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.