Monthly Archives: October 2011

Sobering

First day of school, 2009

 

I remember the day that parenting changed.

It was a little over two years ago and I was in my front yard with some other ladies.  We had gathered together as homeschooling moms to have a picnic lunch and to let the kids get to know each other.  We stood in the grass chatting about various things and then all of a sudden, it hit me. I was astonished. Dumbfounded may have been more like it. I stood there in total disbelief as I realized the impossible had happened:

The ladies and I had been talking for almost 15 minutes and we had not been interrupted ONCE.

It was then that I realized that parenting had changed.  I was no longer just in the preschool years.  The “I-need-mommy-to-do-everything-for-me” years.  The changing diapers, filling sippy cups, and wiping snot years. The years where the main goal in parenting was just to keep them alive. Feed them. Dress them. Pray they sleep.  And keep them from climbing on any and all pieces of furniture.

I realized, in one moment of perplexed awe, that I was entering a new stage of parenting. I had done it!  I had kept the kids alive!  My two oldest were 5 and 6 and we were moving into a new stage of life. A stage of life where moms could talk for 15 minutes without being interrupted.

Since that day, though, I have realized that there were many more changes during the transition from preschool to elementary years than just the not being needed every 12.2 seconds thing.  And as I pondered the other changes that were happening right before my eyes, the weight of it all started to be felt.

Sure, I was moving out of the baby food, dressing babies, and Goodnight Moon phase (with at least some of my kids).  I was moving out of cutting chicken, kids eating paper, and “can you please put on my shoes?” But I was moving into something as well.  And that something was sobering.

It still is.

As young children begin to grow and mature, they become “easier” in some ways. I know that those of you who only have babies and toddlers are throwing a silent (or not-so-silent) party in your head right now.  I am sure that it is liberating to know that kids won’t always eat trash, kids won’t always color on walls, and you will—one day—actually be able to use the bathroom alone.  Go ahead and rejoice. But know this as well: the parenting game gets so much harder in other ways.  In other much more important ways. You see, it was sobering for me to realize that even though I had successfully kept their bodies alive through baby- and toddler-hood,  I now had to keep their hearts and souls alive through childhood and the teenage years.  

I now have an eight-year-old, a seven-year-old, and a five-year-old (as well as a three-year-old and a 7-month old.)  Those three older kids?  They are watching me. They are watching me and learning about life from me. As their main caregiver, their world-view and all that it entails are being shaped by my actions and the actions of the people (and programs!) I allow them to see.

  • They are learning about marriage from watching my marriage.
  • They are learning about diligence (or lack thereof) from watching me work.
  • They are learning about the important things in life by watching how I spend my time.
  • They are learning about how to speak about others by listening to my conversations.
  • They are learning about what to feed their hearts by watching what I read and what I watch.
  • They are learning about how to care for their body by watching what I put into mine.
  • They are learning about how to love God by watching me love God.
  • They are learning about how much the Bible should really affect their lives by watching me read it (or use it as a nightstand decoration).
  • They are learning about how to deal with money by watching me spend mine.
  • They are learning about joy by watching my attitudes (especially in the hard times).

Need  I go on?

Can you see why this realization was sobering? Is sobering?

The whole “do as I say and not as I do” just isn’t going to fly.

My faith and the whole of what I believe to be true and right is being put to the test.  My life is a demonstration of my beliefs. My kids watch my every move and they can’t be fooled.  A child can spot a hypocrite from miles away. In all their beautiful, innocent, and unreserved trust, they are looking to me to show them the way.  And from the bottom of my heart…from the bottom of my soul…I pray that I can boldly speak Paul’s words to my children:

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

Now excuse me while I go remove the bills of money from my seven-month-old’s mouth and the red marker out of her hand.

A Time To Say No

Yesterday, I talked about A Time to Say Yes.  I think that we as moms need to make sure to say yes, and to say it often.

However, there is also a time to say no. In fact, I say, no all the time. Saying no is important. This doesn’t contradict what I said yesterday.

When Should We Say No?

The short and easy answer?  Whenever saying yes to a request would be (potentially) harmful to the child.

“Can I cut the carrots myself?” (asked by a three-year-old).
If the request will harm their body, I say no.

“Is it okay if we watch this (inappropriate) movie?”
If the request will harm their minds, I say no.

“Can I play with _________?” (child who is known to be mean and/or disobedient)
If the request will harm their hearts, I say no.

