Training in Righteousness
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Entries in Parenting (69)

Monday
Dec082014

Don't wish their lives away

Many years ago, when my children were all 7 years old and under, and we were getting ready to go out to play, I wished to myself that they could all do their zippers up and get their boots on without me. I couldn't wait for a time when going somewhere didn't take an extra thirty minutes.

Similar thoughts frequently entered my mind: I'll be glad when they can all cut their own food; when they can tie their own shoes; when they can help me in the kitchen without making a mess; when they've stopped outgrowing their pants in two months. There are many scenarios. Of course, my own mother warned me about wishing their lives away, just as she cautioned me about wishing my own away.

Seeing our kids gain independence is exciting, but if we focus too much on wishing they were older, there can be some not so great consequences.

Impatience

Let's face it; many aspects of parenting quickly become monotony. When we get tired of the monotony, we may begin to rush our children and show impatience. Impatient parents can discourage a child from trying, and taken to an extreme, crush a child's spirit. Who wants to try when every effort it met with a "hurry up" attitude? When we get impatient with a perceived lack of spiritual progress, we can come across as harsh. I don't know about you, but someone who always greets me with impatience is someone I want to avoid. There were many, many times when I was so certain that my nagging would get the results, only to see my children embrace things on their own, and all my worry and concern was for naught.

Living in tomorrow rather than today

Wishing our kids were older may cause our gaze to be in the future rather than right now, and we may miss something. It may mean we don't take as much joy or show as much encouragement for little things in their lives. On the negative side, living for tomorrow may mean we don't see the problems of today, and the unresolved things of today can be very unruly tomorrow. Worrying more about when they're going to finally grow up and act like an adult when they're only 12 can mean we're not paying attention to the good progress they have now. It may mean we're not focusing on the heart as we should because that takes too much time and we want that end result to come quickly.

Checking out in the teen years

There is an erroneous assumption that when they are 12+ that they require less of us. I don't agree. Maintaining a connection to family can be a challenge in the teen years, because young people are gaining bigger social networks. When our kids are in their teens, and their independence is in sight, if we spend too much time wondering when we can convert their bedroom to an office, we may check out of what's happening right now. There is a lot of talk about young adults who walk away from the church. It doesn't happen when they leave home; it happens while they're at home. Kids who walk away from their faith start the process while they're at home. This is the biggest mistake I made as a parent: thinking that the right response from a teenager equated maturity, and therefore, I could relax. Too many times, I dropped the ball.

There is no "quality" versus "quantity"

There are hundreds of moments I wish I could get back as a mother. There are moments when I was too impatient, and too worried about tomorrow rather than today. It was selfishness on my part. I'm not saying that every moment must be spent with our children, or that we cannot have our own interests, but as our kids get older and schedules are so busy that even a meal together is an impossibility, the time we have with them is precious. There is a false dichotomy between having "quality" or "quantity" time with our kids. In reality, both kids of time are necessary. 

I have friends who have grandchildren. I watch their joy, and I hear their pride and love as they share their stories. I don't hear them saying, "I can't wait for junior to grow up." Grandmas have learned that children grow up much too fast, and grandmas have found the joy of loving the moment. I hope I will have that experience myself someday. And hopefully, I'll be an encouraging and patient voice, encouraging those young mothers not to wish their children's lives away.

Monday
Oct202014

Counsel from Ferris Beuller

On the weekend, I attended the wedding of a young lady whom I've known since she was four years old. That was a first for me. We've been to weddings in our church before, but now the young people of my kids' generation are marrying. It makes me feel old.

The father of the groom, when he made his speech, referring to the fact that his little boy was now grown and married, said poignantly, "It was quick."

They grow up so fast. It's trite but true. 

Ten years ago today, according to the archives of my blog, I was writing about an incident that happened during snack time, which fell around 10:00 a.m. during our homeschool day. I reflected about our first Beagle, Sally, and how she captured a stray Goldfish cracker:

She decided that there must be more than one way to skin a cat, and approached the table from the other side. I heard the commotion, but I finally came onto the scene to see her on the floor, attempting to get underneath the coffee table. The sight of that little beagle bum sticking out of the space under the coffee table was pretty funny, but it was serious business to her. I think she eventually got her head jammed in between the table and back of the couch, and her proficient tongue snagged the prize. Boy, I wish I had her tenacity. There's no lack of excitement when you have a beagle in the house.

What am I doing today? Nothing like what I was doing back then. I have another Beagle, but there is no hope of a stray Goldfish cracker in her day. The intensive part of parenting is over. In the famous words of Ferris Beuller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

In ten short years, I have gone from snack time at 10:00 am with three kids to a day ahead of me that doesn't include those three children particularly, aside from the possibility of a text message.

Parenting moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around at your kids, you might miss them.

There are a lot of things parents want to give their children. Some things, like new life in Christ, is not ours to give. And maybe we can't give them all the "things" we'd like to. But we can give them our time. Give your kids your time. Talk to them, listen to them (listen more than talk; that's something I wish I'd learned earlier), play with them, laugh with them, eat with them, dream with them. Be willing to sacrifice, even if it means you don't always get to do what you want.

