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Parenting Guide Sheets
6. Painting the Picture

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Page 6A
Introduction to this Page

The last page had a rather serious and heavy feeling to it, as we faced the difficulties of the earliest months. We will soon be moving on into practicalities of raising our children, but in the light of that last page, we want to once more paint a picture of the potential of parenthood.

Sometimes it will be tough, but overall there is a tremendous potential and to help you regain any lost motivation, we want to paint that picture once more. We are going right back and start all over again, in one sense. Don’t skip this page because our intention is that it will reinforce you in your resolve to work to become a great parent.

1. Pictures from the Past
2. The Difficulty of Painting a Picture
3. Grab the Day
4. Look Forward
5. Recap
1. Pictures from the Past
I've never come across any book that paints a picture of what parenting could achieve. As a result I think most people become parents without any vision of what they could achieve as parents. Many of us, if we do think about what we're aiming for, have in mind our own parents, and what we know of parenting through them.

There is a problem with this however: all parents are imperfect! None of us ever get it all right and our parents certainly didn't, however good they were. So we come into parenting with our minds full of our past experiences which, for some of us, were bad! So we resolve not to be like that! Our parenting will be a knee-jerk reaction to what we saw with our parents which we didn't like.

For others of us, we have good images from the past, from our good upbringing and we want to impose them into the present, without realising that our partner may not have had the same upbringing and may be struggling with their history.
Of course it is quite possible we've never consciously thought about it, and so each day comes as a surprise and the thing about surprises is that we're not prepared and therefore get caught out and don't handle them as well as we might.

2. The Difficulty of Painting a Picture

The problem with trying to create a vision ourselves, is that we haven't been there yet and so we're going to have to rely upon other people and there aren't too many good examples.
In 1975 writer and wife of philosopher Francis Schaeffer, Edith Schaeffer, wrote the book, “What is a Family?” a creative approach to the various facets or goals of a family, possibly the nearest thing to creating a vision for family potential that I've come across.

The following are the titles of the chapters of that book and a little of what those titles suggest, although this no way covers the rich diversity of the things she speaks about:

1. A Changing Life Mobile
- a growing and constantly changing group of people
2. An Ecologically Balanced Environment
- a unity of imperfect people who nevertheless form an environment for growth
3. The Birthplace of Creativity
- a place of choice, development, creativity, appreciation for all ages
4. A Formation Centre for Human Relationships
- a place where we learn to interact harmoniously
5. A Shelter in the Time of Storm
- a place of security where we learn to cope well with the knocks of life
6. A Perpetual Relay of Truth
-  a place where wisdom and experience are passed on from generation to generation
7. An Economic Unit
- a place of learning to control choice of spending wisely
8. An Educational Control
-  a place to oversee and ensure good and varied learning by the next generation
9. A Museum of Memories
-  a place where life is lived and memories are created that strengthen stability
10. A Door that has Hinges and a Lock
-  a place of hospitality but also security where it is possible to draw away from the world
11. Blended Balances
-  a place of variety, order, dependence and independence, and accountability within relationships.

The parenting material that we are using on these pages and as stated on Page 3 had as a goal, “to raise a happy, healthy, confident, co-operative, responsible child who develops into rounded maturity”

Although we consider this a good goal, it is very limited and doesn't pick up on all of the wonderful areas of family life that Edith Schaeffer referred to. We won’t be covering all the things she did because there is so much of it; we’re just going to give you basics, but you may like to think about her headings and reflect on what your parenting experience could also include in addition to what you find on these pages.

3. Grab the Day

Carpe diem, which is the Latin for "seize the day”, crops up all over the world as a cry to grab the moment and not lose it. The Roman stoic philosopher, Seneca in his ‘Shortness of Life' wrote, “Everyone hustles his life along, and is troubled by a longing for the future and weariness of the present.”

No more true is this than in parenting and so, before we move on with this idea of having a vision for parenting, let's suggest some safeguards.

‘Having a vision' seems to suggest constantly looking to the future and therein is our danger.

The most important day of your life is today; you can never repeat it. When I look back on my life, one of my biggest regrets is that I didn't spend more time with my children.

Given that some surveys say that busy working fathers average only about four minutes a day with their child, I'm perhaps not unusual. The objective is not to spend every available moment with your children (they wouldn't want it!) but simply to manufacture meaningful moments that make magical memories (6 m's!)
Having a vision means you can do things today, either with the objective of working towards something else good tomorrow, or simply doing good things today as an expression of the vision you had which is being worked out NOW.
And while we're at it, don't lose the past!  If one of my regrets is not spending more time in the past with my children, another regret is that I have a terrible memory. My wife can give a blow by blow account of how each of our three were born, and I say, “They were born?”
There is an American fashion hobby that is starting to boost the economy of the UK - scrap-booking!   Now that form of scrap-booking is an art form and some of us think that is beyond us, but actually creating a simple scrap book (or ten!) over the year or years, is within the reach of all of us. It helps us hold onto the memories.
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