“Can I paint my picture on the couch?”
If the request will harm property, I say no. 

“Can you tell Katie to stop playing with this. I want it!”
If the request encourages selfishness, I say no.

“Can I have ice cream now? (after refusing to eat dinner).”
If the request rewards disobedience, I say no.

“Can I just skip math today?”
If the request encourages/approves of laziness, I say no. 

“Can we just tell ________ we’re going out today?” (When we are not).
If the request makes light of God’s word, I say no.

“Get me some water.”
If the request is made in a disrespectful way, I say no (though usually I would say, “Can you please try that again?”)

“Can I PLEASE have a snack? (asked for the 3rd time,  20 minutes before dinner).
If the child doesn’t accept my answer and asks again, I say no.

Can you wake Bethany up so I can go into my room to get my toy?
If the request will harm another person (their body, heart, or mind), I say no.

 

Saying no to our children is as important as saying yes. In each case, our aim should be the child’s good (not necessarily our own). It isn’t always black and white. It isn’t always easy. Wisdom dictates which answer to choose.

 Lord, grant me the wisdom to say yes when I can, and no when I should.


A Time to Say Yes

I grabbed my socks and shoes and quietly put them on.

I look forward to my morning walks.  They are my time to think deeply and pray fervently.  When I am at home, prayer seems to get pushed aside for things like diaper changes, filling sippy cups, doing school, making meals, and the million other tasks that fill my day.  But when I get outside to walk, it is then that I can—at least for a few minutes—find quiet and resolve and a willing heart.

With my shoes on, I glanced quickly at the clock, hoping there would be time for some real conversation with God before I had to be back to feed the baby. “Ahh—only 6 am—there is an upside to this insomnia and getting up at 3am thing,” I thought.  As I popped my head into the living room to tell the other early risers that I was heading out, my seven-year-old in his space jammies looked at me expectantly and said, “Can I come?”

After a moment’s hesitation, I looked at his sweet face and said, “Sure, buddy. I’d love for you to come.”

I knew there would be no time for praying.  There would be no time for deep soul-searching.  There would be no time to gather my thoughts before another busy day. But I said yes. I said yes because I know that these moments are fleeting.  There will come a day (hopefully far from now!) when my son doesn’t want to be up at six in the morning and to go on a walk with his mom.  There will come a day when his most burning thoughts and questions won’t immediately spill out onto me—mom. There will come a day when holding my hand and talking about everything he sees won’t be the highlight of his day. But that time isn’t now, and so I said yes.

Twenty minutes of straight listening—listening to his thoughts on everything from the way people build houses to how much he loves our dog to his heart-felt thoughts about Curious George.  I got all of him.  And he got all of me.

I am glad I said yes.  I am glad I said yes to my son, to a walk, to him. This isn’t the first time I have said yes and been so thankful later…

… a quick shopping trip that doubled in length because a sweet little three-year-old wanted to help Mommy.

… a later-than-hoped-for bedtime because a beautiful eight-year-old wanted to read another chapter with me.

… an afternoon of work set aside because a five-year-old who speaks the love language of “Quality Time” wanted to play a game.

… emails that went unanswered because a baby wanted to sit on my lap, play with my necklace and make faces at me.

As parents, we need to say yes.  We need to say it often.  We need to say it even when we don’t want to, when it is inconvenient, and when there are other important things to do. When we say yes to our children’s requests, we are saying yes to them as a person.  We are saying, “I value your help. I value your company. I enjoy our time together. I love to be with you. You are more important to me than the dishes, the bills, or my time alone.

There is a time to say yes.

My son and I rounded the last corner of our walk and he said with relief, “I’m glad we’re home! I’m tired!”  Then I gave him a kiss, thanked him for joining me, and told him that I was going to take one more lap and that I would be home in a bit. And then, as I walked in silence, I got the prayer time I desired.  A prayer time in which I thanked God for the gift of my children and the time He presents me with every day to say “Yes!” to them.

Right Where I Want to Be

I am back from my impromptu trip to the States.  It was a good trip —filled with many thoughts, feelings, longings, dreams, heart-hopes and heartaches. It answered some questions and raised even more.  It wasn’t quite as restful as I had hoped, but that’s okay—I pretty much thrive on my heart and mind running a hundred miles an hour.  God is doing good things. God is doing big things.  I don’t know what it all will look like or what it all means, but I am excited. In the meantime, I am right where I want to be: at home with the people I love.

