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The Parent You Want to Be

Affiliate Disclosure | in Motherhood | by | with 39 Comments

Photo Credit clockwise from top left: T. Rolf, Simona Balint, Sarah Brucker, Cristian Caggiano, Joe Batluck

How Will Your Kids Remember You?

When I am down on the floor playing “dress up dah-wees (dollies)” with Katie I sometimes find myself trying to subliminally imprint the experience on her. Remember, this moment, Katie. Forget about all the time I spend cooking, cleaning, on the computer and running errands. Remember THIS. Pleeeeeaaaaaase.

The truth is, though, I spend much less time dressing dollies than I do keeping my home. Statistically the odds are not in my favor. At least that’s what I used to think. According to Drs. Les and Lesley Parrott, though . . .

Who You Are Matters More Than What You Do

I have thousands of memories of my parents. Some are mundane, others are painful, sweet and/or hilarious. I have memories I know they went to great lengths to create, like trips to Disney World and the Caribbean. Despite their intentions, what really stands out is who they were, not what they did. Even in the most perfectly orchestrated Kodak moment, I most vividly recall my fathers reserved emotions and my mothers warmth.

In The Parent You Want To Be, Les and Leslie Parrot challenge parents to shift their focus from trying to “make memories” to intentionally becoming memorable. The goal is more than immortalizing ourselves in our children’s eyes. I’m sure we would all like that, but the idea of this book is that who our kids become is not accidental.

Can you think of a time when your child totally embarrassed you by doing something they learned by watching YOU? I have. Though it’s no fun, I try to think of it as a needed reminder that my child is learning how to “be” in the world from me.

Your traits matter because your child is watching you more closely than you know. A haunting reminder of just how powerful we are as parental role models is found in the Harry Chapiun classic “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Written in 1974, this song depicts the tale of a father with his newborn son. The first time we hear the chorus, the dad is saying:

And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew,

He’d say, “I’m gonna be like you, Dad.

You know I’m going to be like you.”

But by the end of the tune, which has followed their relationship through the boy’s tenth birthday, his college years, and finally the father’s retirement, the chorus is bittersweet. It seems the son, who has moved away and started his own family, picked up the one quality his father hoped he wouldn’t pass along – the quality of being too busy for relationships. The father has called his son to see if the two of them can get together. “I’d love to, Dad, if I could find the time,” answers his son. In the final chorus, the father’s words ring true:

And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me,

He’d grown up just like me.

My boy was just like me.

Select Your Intentional Traits, Then Watch Them Bloom In Your Child

“A child is not a vase to be filled, but a fire to be lit.” ~Francois Rabelais

When you think of your son or daughter as an adult, what do you see? Do you hope they’ll be insightful, authentic, or visionary? If you’re anything like I was, you might think these traits are too conceptual to model in everyday life. This book changed my mind.*

My children will be grown before I get the hang of the traits I’ve selected (I picked patience as one of my traits). In the spirit of authenticity (hmmm. . . is that another one?), I admit that I fail daily. But having something to aim for has helped me make small changes. I return again and again to this book when I am discouraged or lost when it comes to parenting. While this book doesn’t tell me how to gracefully pry my tantruming two year-old off of Barnes and Nobles’ floor, it reminds me why I endure public humiliation, sleep deprivation, and a myriad of other discomforts.

*Note: The Parent You Want To Be was written by Christians so it has some themes in it that may not interest everyone. However, I believe the vast majority of the book would appeal to any parent.
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39 Responses to The Parent You Want to Be

  1. Maggie says:

    One of my parenting goals is for my boys to grow up being compassionate for others. I strive to show them that through my interaction with them and all those around us!

    • Heather says:

      Maggie – I know just what you mean. There is something so incredible about strong men with kind hearts. If I have any sons my goal will be the same.

  2. joanna moore says:

    One of my biggest parenting goals is that my children would grow up to trust me, i.e. have the desire to come to me to share every joy and every problem.

    Thanks for sharing… we’re totally in the same boat!

    • Heather says:

      Thanks, Joanna. Loved your blog on “If I had another baby”!! I’m still pregnant and I already have “just one more” fever! Daniel and I both thought three was a good number when we were engaged, but now we are not sure we want to stop there. We are talking about options loosely (like fostering, adoption, or maybe having another biological child). I love that you are being realistic about the sacrifices and the joys of growing your family. It’s a journey!

