September 8, 2011

Sponges

It goes without saying that my parents were very instrumental in my life-they were my parents after all. They had an enormous impact on me simply because they existed. I learned so much just by listening to them and observing how they lived.

I've recently finished tweaking their scrapbooks-every picture I own of each of them is now carefully protected, organized, and sort-of labeled, never again to be jumbled up in ratty old shoe boxes.

I had a lump in my throat the whole time I was working on those scrapbooks-especially my dad's. There were times when I had to stop, cry, wait a few days, begin again. So many memories, and wishes for memories that will never be....

As I worked on their scrapbooks I naturally thought about their lives. They both lived into their 70's but I know so little about them. Just tiny snatches of their stories have been handed down. One thing I've never told you is that I have royal blood flowing through my veins. Yep, it's true. My grandmother was the illegitimate daughter of a German Baron. (Is that something to be proud of? I must admit I am.)

Anyway-there are a few other things I know about my parents. They were strong and determined people. (That couldn't be helped. Dad was 100% Italian, Mom 100% German.) They were generous and funny, creative and practical.

One time I called my dad, feeling "just slightly" out of sorts. "Dad, the place where I'm living has been labeled a cult! What should I do? Should I leave?!"
"Jude, are they hurting you?"
"No."
"Are they jeopardizing your faith?"
"No."
"How long before you're scheduled to leave?"
"Three months Dad!"
"Oh just stick it out. You could stand on your head and spit nickles for that long."

See what I mean? Practical.

When I think about mom and dad, I don't recall noticing any deliberate parenting. They just were and their kids could take it or leave it. As far as I could tell, they didn't have a parenting game plan. I never discovered a spread sheet with step by step goals for each kid carefully charted out.

On the other hand, Mike and I have worked very hard at being "deliberate" parents. Each year we sat down and wrote out the goals we had for each of the boys and then we'd discuss the steps necessary to accomplish those goals.

A few years ago, knowing our sons would soon be old enough to date and marry, I read a book on courtship. That book was impractical, and had some crazy ideas in it that no one I know would ever consider trying. Take this one example for example: When your son finds a girl he wishes to marry he needs to switch homes with her for one year. Meaning, your son moves in with his future in-laws for a year, and that girl moves in with you for the same length of time. They listed many reasons for this, one being to observe the new family.

My point in telling you that is this: can you imagine having a stranger move into your home for the sole purpose of observing you? Of watching how you live and what you do with your time and how you react to things? Being there through all the stresses of a year to see what you'll do with them? Would you change your behavior? Could you fake it for that long? Would you need to or want to?

That's sort of what parenting is like. God puts a tiny stranger in your home to raise, not just for a year, but for 18 years, or more. That baby lives with you, observing you, watching how you live and what you do with your time. Soaking up, like a sponge, who you are. That little person learns how to deal with life and stress and everything by your example. Having goals is a good thing, but not the only thing. It's a scary thought, isn't it?

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