One of the biggest things I was reminded of while I was away is that the best gift I can give my children is the Gift of Me. No material possession, no adventurous experience, no gourmet meal, no stellar home-education and no well-thought-out child training can ever live up to just being with my kids. Just sitting next to them, listening to their stories, playing their games, reading their books, laughing at their antics, and breathing in the innocence and potential and purpose that just oozes from their every pore.  If something were to happen to me and today was all that they could remember, I can smile knowing that they would remember the books and the cuddles and the cookie baking and the spur-of-the-moment picnic on my bedroom floor (where the cool A/C blows strong!)

My children need me more than they need anything from me.

And I need God more that I need anything from God.

Funny how that works.

We Can’t Give What We Don’t Have

  • If we want our children to display love, they must see us being loving.
  • If we want our children to demonstrate joy, they must see us filled with joy.
  • If we want our children to experience feelings of peace, they must see us filled with peace.
  • If we want our children to have patience, they must see us having patience.
  • If we want our children to demonstrate kindness, they must see us being kind.
  • If we want our children to have goodness, they must see us being good.
  • If we want our children to be gentle, they must see us practicing gentleness.
  • If we want our children to be faithful, they must see us being faithful.
  • If we want our children to demonstrate self-control, they must see us practicing self-control.
  • If we want our children to be listen to us, they must see us listening to them.
  • If we want our children to tell us the truth, they must see us telling the truth.
  • If we want our children to be hard workers, they must see us working hard.
  • If we want our children to love learning, they must see us loving to learn.
  • If we want our children to serve others, they must see us serving others.
  • If we want our children to shun materialism, they must see us shun materialism.
  • If we want our children to make wise use of their time, they must see us making wise use of our time.
  • If want our children to spend money wisely, they must see us spending money wisely.
  • If we want our children to trust in God, they must see us trusting in God.
  • If we want our children to encourage others, they must see us encouraging others.
  • If we want our children to affirm others, they must see us affirm others.

We can’t give what we don’t have.

Or, a more recognizable form of the same idea, “Actions speak louder than words.”

We are fools to spend our time trying to teach our kids to display characteristics that they do not see in us. God’s grace towards our children is greater than our short-comings, but more often than not, a child will reproduce what they see in their parents. When I look at areas that I see my children struggling in, I can usually peek into my own life and find the reason. I have a lot of work to do.

I am thankful for God’s patience. I am thankful for His prodding.

She Works with Her Hands in Delight

 I just finished another month of reading through Proverbs.  A Proverb a day has a way of burning truth into my soul…a place that needs truth desperately. Since September only has 30 days, on Friday I read both Proverbs 30 and 31. I always brace myself a bit when I prepare to read Proverbs 31 as it seems a little like having a job evaluation.  Thoughts such as, “Excellent progress” or “Performance needs improvement” float freely through my mind. I read carefully, wondering what thoughts would fill my mind that morning. And then I read words that stung:

“[She] works with her hands in delight.”

The NIV says, “She works with eager hands.” I stopped right there. How could I really go on? It is hard to move forward when words like “delight” and “eager” are supposed to describe what I do. My mind quickly replayed the many instances that I did my work (whether it be cooking dinner, filling water cups, putting little people to bed, cleaning up messes or settling a sibling dispute) with anything but delight.

I love my role as a wife and mother.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I don’t wish the days away, dream of when my kids “get older” or long to be out in the work force “doing something important.” I truly believe I am doing the most important thing I could ever do.  I truly believe that mothers who are fully committed to their role and embrace it as a calling from God can change the world. I don’t wish I were somewhere else.

However, this doesn’t mean I find each and every day or each and every task joy-producing.  I grumble (often inward, sometimes outward) about what I have to do.  I think to myself, “I don’t want to get up and do _____________.” I sigh, get up, do what is asked of me, all the while wishing I was doing something else. That is not “working with her hands in delight.” That is not “working with eager hands.”  Instead, that is working with reluctant, lazy, and selfish hands..hands that would rather meet my own needs than those of my husband or children.

And so I have a new prayer on my lips.  I want to work with delight and with eager hands. I want to find joy in even the most mundane tasks of being a wife and a mother. I don’t think that changing diapers and washing dishes are the most fascinating activities in the world, but I want to find delight in knowing that I am fulfilling God’s calling on my life. It is delight knowing that whatever I do, I do to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).