever, wherever, and however I can.
8. I’m always doing something right… and I’m always doing something wrong.
No matter how intentional I am and how hard I try, there’s no getting around the fact that I’m human. Which means I’m going to make mistakes in my parenting. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” That means in every stage of my parenting, there’s always going to be something I’m doing wrong.
That’s not discouraging to me – it’s freeing! That means I can give up my quest for perfection. It means I can stop shaming myself for not “measuring up.” And it means there is always, always, ALWAYS more I can learn and room for improvement. Parenting is a lifelong learning process!
On the other hand, just because I’m imperfect doesn’t mean I’m failing. Just as I’m always doing something wrong in my parenting, there’s also always something I’m doing right. While I never want to stop learning and growing as a mom, I need to remember what I have done/am doing well. Even if I have to list it all out at the end of every day! When I do this, I almost always find that I’m actually doing a lot better than I think I am.
9. Apologies go a LONG way!
Accepting my imperfections leads me to my final lesson from the last 9 years of parenting: when I do make mistakes in my parenting, the best thing I can do is apologize. A heartfelt apology shows my acknowledgement of my imperfections, helps heal any hurt in our relationships, and models taking responsibility for mistakes and making necessary reparations. Plus, as I vulnerably admit my own imperfections, it gives my kids the freedom to be imperfect, themselves.
And in all the times I’ve apologized to my kids (and I’ve had to do it a LOT!), it has never undermined my authority or lessened their opinion of me. My kids are always so quick to forgive, and they surprise me with their understanding and grace! Besides, let’s face it – they already know when I mess up. Acting as if I haven’t doesn’t make me more competent in their eyes – it makes me more of a hypocrite. It doesn’t strengthen my authority – it damages my credibility.
Second Half Objectives
After reflecting on what I’ve learned from the last 9 years of parenting, here are a few things I want to improve in the second half of the “game” with Aidan:
- Have more fun together. Even knowing the truth of reflection #3 above, I still regularly find myself too entrenched in “task mode.” Going forward, I want to place a higher priority on play and memory-making fun. Related Post: 20 Everyday Ways to Play as a Family
- Write more down. Apart from semi-regular Facebook posts and sporadic journal entries, I’m not very good about writing things down. I want to do a better job of recording funny stories, insightful sayings, lessons I’m learning, and special memories. (Maybe in something like this??)
- Give him more responsibilities. The realization that we’re halfway through our hands-on years with Aidan has woken me up to the fact that we need to let him do more and make more of his own decisions. I’ve still been in “little kid” mode, but it’s time to supercharge our training for adulthood!
- Teach more life skills. On that note, I want to be even more intentional about teaching him the life skills he’s going to need to thrive on his own. If the last nine years are any indication, these next nine are going to fly, and whatever we’re not intentional about teaching most likely won’t get taught.
- Work on myself. Motherhood has definitely put me on a path of self-improvement, but I know there’s still so much room to grow. I’m learning that one of the best ways to thrive as a mother is to thrive as a person, first. I can only be as healthy as a parent as I am as an individual. So, over these next few years, I want to continue to work on my own physical, emotional, and (especially) spiritual growth.
SHARE WITH US: Those are my top lessons from 9 years of parenting — what are some of yours? Share them in the comments below!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
- 10 Lessons I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Marriage
- My Top 10 Favorite Parenting Books
- My Favorite Podcasts for Christian Moms
- 5 Family Resolutions to Make for the New Year