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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spirit Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year

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I met my friend Megan Tietz in mid-summer 2007, when our elder children (both daughters) were still toddlers, and have loved sharing with this genuine, loving, talented lady all of the joy and confusion inherent in mothering your first child. We've both gone on to add second kids to our families, and Megan subsequently labored to deliver one more -- the beautiful book I want to share with you today.

Co-authored with fellow mom and writer, Laura Oyer, Spirit Led Parenting is truly Megan's labor of love. Spirit-Led Parenting is not a prescribed set of practices that govern the care of a new baby, nor is it a series of mandates loosely based on Scripture. Instead, it is a mind-set, a way of living, and an attitude of the soul that seeks the heart of God rather than the wisdom of man.

After devouring the book in an afternoon, I was excited to talk with Megan about how this mind-set applies to parenting kids beyond their babyhood. I'm so happy to be able share our conversation with you.

Me:  So Megan, I DEVOURED Sprit-Led Parenting in a few hours, and immediately wanted to have another baby, or to make my babies tiny again and start over with them (well, almost). The philosophy you and Laura share, your stories of redemption after realizing you could shake off the shackles of convention and parent in FREEDOM, and the really spiritual partnerships you were able to form with not only your husbands but your babies themselves, leave me longing for a way to apply spirit-led parenting in my family's life NOW. I know you have two beautiful daughters very close in ages to Bean and Peabody, and I would love to hear how what you learned in Dacey's first year has shaped your and Kyle's approach to parenting her and AJ as they've grown into toddlerhood and their school years.    

Author Megan Tietz:  Thank you so much for the kind words on the book, Megan. If I'm being honest, I came down with a really bad case of Baby Fever as I wrote my parts of the book. Those squishy, cuddly, gummy-smile days of babyhood are so enchanting!

Laura and I both believe that the concept of spirit-led parenting absolutely applies beyond infancy. In fact, in some ways it becomes even more applicable as a child's personality develops. The approach to parenting that works wonderfully for one child  may be completely ineffective for another child, and so as parents, the journey continues as we seek God's heart on how to raise confident, disciplined, healthy, and successful people.

Because parenting books caused me so much pain and heartache when Dacey was a baby, I find that I don't read many parenting resources with prescriptive instructions. Filling my head with too much "As a parent, you must" and "your child should" caused me so much distress in my earliest months of parenting that I tend to avoid those kinds of resources even today. In the heat of a parenting moment, I don't need a mental playback of what the experts say I should do; I need to hear what the Spirit of God is saying.

Here's one example of how that has played out: Dacey, my oldest, was going through a phase of having some major meltdowns when things didn't go her way. I think she was four and a half or so at the time. I was at a complete loss as to what to do and how to respond to her out-of-control emotions. I remember one afternoon, she was in the midst of a meltdown and I had carried her to her room. She was wailing and thrashing and just could not get a hold of herself, and predictably, my own emotions were becoming more and more intense.

I closed the door to her room and sat outside to calm myself down, and I remember just praying, "God! What do I DO?!" And with absolute clarity, I heard Him say to my heart, "How do I parent you when you are melting down?" I thought about the number of times that even as an adult, I've thrown myself on my bed in tears over an upsetting circumstance and how it was in those moments of anguish, I knew I could run to the safety of my Father's arms. He is always a safe place for me. I had to rely on Him to give me the strength to be a safe place for Dacey when she was overcome with emotion.

I guess that's the biggest thing I've learned from parenting to babies in a spirit-led way to parenting older children in a spirit-led way, that in the moment, you can't dig up a parenting book or run to the internet to see how you should handle a situation. But you can always, always, always ask for wisdom and God is faithful to supply it.

And can you tell me briefly about how you and Kyle work together as parents? 

This plays out differently for us a couple. We are quite different in our approaches to parenting, and to be honest, it has brought a lot of issues to the surface in our marriage that we have been forced to deal with in lots of honest conversation. He is a former football coach who is no-nonsense when it comes to parenting. I find it a little amusing that God sent him two daughters to soften him up a bit. He can get quite smooshy over them, even to this day. But he is much more efficiency-minded whereas I am much more relationship-minded.

We try to play to our strengths. Though coaching is no longer his profession, he is still a great coach. When they need to clean up their room, he turns it into a relay race game. When one of them is being particularly whiny or complain-y, he'll say "suck it up, buttercup!" and find a way to distract them. Because he doesn't get as emotionally entangled in a situation as I do, he is much more effective at playful parenting than I am. He'll get them laughing or make a game or act silly to get them back on track.

Kyle's a really great and really effective parent, but he also sees things as very black-and-white, whereas I tend to operate better in the gray. My strength is in helping them learn how to manage their Big Feelings, teaching them to make a repair to the relationship when one hurts the other, and settling the (constant) property disputes.

What have you done to resolve and move forward together if/when the two of you have conflicting views on a certain aspect of your girls' upbringing?


Of all of the issues we've worked through as a couple, no issue has caused more conflict than parenting choices. We come from very different places philosophically, so this has been an area of significant growth for us, and we are still very much in the trenches of finding common ground. In a lot of ways, the baby phase wasn't nearly as challenging as this preschool/elementary age is, but it has provided many opportunities to continue to seek after God individually and as a couple.

And so I suppose, as cheesy as it may sound, our heart is for us to be a spirit-led family. We want to be open to the movement of God in our hearts as we relate to one another in marriage as well as in parenting. We want to teach our children that they can trust God to give us all the wisdom, grace, and strength we need in any circumstance. That, more than anything, is greatest redemption that God has brought to our rocky start to parenting. We learned early on and still find it to be true that the only expert we need is Him.

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Megan and Laura are heating up the interwebs with conversations about their philosophies and passion for showing new parents another way to care for their little ones on a bloggy tour de force at some of my favorite blogs (see links below).  If you'd like to hold freedom in your hands and read all of their wisdom, or share it with friends and family who are new parents or expecting precious bundles, you can find Spirit Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year on Amazon.com.


















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2 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you did this interview. I had similar thoughts as I read Spirt-Led Parenting. "How can I translate this into my parenting right now, even without an infant in my arms?" And this is really the answer: being led by the Holy Spirit, not by a manual. Loving our kids as individuals and listening to them and reflecting Jesus. It's just that simple and just that hard.

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  2. I have SO many friends who are pregnant right now -- some with their first, some with their second. And I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this book will be an invaluable resource to them AND TO ME!!

    (I want to read it rightnow.) :)

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