Training in Righteousness
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Entries in Parenting (69)


A study in arguments between boys

When my two boys were quite a bit younger, maybe 8 and 10, they got into an argument about something.  My younger son felt he was the offended party, and when he did not get satisfaction for his concerns, he waited outside the bathroom door for his brother to emerge, wherepon he jumped him from behind.

There was screaming.  There was crying.  There was yelling.  There were two little boys rolling around on the floor in the fetal position.

I listened to their sobbing explanations of what went on.  The solution was quite simple.  You are both being selfish.  You are both being unloving.  Neither of you wants to overlook an offense.  You are both wrong, you've both sinned in this.  Go to your rooms and calm down and then make up.

Boys make up easy.  If it was two girls, the assult would have been much more drawn out; perhaps nasty notes and hissing insults over a period of days.  The climax would maybe have taken physical dimensions, but more likely something verbal, words that could echo in the listener's ears for weeks.  The making up part would have taken longer.

Recently, those same two boys, now 18 and 20, had a spat via the wonders of text messaging.  Older son is away from home where his school is, dwelling in a stinky house with boys who aren't fussy about having garbage bags at the front door, and don't like to wash dishes.  On the day of the argument, I was here with the younger boy, while unknown to him,  my husband was at the Man Cave with the older boy working on something with him.  I heard one side, my husband heard the other.

I listened to the indignation of my son.  He wanted me to agree with him, to take his side.  My only words to him was that the matter they were arguing over was not something to get in the way of a brotherly relationship.

So, where was my discussion about having a sinful heart, and his failure in letting Jesus control him?

You don't settle the arguments of two young men; you let them work it out on their own.  They know what is right and wrong.  They don't need to tell me they were wrong. This is where, as they say, the rubber meets the road.  Have we taught them well? Can they make godly decisions?  The reality is that they have to, because they need to take ownership of their faith and live it out in relationships with others all on their own.

When we are young mothers, we often micromanage our kids' disagreements because we don't want them to hold grudges.  We want them to learn how to get along, and we may nurse secret fears that their bad behaviour is the road to landing in jail, or worse, doing something wrong in front of an elder or pastor.  You can't micromanage boys who for all intents and purposes are adults.  If it was a serious issue and they asked our counsel, we'd give it, but part of mothering older kids is letting them work things out on their own.

And just because they've heard the gospel all of their lives, it does not mean they will make the right choice.  Daily, Christians who have heard the Word all of their lives make poor and wrong decisions.  Our kids will too, no matter how often they were in Sunday school, church, had bible reading, or watched Psalty the Singing Songbook.

I'm not sure what the resolution to that dispute was.  The last time my older boy was home, they seemed fine. I assume they made things up.  But as a parent, part of releasing child is backing up and letting them be adults.  We can't complain about our boys refusing to grow up if we don't give them expectation to do so.


Perceptions and guarantees

Quite a number of years ago, my daughter sat in a sermon and walked away with a question in her mind that developed into a fear that she held onto for a long time.

She was about nine or ten years old, and as the pastor shared a story about a woman who had lost her family in a fire, my daughter somehow walked out that sermon believing that if she did not do her "quiet time" regularly, she would lose her family in a tragic death.

Now, some children are open about their fears and share them. Some children, who are more introverted and quiet, keep those thoughts to themselves.  She is in the latter category.  It wasn't until she was almost sixteen years old that we talked about that sermon.

We can never know with utmost certainty how our children respond to biblical teaching.  We can talk to them and get a general idea, but we do not presume to read the minds of our children, and we should not want to get inside of their heads, anyway.  Our children are born as dependent beings, but they become independent individuals, and we understand that their thoughts are their own and their accountability before God is their own.

There are other things that I know my children didn't fully understand.  There are misconceptions, legalisms, moralisms, and general silliness that they nursed in their minds and walked away confused.  This is part of their spiritual growth.  I can only answer what I am asked, and I'm confident that our home was generally a home of open dialogue about things.  There are just some times when a kid is a little shy about some questions, especially as they get older and desire to seem more knowledgeable than they are.  Kids who are very open at 9 years old may not be so forthcoming at 14; that's just normal.

There are no guarantees that when our kids hear the truth that they will practice it when they get older.  They will be very much like we are as adults, dealing daily with obedience and trusting the Lord.  A lifetime of teaching doesn't guarantee perfect understanding even with parents who have the best of intentions.  They may trip over things along the way.  Our tendency as parents is to attempt to prevent the stumbling because we don't like to see them do so.  But they have to.  And as parents, we have to realize that when we teach our children and expose them to the Word of God, their reception of it may not be like ours, and we may find down the road that the poor kid really struggled.  We shouldn't beat ourselves up and blame ourselves because we somehow failed them.  If we are willing to take the blame for their mistakes, does that mean we are ready and willing to take the glory when they do right?

Our children rest in the sovereignty of God, but often, we don't live like we believe that.  We think we could have "done something."  The reality is that all we can do is teach sound doctrine, live sound doctrine, allow the Holy Spirit to do the work in their hearts, and pray, pray, pray.  When they are little, and oh so pliable, we may be tempted to think we're more responsible for their good behaviour than we are.  We have far less control than we realize.

As for my daughter, now at the age of 23?  She's over that misunderstanding she had about the connection between reading one's bible every day and having God allow your entire family to be killed in a fire.  But there are other curiosities she is left with and continues to work through.  And don't we all have those?


The Fixture That is 3:00 p.m.

