I have said I would never write a book on parenting do's and dont's but that if I wrote a book it would be a book of stories. I would tell stories of a person who is growing, learning and changing. Stories about a mom who didn't know what she was doing at the start of parenting and after over 22 years of mom-ing is even less sure of herself but in an even more honest way than when she began.
My oldest son came back from his first quarter in university with his ears pierced. He had told us that he was going to do that earlier, but until he did I wasn't sure it was going to happen. In fact I think I had hoped that it wouldn't. When he finally got the courage to call me and tell me he got his ears pierced I think I wasn't in the headspace to comprehend the things in his ears. I think I had always wondered what I would do in this moment, I wouldn't agree with his decision but wouldn't know why I didn't agree. Responding calmly to these moments haven't always been my strength. To use Enneagram language in stress I can "go all 8 on my kids!" My husband just shrugged his shoulders when our son told him that he wanted to get one ear pierced and said nonchalantly, why don't you get both done at the same time? Why does he get the prize for good parenting in the moments? I am happy to say that I recovered though before he came home at Christmas and soon the earrings were a forgotten thing and there were other things to worry about.
A few people around me began to express their concern. What would push him to do this? Is he walking with Jesus? It seems like that is a rebellious act. Oh, yes. In the world of parenting it's not just your children and your spouse you have to think about, you have other people around you. Your community. The people that I shouldn't care as much what they think but I overcare, if I'm honest. I mean I needn't be flippant about other's opinions and thoughts, but I shouldn't let others' thoughts have so much power over my own. If he got his ears pierced then it means that there's something wrong with me. I haven't been a good parent. Shame on you, Jenn. And as one who identifies as an Enneagram 2, my life has been all about others. In the very best and in the very worst ways. It is now clear to me that the problem lies not in the choices my son makes, but it is my concern over what others think that bothers me. I am happy to announce that soon after that he got a ear cuff, and then a nose ring last summer. And son #2 followed suit the year after that. Seriously. And it didn't bother me this time. While these are just small stories that have little to do with my kids, they have more to do with my responses and the growth that God invites me to through each story. Suzanne Stabile says, that we cannot necessarily change how we see things but we can change what we do with how we see things. I'm still mulling that one over.
My growth journey has happened because of many things, but one of the most important contexts in which it has happened is in parenting. If I were to describe my parenting journey I will liken it to hiking through a dense forest and up a very steep mountain. Excited, you begin the journey with all the gear you think you need. After all, you have been preparing for some time now. But as you begin your ascent you realize that you might have forgotten something and it is really too late to turn back. Sometimes you're just whacking away at the brush and hoping to find a clearing. Suddenly, you're hit in the face by a branch because you weren't paying attention to where you were going. Other times you come out into an open space and you can breathe. Or you find yourself camped out next to a stream and you sleep. The darkness at night brings the threat of wild animals and the imaginary animals that your mind creates. The noises of the forest can be unsettling. There is a distinct aloneness and a distinct togetherness in this journey. At times you're just rushing to get through to the next landmark for you know where you are going. And then there are many other times when you're clearly lost and it seems no compass can see you out of this place. The forest can feel like a wilderness.
The journey is an arduous one, it's definitely not for the faint of heart. Right after after my son was born, an elderly stranger passed me in the grocery store and smiled and said, "bless your heart." What she meant in this three word statement is, "sweetheart you have no idea what you have just gotten into. Bless you, sweetie for bringing one of these little ones into the world. I hope you make it...." I wish I had had the sense to grab the lady by the arm and say, you're right. I have no idea. Help me, please!
I am not finished with the journey, but I am seeing a clearing. I have a 22 year old son who is getting married in June. Married. I can hardly believe it. My 19 year old is in his first year at university and we're learning how to be a parent and a friend across the miles. My daughter is graduating from high school this May and my grip of her tender hand is loosening and I'm releasing her into another season. My youngest is 15 and just went to his first dance. I'm literally freaking out.
I have been studying the enneagram for about 15 years, but more intensely the past five years. The enneagram has been a sacred road map for my soul as Christopher Huertz puts it. It has been a way for me to understand how I get lost and how I find my way home to God. It's present tense, because I get lost so quickly in my day and yet my awareness of that is growing so I can more quickly find my way back to God's presence. It has allowed me to understand myself better and is giving me a way to love better and live more fully. But the journey is work. And we have to do the work.