  3. Jessica Parker says:

    My biggest parenting goal is to always keep the eternal and the Kingdom in mind. I want to raise children who love God, neighbor and enemy and to see them all as God’s children.

    • Heather says:

      I agree, Jessica. In the Bible Belt we are often raised to disdain so-called “sinners.” It both sad and laughable. When I stopped focusing on labels and started getting to know people I found beauty I had never imagined existed.

  4. Esther says:

    One of my goals is demonstrating a love for all people and having a non-judgmental/critical spirit. Giving others the benefit of the doubt. Remembering to be gentle with all and giving unconditional love to all around us.

  5. kate says:

    Our greatest goal is to point Asher to Christ in everything we do. That he will see God’s glory in even the small, every day things.
    This book sounds so great!

  6. Tiffany says:

    My desire is to keep in mind every day that I am raising eternal beings. CS Lewis’ sermon “The Weight of Glory” heavily influenced me on this. He writes, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and acorruption such as you now meet, if at all,only in a nightmare. All day long we are,in some degree, helping each other to oneor other of these destinations. It is in the “flow over” into the glorified body. In the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke
    with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have,
    from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies
    merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden. ”

    I regularly forget this, but it is my desire not to.

    • Heather says:

      Tiffany – That is one of my favorite quotes ever! I LOVE C.S. Lewis’ books (he’s my favorite author) because he words things in a way that is down to earth but also timeless and unforgettable.

  7. Christie says:

    One of my parenting goals at this moment is not to constantly rush my children because I am not prepared or just need to get something done quickly. There is nothing worse then being rushed and I find myself doing this a lot more. Hurry up when walking,bathing,eating, going int the store etc. I know I do not like to be rushed. I can imagine that a 3 year old and 18 month old would appreciate taking their time and having a calm patient mommy 😉

    • Heather says:

      I have not made this a goal, but I really should!!! Why do I think that if I talk faster my two year old will walk faster? So does NOT happen ; – )

  8. Tana says:

    One of my goals as a mom is to help my children identify who God created them to be by knowing who they are NOW. I intentionally help my kids see themselves clearly: what are their strengths, their areas of giftedness, their passions and talents, etc, to help them pursue interests and develop abilities, and also to know/see the truth about their weaknesses and what is all this for? Not for careers and hobbies, although that might/does come out of all of this, too. The reason is so that they might know best how to love God and love others with their lives. I have wished so much that I had had someone come alongside me years ago and helped me with this!!!

    • Heather says:

      Tana – I love this goal, especially the very realistic part about acknowledging our children’s weaknesses. No one really walked me through that step until my husband did for his own sake ; – ) I thought I was self-aware when I got married, but it turns out I had a pretty lopsided view of myself.

  9. Shari VV says:

    I so want my son to first see the goodness and beauty in every person he meets, to trust absolutely that everyone is created equally in God’s eyes and to be compassionate and understanding of them and their differences from him. Why? Because I somehow did not learn that early on and am not the warmest person in regards to meeting new people or facing new challenges. I watch my 3, 5 and 6 year old nephews much more closely now that I have a baby boy–seeing how they relate to others and the world and how they mimic the adults in their lives. Humbling!!

    • Heather says:

      Shari – I can totally identify. I’m kind of a clod when meeting people face to face. It takes me awhile to warm up.

  10. Whittney says:

    We share the same goal in trying to be patient. I also want to be present, not just surviving but thriving in every season of life. Oh, and on a fun note, it is a major goal to document my children’s lives by keeping a memory box with odd and random tidbits and keepsakes, along with blogging about the day-to-day for them to one day read. :)

  11. Melanie Buck says:

    My goal is to never leave.

  12. Kirsten says:

    Excellent post! Thanks!

    One of my goals is to be gentle, loving, and fun to be around. :-) I always admire those moms I see that are having fun with their kids and love seeing how their children respond to their mommy’s gentleness. I could “ditto” many of the goals others have mentioned here also!

