Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6 NKJV
I promise you, for the entire 38.2 weeks I was pregnant with K, anytime someone would mention this scripture in an effort to give me parenting advice, I would visualize myself punching them in the face.
I didn’t do it.
But maaaan did I want to.
Maybe it was the hormones. Or maybe it was the exhaustion that made me feel like I’d been pregnant for decades instead of months. Okay, I’ll concede those. But mostly I think it was the fact that “training up” another human being took on new meaning for me. A meaning that freaked me out.
Before getting pregnant, I’d done my fair share of training people. I’d trained business owners and teachers and students and other writers. But obviously, having a child was an entirely different ballgame. See…in my classrooms and workshops, I generally had some formal resources available to me prior to the gig. Or, in some cases, I had significant experience that qualified me to train folks. But this child of mine? She would need to be trained up FROM SCRATCH!
When K entered the world, without a doubt, she was the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen. But when they placed all that sweet brown goodness on my breast, there was no training manual attached to her bare bottom.
Trust me, there wasn’t. I checked. 🙂
And yeah, I know I had my mother, as well as a slew of other moms with all different kinds of parenting styles who I could tap for info as I grew into my new role. But as I tell my English Comp students, the best support for a position is primary evidence. Secondary—and in this case, secondhand—sources are good and plentiful but it’s the research and experiments you conduct yourself that often give you the most credibility.
For essays, this is brilliant. For new mommies, not so much.
Because on August 31, 2011, my sugarplum was here and I had nothing. Not one iota of experience. Just hundreds of secondary sources. Books I read. Websites I perused (stay way from those). The chatter of girlfriends and aunties and mom. In my mind, not even the stint I spent helping a family member out with their newborn counted as sufficient enough for me to train up the beauty I held in my arms that day.
But she was here, and guess what? My hubby and I did what all parents have to do. We got over ourselves.
It’s real simple. Motherhood (and fatherhood) is on the job training, for sure. You learn as you go. You go as you learn. Sometimes I get it massively wrong. Like the other day, when I, with my flip tongue, told Hubby to shut-up, only to have the ever-listening toddler say, “Yeah Daddy, shut-up!”
Welp, I wasn’t lying when I said I get it wrong.
But then there are the other days. Like when I’m watching her in ballet class from parent jail (what I call the glass door the moms and dads have to sit behind in order to not distract the baby ballerinas). Though her feet don’t always do what she’d like them to do, her eyes glow with excitement and joy as she dances and sings Frozen’s “Let it Go” for like the billionth time. She really loves it. And I love that we are able to give that to her, even for 45 minutes a week.
So yep, the bad days are many (throwing together a not-so-healthy dinner or forgetting to read her bedtime story) but so are the good days (helping her trace the letter F or blowing bubbles on a beautiful Fall day). And it’s all good.
There’s one thing I know for sure. Just like how K wasn’t born with a users guide stuck to her bottom, neither does God have some heavenly scoreboard tallying up all the good and all the bad decisions we make as parents in order to determine whether a child has been “trained up” enough. If He did, I suspect most of us would be in major trouble.
No, the same grace He offers us in other areas of our lives is the same grace that’s applied to our stumblings and fumblings in parenthood. Be clear: I’m not talking about grace as an on/off ramp for those who choose to abandon or abuse their children. I’m talking about those of us who are grabbing our new mercies everyday, and doing our absolute best.
Yes, it’s three years later and I suppose I’m finally settling into this mommy thing. At the very least, I understand better that “training up” is less about specific events and activities I can check off my to-do list. It’s more about an overall theme of faithfulness and integrity and compassion that is lived out in front my child. And even when I mess up royally like I often do, I still have an opportunity to teach her. To train her up by showing her what repentance and remorse and forgiveness looks like.
And that’s just it. Intentionally or not, for me, this training up thing has been a two-way street. As much as I pray that K doesn’t depart from the major themes her Dad and I are trying to live out in front of her, I also pray I don’t stray from the lessons she’s teaching me everyday.