You know where you’re trying to go. You thought you were on the road that would get you there, but suddenly everything looks wrong and your intuition is confirmed when the know-it-all voice of the GPS on your dashboard barks, “RECALIBRATING!” You took a wrong turn and the lady inside your GPS is frantically trying to get you back on track.
For a blogger, I have surprising Luddite tendencies. I like books with real binding and ink. I prefer paper maps that I can unfold and study so I know just what to expect on a drive, exactly what road I’ll be on for every leg of the trip. With the dawn of the GPS, I feel like I’m at the mercy of the device on my dashboard. I have to trustingly take it one step at a time, following the bossy lady’s voice to know where to turn.
Sometimes I feel the same way about parenting. I know where I want to go. I know my destination. But I’m always getting lost on the way. And there are no maps I can unfold and meticulously follow. We’re only given the very next step to take. I think I’m on the right road and then suddenly, whatever approach we were taking isn’t cutting it anymore. Something’s off and we have to find our way back.
You’d think that after three kids, I’d feel like I had a good handle on the parenting roadmap. I don’t. But I’ve noticed something that encourages me that I won’t be permanently lost in the parenting wilderness somewhere. With each passing year, I’m getting a better sense of when I’ve lost the way, when it’s just not clicking. When I need a fresh approach. It doesn’t take as many days of feeling like I’m hitting a wall before my inner parenting GPS shouts, “RECALIBRATE!” It was working. But now it’s not.
It happens so quickly–wandering off of the path. But instead of depairing, it’s a chance to re-evaluate and march right back to the road.
Maybe it’s not firmer discipline, but more sleep that the preschooler is really needing. Time to re-instate a long afternoon nap time. Maybe the problem with those conflicts over a messy kids’ room isn’t because they’re uncooperative, but because they’re overwhelmed with too many toys. Time to do a big toy purge so the task is manageable for a toddler and a 5-year-old. And maybe we’ve been letting that back talk go undisciplined too long and some consistent reminders are needed. I can take each wrong turn as a parenting failure, or I can step up and say, “Recalibrate, mama!”
I’m not going to get it right every time, as much as I wish I could. But instead of beating myself up about it, I can refuse to get discouraged and instead, look around, re-evaluate, and make a new plan.
I know where I want to go: I want to raise kids that know they are loved and who are loving. Who seek truth and justice. Who love beauty and goodness. I know the far-off destination. But I also know it will take many detours to get there.
Image via flickr from JFXie (text added)