    • Heather says:

      I’m going to add “fun to be around” to my list of goals, too! Sometimes it’s easy to forget that goes both ways ; – )

  13. Kimberly says:

    One of my parenting goals is for my son to have confidence in himself. That is something I lack and I feel the frustration from that daily. By having confidence in himself, I feel he will be able to move mountains and be a compassionate and loving man.

    • Heather says:

      Hi Kimberly. I believe it’s your first time commenting so just want to say welcome! And I love your goal. I think we all want to give our children what we lacked and needed most. I know that has been the source of many of my parenting choices.

  14. Des says:

    as my daughter is getting older, even at 3, the times where she crawls into my lap to “talk” has grown less. She used to spend most of the day lounging around by me, bringing her toys where ever I was, but that’s growing less as she plays in her room or with her cousins. But it was just a few weeks ago that I had one of those “ahah!” moments and realized that, wow, those times where we have our kids UNDIVIDED attention really is short. So my goal is to steal those moments every day, drag my kids on to my lap if I have to, and connect just me and them.

    • Heather says:

      Thanks for the heads up, Destiny! I hadn’t realized it would go by that fast. I’ll appreciate my cuddle time with Katie a little more now.

  15. Linda says:

    One of our biggest parenting goals is to have our 2 boys trust us. We want them to be able to come to us with any problem or any triumph. My husband was never able to talk to his Dad because he always feared that he would be judged for anything that he did. And my Mom was never someone that I could talk to about embarassing things or problems that I was having in school, etc. As we have grown, I notice that my husband and I still don’t go to our parents for much. And I don’t want our boys to feel the same way about us.

  16. Heather says:

    Linda – My mom was exactly the kind of parent you have made it your goal to be, and I can say firsthand it made all the difference. What a beautiful goal.

  17. Mae says:

    Our goal is the same as Esther’s! being on the opposite of that, as well as living the opposite has really convicted us that teaching Lily and her little brother/sister is not even an option.
    We also say something very often around our house that we hope our children will be able to fully grasp one day; “Love God, Live Simply”

  18. Whittney says:

    Well, here’s a sampling of Avery’s box: the first outfit she wore, first boarding pass, her umbilical cord clamp, the little hat she wore after her birth, her positive pregnancy test stick, her birth announcement, the invitations to her baby showers, a stamp with her face on it that my dad made on, her cabbage patch doll birth certificate, a shutterfly photo book I made to document her first birthday party, a pretty cake topper that was on one of her baby shower cakes, some curls from her first haircut, the birthday party invitations I sent out for her parties, cards from family members she gets in the mail, her first coloring page, anything sweet she makes at church, a picture with Santa, and random sticky notes that say things like “Repeated “eyes” several times – 5/7/09.”

    Can you tell I pulled out the box to reminisce while I typed this list? :)

    • Heather says:

      Wow, I think I’m going to copy you on this. I have kept a lot of the same things as you but they are scattered in different boxes.

  19. Heather Ivers says:

    Hi Heather!

    One of my parenting goals is for Max to always know that I love him, unconditionally. I think everything else will pretty much follow after that. :)

  20. Christina says:

    Just one parenting goal? Eek.. That is a tough decision because there are so many that I feel you can not have without others. I guess the biggest one I would want to display to my children is unselfishness. You cannot have unconditional love, mercy, compassion or a giving spirit with selfishness in the way. If someone is truly unselfish, the other admirable traits will fall into place, usually. I struggle with this daily, but pray that my girls see me trying to put others first. One of the biggest character traits that stand out in those I most admire is a servants heart!

  21. Carrie says:

    Great post! I have suffered from depression on and off for years, and I tend to be a bit jaded and cynical. I do not want this for my children. All of my parenting choices have been based on trying to counter my kids’ genetic tendency towards depression. I am striving to be a more positive person!

  22. Aptitude or Attitude? What Motherhood is Really About « The Mommypotamus says:

    […] vision and purpose make all the difference in how things turn out. That’s why one of my all-time favorite parenting books is not a book about techniques or telling you what kind of children to raise. It’s a book […]

  23. Emily Van Horn via FB says:

    Beautiful Heather, thanks for sharing!

  24. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    Love that book! Sometimes when I need a pep talk I pick it up and read a few paragraphs – never fails to inspire!

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