The time to start being a parent starts long before the baby is born or even conceived.
I've heard people say "...long before you were a gleam in your father's eye" dating the mentioned activity as long before the listener was born. The same timeline describes the best time to start preparing for parenting
Maybe you recognize the beginnings of this thought for me as coming from last Sunday at church. As I mentioned in a blog from 11-28 a young man mentioned some things that concerned him about his pre-parenting choices. That has been in the back of my mind this week and then a couple days ago I went into the group room at work and ran across a dry erase board that had been used during an education/support group for those stopping substance abuse. It outlined the story of one woman who had done drugs and alcohol for a portion of her life, even through the conception and carrying of her child to term. Then shortly after the birth of her child she realized the damage of what she was doing to herself and her children. This helped her have the motivation she needed to stop using drugs. In essence she suddenly recognized her worth and that of her children. Now she is struggling to learn the skills and practice the behaviors of not using drugs and dealing with life through positive instead of destructive means.
I was reminded in that moment that being a parent really starts long before the child is born. For many our preparation started even before we thought about being a parent. When we can look at ourselves and answer the question, "how would I explain this to my future children" we will begin to see the importance of starting now to be the parent we want to be.
It occurs to me that many of us spend the first months or years of parenthood parenting ourselves and fixing areas we failed in to be better parents of our children. Sometimes these efforts to fix ourselves are at the expense of our children in at least the distraction they cause from our children's needs. It is much like on the job training. Truth be told that we will all have some of these issues to work through, but if we start asking ‘the question’ now then we can prepare ourselves in advance and do a great service to future generations.
Sometimes we as parents avoid talking about certain things with our children because we remember our behaviors of the age and feel embarrassed of ourselves and/or hypocritical of any current efforts to guide our children in a better path. When we allow those feelings to negatively influence our parenting then we pass on our family and personal weaknesses to the next generation. Maybe our resolve and presentation are weak because we ourselves fell into a trap we see coming for our children. Maybe we are overzealous about a topic of instruction because we are trying to make up for our own failure; and in our extensive efforts now we succeed only in interesting our children in a behavior rather than strengthening against it. I’ve seen some parents who think of their “glory” days as a time in their lives when they made poor choices. Even though they hope their children will avoid those pitfalls in life, they inadvertently encourage them to repeat the error because of the enjoyment that is evident when they think back and describe their actions of yesteryear. All of these ways of responding to our own past can have an impact on our children and therefore on their life and our grandchildren's lives.
"How would I explain this to my children" can help us at whatever stage of parenting we are in and no matter what our personal past has included. It can help us choose a more appropriate path than the one we may naturally choose with only knowing and feeling our past and not adequately considering their future. Our response can be the one that is right for the occasion even if we didn't live the ideal when we were at that time of life.
So those who are not parents yet, start preparing now. Your children will see the results of your efforts immediately upon arrival. If you are later in your parenting life then now is the time to stop letting your past dictate your children’s future. Follow your best self and parent your children as your current morals and knowledge direct you.
As I write this blog two of my daughters bring me a sugar cookie and flute of milk. The sugar cookie has on it, “We love you Dad” and the cookie is in the shape of a…cloud. Maybe with our best efforts we can have the success we desire in guiding our children to reach their potential and be proud to be a part of our family.