Parenting styles differ from country to country in the same way they change from one generation to the next (my mom was told formula was better for babies than breast milk!). Here in Croatia my parenting habits are often greeted with odd looks and questions. “Sometimes, we just look at your kids in the yard dressed lightly and rolling on the ground…” our neighbors once commented. Translated, that means “they’re not wrapped up in 5 layers of clothing on a springy day” and that we don’t freak out if they choose to roll down a little hill in our yard and get dirty.
My Croatian friends are also shocked that I let my kid pick up the apple that dropped on the floor a minute ago and put it in his mouth and that they walk around without slippers or with wet hair. In the states my friend was shocked that my youngest was on cow’s milk well before her first birthday, that I do just fine without many of the ‘must have’ baby products and that I use an attachment to a household vacuum to suck out snot from my kids stuffy noses (best baby product ever!).
I too often obsess about my parenting habits. I read. I compare. But I need to remind myself that much of what I’m doing on an every day basis is not necessarily right or wrong and that in the end most of it really doesn’t matter. I’m not saying that teaching good eating habits, schedules or being wise with entertainment are not important parts of a child’s upbringing. Of course those things have some influence over the well being and future of my child.
However, there is something so much more important than any of those things that I spend too much energy thinking about - their heart. What matters for their future and what will truly make all the difference is whether or not I’m pointing them to Christ. Their eating habits very well might change, just like their interests, and their daily routines. But through all that, I hope to plant a seed in their hearts of wanting more of Jesus. That is the one thing that doesn’t change with time. Easier said than done though.
Just like in my own life, I get so carried away with the small things I forget the most important thing. In the same way I need to keep refocusing my thoughts and priorities, I need to be doing the same for my children. Move through the fog of the everyday questions and concerns so I can more faithfully and consistently point them back to Him.
***Petra is a Croatian who went to college (and some of high school) in the US. She married a great American guy named Jeremy, and now they live in Croatia with their three kids (almost four!). They are missionaries who work with the church there doing camps, youth work, baseball ministry . . . and a whole lot of other stuff! You can follow along on their ministry journey at http://bohallministry.blogspot.com or visit her husband, Jeremy's blog at http://cultureshock-jeremy.blogspot.com