Saturday, January 9, 2016

Grow Yourself as a Parent

February 25, 2014

March is almost here! Each year, I look forward to worship, fellowship and learning with thousands of Christians in the Bay Area at the BASS Convention. Ever since my friend Millicent took me there in 1992, I have been attending every year. Thanks to the encouragement and support from my mentor Jeanne Stenfort, I have been leading workshops at BASS since 2006. This time, I'm presenting "Parenting American Born Chinese" in Cantonese. Hope to see you there!

In so many ways, having a child really changed my life. I was forced to really grow up even though I was already a software development manager in the Silicon Valley. Having to take care of and develop a little child really got me thinking. My life was transformed when I started finding out what I didn't know. Amazingly, even now, as a grandmother, there is still so much to learn.

How about you? What has your parenting journey been like? Need some encouragement to face this wonderful challenge of parenting, whichever stage you are in?

"Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

Imagine a baby shower where the guests bring a special kind of gift for the new parents.

Not baby clothes. Not strollers or cribs. Not even a single book on child-rearing. The gifts for the new parents? Self-awareness, self-love and self-growth as a person, as well as a parent.

If you feel uncomfortable with that last statement because it seems to focus too much on yourself, think twice and consider what Jesus taught.

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:30-31).

As a Chinese parent, you probably care more about your child than yourself. Caring is good. However, remember the flying safety instruction to put on our oxygen mask before helping the child or elderly next to us. If you cannot breathe, you cannot help others!

Parenting is one of the -- if not the -- most challenging jobs on the planet. There is the awesome responsibility of raising and guiding another human being, of course. But it's the daily interactions between children and parents that can require almost super-human amounts of flexibility, patience and awareness. All the experts and all the books aren't there when it's your toddler who won't nap, your child who stole a valued toy from his best friend, your depressed teen who is desperately searching for answers, your adult child who can't hold down a job.

At one level, successful -- even joyful -- parenting is about listening to ourselves as well as listening to our children. It's a hands-off approach that brings the focus back to what we are feeling and experiencing, so that we don't unthinkingly rain anger and fear down upon our children. Being aware of ourselves helps us develop a strong "mind of Christ" or an intuitive sense of knowing what is best for us and our children in any moment. (And accepting that sometimes we really don't know yet!)

In his book "Sacred Parenting," Christian author Gary Thomas writes, "Our natural (but not necessarily holy) inclination to make life as easy as possible for our children, coupled with our focus on what we really want them to achieve, ultimately tells us parents what we value most about life. In what we stress with our children, we reveal the true passion of our own hearts."

One of the first challenges is to understand that old patterns -- often formed in our own childhoods -- can often rule our behavior as parents right now. For example, if our own parents tried to fix everything that went wrong, we may try to do the same with our children. But our children may need us just to listen to their fears and not jump in with our own fears and try to "fix" it all.

In the process, we allow our kids to make mistakes, and that means we can, too. And if we can forgive our kids and accept them in all their flawed glory, it can't be too big a jump to do this for ourselves.

As author Joyce Maynard writes, "It's not only children who grow. Parents do, too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it myself."

If you think you cannot do it by yourself, you are not alone. Who can give you hope, help and healing? Maybe as Christian parents, all we can do is to live out our new "Christ in us" life day by day, moment by moment!
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

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