Yesterday, my friend, Lisa, was reflecting on a reality that she and I are both anticipating at the end of this school year:  we both have sons graduating from high school.  For me, this is my youngest child.  Yep.  The word "empty nester" echoes in the vast caverns that is my brain.

I was thinking lately how much of a marker 3:00 p.m. has been in my life.  One of the first jobs I ever had was being a bank teller.  I worked every day in the summer from 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.  When I was in high school, we got out shortly before or after 3:00 p.m., depending on which school I was at (I went to two schools for high school).  My mother worked for few years at a job that was finished at 3:00 p.m. 

When I became a mother, and after those first few months when my babies were getting accustomed to life outside the womb, I developed a schedule that eventually gravitated toward the marker of 3:00 p.m.  Nap time was from roughly 1:00 - 3:00.  Nap time was sacred.  I was a boring Mommy because I didn't trounce upon naptime.  I needed naptime as much as the kids did.   But 3:00 was the magic hour.  During winter hours in Saskatchewan, 3:00 was warm for going outside; in the summer hours, it was beginning to cool off.  When school started, and my youngest went to public school, I met her to walk home around 3:00 pm.  Even when we homeschooled, 3:00 was the latest we would ever go because I needed those hours after 3:00 to pay attention to the house, the meals, and other things.  When my kids went back into public school, it was the same marker.  There have been times when I have excelled the speed limit because I knew I needed to get home for the kids; not that they couldn't be home without me, but because I liked being there when they arrived home.

It has occurred to me that 3:00 p.m. will no longer be that kind of a marker for me next September.  There will be no one coming home at 3:00 p.m.  That means if I'm working on something, writing something, or studying, absorbed in my work at 3:00 p.m., I can stay that way.  There will be no electric guitar turned on, or a piano played, or the sound of a banjo, or any other intrusions.  Of course, that's a very bittersweet thought.  Even meal preparation will change, because when you're cooking for two people, it isn't nearly so laborious, and my husband is not a picky eater.  I think I'll have to learn to cook all over again.  How do you cook for two without being inundated with leftovers that end up green and fuzzy in a few days?

I'm a true homebody, and I cherish the hours alone I have to be able to read, listen to music, sing at the top of my lungs, dance around the living room (occasionally) or whatever.  But the thing that makes those times joyful is the expectation of someone coming home.  Hubby will come home at the end of the day, but there will be a different situation around here next year.  Will I continue to watch the clock for 3:00 p.m. because I am so used to doing it?

These things, of course, are under God's sovereign control.  He gives us children with the specific intention of sending them on their own.  The stuff that lives in between when we get them and when we start releasing them flies quickly and is crucial.  We all wonder if we have been faithful enough to that call.  Mothers wonder if they will find it difficult when their last child spreads his wings with only the briefest of glances over his shoulder.  I am sure I will have moments of adjustment ahead of me.  I will notice the silence in the late afternoon.  The thrill of never having to worry about making it home for 3:00 will wane quickly.

Even as I write this little post, I know I have no proper conclusion.  I have no words that will bring everything full circle, and conclude this with satisfaction.  I just have to wait and see what happens.  Until then, 3:00 p.m. still means that a boy is on his way home.  Next year, who knows what it will mean?


One reason I'm thankful for dial-up

Many moons, ago -- actually only about 6 years ago -- I have to exist online with dial-up.  I had a blog back then already, and I wrote often, but I tried very hard to avoid staying on-line for extended periods of time.  We had a fairly good dial-up connection, but it meant tying up the phone line, and there was no way I was going to get a second line for the purpose of bloggng and visiting with blog friends.  I generally wrote my blog posts in a Word document and then copied and pasted.  I had very scheduled times for being on the internet.  I was also homeschooling at the time, and that was time-consuming.

When we moved to this house in 2005, we had high speed internet and I got a wireless modem.  I was away to the races, but I also likely spent more time online that I should have.  Looking back now, I think I robbed my children of valuable time, thinking to myself that they were older and could live with some unsupervised free time.  Now that my kids are 21, 19 and 16, I see how I could have used our homeschooling time more wisely. That, of course, is water under the bridge; a lesson learned.

Recently, I read an article written by a young person who described his/her mother's internet experience in rather sad terms.  The person talked about how the mother was for all intents and purposes so tied up with online time, that it was hard to get her attention for other things.  The tone of the piece was quite sad and bitter.  That really gave me pause for thought.  Will my children remember that I was hard to engage in conversation becuase I was online too much?  To some extent, they will have such memories.  I am confident that it was not a serious enough problem to be overly concerned, but as I look back, I'm thankful that when the kids were younger, I did not have the distraction of the internet to deal with.  I'm glad that I gave them my full attention when I did.  Of course, mothers cannot make the children the centre of their universe; that can border on idolatry (and some of us to border on idolatry when it comes to our kids), but when our kids are younger, they really should get a large chunk of our attention.  One thing I did try and do once all of the kids were in public school was to ensure that at the moment they arrived home, and for a couple hours afterward, I was online very, very little, but had time to talk to them.  I don't ever want to be remembered as a disinterested mother.

God gives us these gifts of our children for a season.  It flies by so quickly.  Yes, that is a trite saying, but it's a trite saying which I experience more and more each day, as I look ahead to a summer where only one of my three children is living at home.  When our children are younger, we are sometimes impatient for those moments when we are not so needed, and when they get older, we miss them.  We mothers are a funny bunch. 

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