raiseTo Guide or to Raise, that is the Question

I used to think that my husband and I would ‘raise’ our children. As if they had tender shoots and fragile roots and would produce a crop one day. We took a parenting class. I read books and prayed a lot. I learned to mean what I said, and not make threats I didn’t want to carry out.

Parenting did not come easy for me. Raising kids required much more than weeding and watering a tomato plant.

They say you should have your end goal in mind before you start something. I don’t excel at this concept. I had a vague idea that we would have children and they’d ‘turn out all right,’ but I never thought of all those hard steps in between.

Parenting should not be undertaken by the faint of heart or the faint of faith. It involves blood, vomit, blow-outs, endless questions, boredom, innocent wisdom, belly laughter, lasting memories, family legends, and friendship.

Along the way, I learned that one does not really ‘raise’ children. One becomes a guide. To raise implies that one will define the course and the outcome. People raise cows, pigs, chickens, and crops. The calf turns into a cow, the piglet into a pig, the chick into a chick and the seeds into a crop.

People raise cows, chickens, and crops--not kids. Click To Tweet

Kids, on the other hand, turn into adults—able to think, act, react, choose, and disappoint all on their own. The myriad variables that go into their lives could each cause a different outcome based on genetic makeup, generational trauma, or a host of other factors.

The only surety is that they will grow up.

I Gave Up on Believing I Could Raise My Kids

I learned that I couldn't raise children. But I could guide them. http://wp.me/p7W1vk-hGI stopped raising my kids a long time ago. Life got in the way of my grand plans to have perfectly behaved children that everyone loved (ok, I think they behaved perfectly and everyone DID love them).

Instead, we tried to guide them. I had to realize that their choices belonged to them (along with the consequences of their choices). I learned to let them make mistakes and fail in epic ways (not easy for this natural helicopter). Shoplifting? Yep. My girls did that. Cheating on tests? That, too. Disrespecting adults? Absolutely.

The older I get, the more I realize our girls had a bunch of blind guides. What we thought we knew in our twenties didn’t amount to much. The wisdom of our thirties and forties has morphed into the reality of our fifties. We made mistakes.

But the journey has taught me two things. One, parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever take on, so don’t forget to pray without ceasing. Two, the rewards of all that hard work outweigh any of the stress (and distress) I may have experienced in the past.

I can’t think of anyone I would rather hang out with than our daughters. They know me and they still love me. We share a wacky sense of humor and can talk for hours. We can also read for hours in the same room (nerd nights—an Ojeda family tradition).

So, while I failed to raise our girls, I count myself lucky because I got to act as their guide until we became friends.

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22 Comments

  1. “Parenting should not be undertaken by the faint of heart or the faint of faith. ” Isn’t that the truth! This post was so encouraging and provided some much needed perspective to me this week. I hope that I’ll enjoy my kids as they grow older as much as you enjoy yours.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to your daughters…and how you sine, Anita, as a mother. Wish you had been mine.

    We don’t have kids (B needed a hysterectomy when she was young, as the result of an industrial accident), and that is probably a blessing.

    B would make a good mom, but as for me…do you remember that Kurt Russell film, “Captain Ron”?

    “Hey, kind, d*** it, get your own brewski!”

  3. But the journey has taught me two things. One, parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever take on, so don’t forget to pray without ceasing. Two, the rewards of all that hard work outweigh any of the stress (and distress) I may have experienced in the past.

    AMEN! I often tell people I had little to do with my children being such neat kids…it’s all prayer and God and not necessarily in that order. I also know that we’re not done yet. These next years have the ability to be some of the hardest for them.

    I like your words today Anita! Good stuff! I wish more parents had this perspective. Freebirding and/or forcing obedience just doesn’t work. I could say more, but I’ll refrain…
    Christy recently posted…Facebook Profile Picture PostMy Profile

  4. Beautiful post! Guides rather than raisers..l think that’s so important to remember. I’m in the 50 spot this week.

  5. “The wisdom of our thirties and forties has morphed into the reality of our fifties. We made mistakes.”

    Oh, my… How true. Thankfully my daughters usually give me grace for my past mistakes—and I give them grace for the disappointments that occasionally come with their adult choices. 🙂 Even our adult children are still watching, so let’s continue to guide prayerfully! Great food for thought.

  6. Thank you for your honesty and for offering encouragement to all who are currently parenting and those who have – like me. So many mistakes in trying to “raise” sons. Guide yes, and now that they are grown, they are some of my favorite people on the planet.
    I’m glad you wrote it out loud. “Parenting should not be undertaken by the faint of heart or the faint of faith. It involves blood, vomit, blow-outs, endless questions, boredom, innocent wisdom, belly laughter, lasting memories, family legends, and friendship.”
    Bless you!
    Lisa Brittain recently posted…FMF: {guide}My Profile

  7. i love that distinction between raising and guiding children. i can identify with many of your attitudes in your 20’s and following. we had girls too. they were fun much of the time:) thanks for a great post!

  8. Anita, your candor and wisdom always bless my heart! And we are blessed with our kids forgive, forget, or overlook our “misguided” intentions. I hope lots of young moms (especially the control freaks, like me) will read and glean from your experiences.

  9. Parenting may not have come easy but you’re a wonderful one. And this is exactly what I needed to read today! Thank you!

  10. Anita, I absolutely love this post. As I have grown in mothering, I’m realizing that my kids’ choices do not reflect my mothering skills (or lack of). They reflect two boys growing into manhood one decision (good or bad) at a time. When they mess up I remind myself, “They are in training.” It’s hard not to helicopter parent them. It’s hard to know when they are ready for the next level of trust. But, as they grow, Hubs and I are growing with them.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom!
    Jeanne Takenaka recently posted…Beauty: How Do You Define Beauty?My Profile

  11. Anita- I love the honesty here. The idea of a guide is much easier for me to embrace. I’m not very good at the raising thing…no green thumb and my 19 chickens met an early death from wild predators.

    I’m hopeful that someday my kids will have a great relationship with my husband and I regardless of all the mistakes we’ve made along the way 🙂

  12. Anita, such a refreshing perspective! As a guide, we try to show them the way that is in their best interest. But, our children, lacking life experience, often think there is a different way-maybe a shortcut. Once they realize their error, we keep trying to steer them back on the trail and hope that, with time, they will develop more trust in their guide.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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