The One Rule Of Parenting That Changed Everything

You guys, it happened. On Tuesday, I took the walk of shame through Target. Long story short, my son wanted a toy. And because his birthday was the very next day, I did not buy him the toy. Some nerve I have. 

And I paid the price in the form of the loudest tantrum I’ve ever experienced. We are talking abandon the cart in the aisle and get to the car as fast as possible level of tantrum. Screams so loud the other patrons stare in disbelief. The eyes of judgement were upon me as I trekked from the very back of the store…

Side note: Target Corporate, if you read this (because I know you do), would you mind relocating your toy department to a separate building altogether…so we moms can either completely avoid the agents of tears…or when perusing the toy aisle becomes a necessity, the screams of horror when a toddler is told no can be saved for the small population of toy shoppers.

Also, we need to talk about the crap you put ever so lovingly at children’s eye levels in the checkout lanes. But I digress…

The really awesome part about this particular Target is that it has two stories. So I had the rare privilege of carrying a much too large screaming child through not one, but TWO, levels of concrete hell.

This was not my first time at this rodeoThough I’d be perfectly fine if it were my last.

It’s been about eight years since I last took a walk of shame.
But something was drastically different this time.
My oldest son (who once caused me a pool of tears in Target) and I couldn’t contain our laughter as we sat in the car with the still screaming three year old.

Because what could have been the most embarrassing moment of my week (month?) barely affected me.

Eight years ago, this same event was my undoing.

But my parenting rules have changed a lot since then.

I used to think that the quality of my parenting determined everything. If I followed the rules, my children would obey me. If I followed a schedule, my children would be healthy. If I did everything right, my children would turn out ok.

And if I’ve learned anything in the last ten years, it’s the A + B does not equal C.

I have seen amazing parents raise a child who makes terrible choices.
I have seen terrible parents raise an unexplainably amazing child.

And, if I can be honest, that’s really messed with me. Obviously, I hope I raise incredible children, children who become faithful and loving spouses, children who change the world, children who find solutions to problems, children who make a difference in their spheres of influence, children who leave the world better than they found it.

And I do everything I can to make that possible.

But I can’t make it happen. I don’t get to choose who they become.

When I came to that sobering realization, the rules of parenting changed for me.

I used to have an unwritten list I followed that I was just sure would produce the adults I hope my children become. But now, knowing what I know, I have one simple rule:

Love well.

You can ascribe to any parenting philosophy you want. You can be permissive. You can be strict. You can spank. Or not. You can have an easy child or a strong-willed one. You can be consistent. Or not. You can breastfeed til they’re 5. Or bottle feed from birth.

But I have news for you…which might burst your bubble…or possibly set you free…

It doesn’t actually matter.

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Different kids require different things. What works for one won’t work for the other. And you may find out down the road that what you thought worked didn’t actually work. And what didn’t seem to work actually did. It’s exhausting to think about.

No one likes to admit that none of us actually know what we are doing, and it’s basically a crap shoot how our children turn out.

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Yes, there’s always a caveat.

Unless you choose to love well. Because love makes up for it all.

Because if you love your child well, then you can work out any issues along the way.
Their failings won’t become your undoing. 
If your child knows your love, they will know you’re there when life gets hard.
If they know your love, they will laugh at your mistakes when they’re grown.
A well-loved child will not do everything right, but they will know they’re always welcome back at home. Even if that homecoming is a long, hard journey back.

You will fail every day of your child’s life. You will say something you don’t mean. You will be short-tempered. You will be frustrated. You will roll your eyes. You will overreact. Or underreact. You will be the worst version of yourself from time to time.

And love covers it all. Thank goodness.

We live in a weird time where raising kids is harder than ever before. Social media and the media have caused us to feel inadequate and powerless in unprecedented ways. We feel the weight of tragedy around the world but helpless to actually make an impact. And in our soul, we grieve the world our kids are growing up in. Even though research proves our world is safer and healthier than ever before, it doesn’t feel that way.

And this is where love matters more than ever.

The Internet is very noisy. And people’s opinions are very loud. It is hard to feel confident as a mom. It’s hard to know if what you’re doing matters. It’s hard to do a job that is so gosh dang hard and gives very little affirmation in return. It’s hard to make the walk of shame through Target and still believe I am doing this thing well.

Do the best you can. Give every ounce of effort you have to raising awesome kids. Teach them. Correct them. Guide them.

And when it’s impossible to know if any of it is actually working, just love them.

Because love is the greatest of all.

And you may be failing in every other area, but I know you are nailing love.
Because I’ve never met a mama who doesn’t love her child fiercely.

You know I am all about camaraderie around here. Tell me your story about a walk of shame to help me feel better about mine.






5 thoughts on “The One Rule Of Parenting That Changed Everything

  1. What about the time school called me to come and get my son because he was comparing private parts with another child? Or the time school called me to tell me my other son had peed on someone elses’ football pads? ( I might add, he was old enough to drive when this happened….) I could go on but then I remember when:
    school called my mom when I just sat there and refused to answer any questions on my history test because I hated my teacher. Or when school called because I had taped sex ed and planned to sell it to the boys who were in their own sex ed class. Or when the youth pastor called my mom and told her that one of us (thank God it wasn’t me) wasn’t in our room when they checked at lights out but in his girlfriend’s room.
    We all did stupid stupid stuff. Some of it has consequences that resonate to this day, others are merely stories we tell at Thanksgiving. I think I turned out okay — a little rough in some spots — and I am hopeful that my sons will as well.
    Love your writing. How comforting you are. Thank you.


  2. I found this at the perfect time. I’ll be forwarding it to my sister-in-law whose 19 year old child is intent on learning each and every life lesson the hard way. It has left her with nothing to think but, “Where did I go wrong?”. I think the hardest part of parenting is knowing that you can only do so much and the rest is up to them. Thanks for sharing.


  3. My mantra is my child has never had a mother before. He has no preconceived notions on how I should raise him. Basically he doesn’t know I’m winging it. I haven’t had a walk of shame (yet) but I have had a few instances of a bodily fluid discharge in public which is just as embarrassing.


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