A very courageous and amazing young couple friend of ours recently took on the role of foster parenting as first-time parents. They are about 6 weeks into it, and the other day the wife of the team asked on facebook for encouragement and advice for their parenting journey. They are lovers of God and lovers of children and so very courageous. Hats off to you. Sincerely.
I've been pondering this request for advice for a day or two now. There's so much...where does one even start?
I'm only 10 years into marriage and 7 and a half years into parenting, so many of you have so much more wisdom here than me.
But here's my best advice: Be on the same team.
Every day Paul and I remind our kids that "Mom & Dad are on the same team."
We've been saying this exact sentence since our oldest was probably 2 years old.
You know the scenario. A child disapproves of the answer one parent gives, so the child tromps off to the other parent. The other parent gives a more desireable answer, and the child runs gleefully to the first parent, bragging, "Ha! Mom said yes!" And then Mom says, "What! I didn't know he had said no!"
We're on the same team. What dad says, mom says too. What mom says, dad says too.
Recently the three year old was going to try this shenanigan. He was upset with Dad's "No" and told his sister he was going to go ask mom. I didn't hear the beginning of the conversation, but I did hear his big sister yelling after him as he ran upstairs to me, "You don't have to ask mom! She's on dad's team!"
That was sweet music to my ears. They know.
Other than knowing the love of God, there is nothing more important than for a child to know that Mom & Dad love each other. I've heard it said that the most important thing in loving your children is loving your spouse first. (After loving God, of course)
And loving each other means never under-cutting one another. If we disagree with each other's discipline or parenting choices, we try our best to wait until we are behind a closed door before we tell the other person that they made a parenting mistake and perhaps need to apologize.
Our kids have plenty of inborn sinful nature that will make them doubt & disobey our parental authority.
We cannot give them more reason to doubt their parent's authority.
Our kids have to know that above all else, Mom and Dad stand together. We are fully united.
It's part of being one flesh. The one flesh mystery isn't limited to the sexual union, although it's that also. The one flesh union is full - we are one emotionally, spiritually, physically.
We stand together. We support one another. We have each other's back at all times.
Jesus said that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." (Mark 3:25)
Well, in a married household, the husband and wife are that "house" that must not be divided against itself.
Parenting is the hardest thing I've ever done, for sure.
I used to think marriage was the hardest thing I've ever done. But, we're ten years in now, and the wrinkles (and by wrinkles I mean boulders) of becoming one flesh have been mostly smoothed out. We've settled into and embraced the one flesh thing.
And it's a good thing because as our children become older and as more of them have come along, parenting has intensified ten-fold. Or perhaps a thousand-fold. And the road to come is only going to intensify more...we're well aware that it'll get far more difficult before it gets easier. (If it ever gets easier, which it may not).
So we have to be on the same team. Every day.
Does that mean we never disagree? By no means. We disagree plenty. But our children know that the first answer to any remotely important (or unimportant) decision is always going to be, "Mom & Dad need to discuss that first."
And really, this whole same-team thing gives our kids an incredible sense of security. Although they may roll their eyes and get annoyed when I say "I say whatever Dad said," really, in their hearts, it creates stability and security.
And as the issues become far more important than which movies they can watch or potty training or fighting over toys - when the issues become curfews and fender benders and alcohol and sex - there will be nothing more important for us as a married team AND for our children than knowing without a doubt that mom and dad are on the same team.
And our children are invited into this team. We all have each others' backs.
As a part of this team, our kids aren't allowed to under-cut each other either. Don't get me wrong - they fight and argue and squabble PLENTY. It's utterly exhausting. But we talk everyday about our family being one team, and we aim daily for love and respect. Friends are sent home if siblings are mistreating one another. Love and respect for one another as a family team comes first, everyday.
The world is a rough place. Knowing you have a team fighting for you is one of the best gifts we can give our children.
And how sweet it is, amongst the constant chaos and bickering and crying and drama of a household with young children, to know that we're a team. And although at times it feels dysfunctional and like our "team" will barely make it to bedtime (like yesterday!), at the end of the day we all rest in our beds knowing we have the support of our teammates.
And as a married couple, we have the love and support of our spouse in this crazy and ever-so challenging endeavor of parenting.
Because Mom & Dad are on the same team.