Mothering is about a lot more than not giving up the second piece of cake. Sometimes, it means giving up a whole lot more. But it's worth it, because it does go by so fast. God gives us these precious lives for a season, and it's a privilege to bring them up for his glory. Loving our children as Christ loves means sacrifice. And we don't do it for the accolades or the standing ovation on Mother's Day. We do it because God has given us this task, and because we love our children.

I'm not saying this because I feel particularly melancholy today. I've seen all my children recently, and we are fortunate to see them often. But I'm not going to assume that they'll be close forever. Even now, with all this free time on my hands, I'm careful to give them my time; to listen to them, to talk to them, to rejoice with their successes and sympathize with their struggles. Once our kids become teens, it's tempting to think we can just check out. We can't. They still want us there, even if they don't always articulate it.

Whatever you do with your time, if you have children, make time for them; as much as you can. Be there for bed time, dinner time, game time, recital time. Give them lots of time. Homeschooling meant we had a lot of time together, but I still wish I'd given more.

Friday
Oct172014

Children, not clones

I really don't like waking up to a dirty kitchen.

I don't like an unmade bed.

I find it hard to sit and read a book if there is unfolded laundry in a basket, or unwashed dishes in the sink.

Clutter in the house makes it hard for me to concentrate.

Nit picky

These are just a few little nit picky things that I don't like, but which my children have no difficulty with. In general, I don't like clutter. They are quite okay with it; I've seen their bedrooms in their houses. They manage to work among unmade beds, empty plates, laundry on the floor, and Coke cans piled up. Dirty is one thing; they have an aversion to that. Clutter, though, is okay.

Did I not teach my children to clean up after themselves? Of course I did. It was part of the larger lesson of stewardship, taking care of the home we lived in. When they lived at home, I asked them to pick up their things and they did so.

My children are adults now. How they keep their homes is their business. You can think I'm a failure as a mother because my children don't keep house like I do (yet), but the fact of the matter is that some people don't mind clutter. My children are among them. And they have a father who doesn't mind, either. Lots of people feel more creative in clutter.

They're big kids now

It's very tempting to think that correcting our children is simply a matter of asking them to stop doing something and then having them comply immediately and forever. We all have annoying habits, and we can all be assured that we as parents do things which annoy our children. Once they get out on their own, they can live as they want. They make their own choices. Every bad one isn't because we didn't "correct" them enough. There comes a point when they are teenagers when too much hovering and criticism starts to sound like "blah, blah, blah," to them. At some point, you let the child make a mistake and deal with the consequences. My three kids have all had to face such a situation at school whether it was suffering a bad grade because of procrastinating, or spending money they shouldn't have. 

Ultimately, we are raising children, not clones. They may live differently than we do. We want them to embrace the truth of God's Word, but they may not replicate the lives they grew up with. They may prefer to live in places we wouldn't live or have hobbies we didn't have. My husband and I watch hockey; my boys heckle us for it. They watch shows which I think are stupid, like Arrested Development. One of my sons likes to poke fun at me for enjoying British crime dramas. We are a family of readers, yet one of my sons prefers to draw instead of read. These things are fine. It's tempting to think that parental success means that our kids must do exactly what we want them to do as adults. That isn't true.

We have our own vocations

I have seen this become an issue with young women. My daughter, at the age of 25, is not a stay at home mother like I was. She has a different vocation than I did and do. At one time, I did not understand the principle of vocation and the fact that she didn't seem to want to embrace the things I did made me erroneously think that she was somehow rejecting God's plan for her life. If you want to frustrate a teenager, by all means, try to force her into a mold. I don't recommend it. Yes, I hope some day my daughter will have children, and I trust she will care for them when the time comes, but I'm not going to relegate her to the "bad girl" corner because she's not living my life. All I want for all of my children is that they love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls, and minds, and love others as themselves in whatever vocation God gives them. To assume they can only achieve that with my plans is pride, pure and simple.

When our kids are at home and under our constant care, it's tempting to believe that they are always going to do everything we suggest. They won't. They will leave home and have the freedom to ignore advice and do what they want. While they are at home, then, our task is to teach godly principles and godly wisdom. Their lives may not look exactly like ours in the details, but if they are embracing wisdom and demonstrating a teachable spirit, that's a good thing.

Friday
Aug292014

Of howling, hairy toddlers

I have a Beagle named Luna. Since I have become an empty nester, I feel like I'm living with a four legged toddler, except that this toddler has no hope of becoming rational at any time. On the upside, it's okay to lock her up in a cage when she's unruly.

Like a toddler, she believes everything belongs to her, especially the couch, although she cannot understand why I don't want her up there when she's licking her hindquarters.

Like a toddler, she has poor manners. Luna has no shame in satisfying her passion for cat food by pushing the cat away from his own dish as he eats. He's pretty stupid, though, because one swipe with an open claw, and she (like a toddler) would run away crying.

Like a toddler, she is a drama queen when she gets caught for her many infractions. Being sent to the crate when she's been busted is generally met with a lot of sass, as she lets out her houndy yelp when the door closes. That is followed by a pitiful wine of resignation. I wonder if the neighbours think we're beating her.

There are toys all over the the place, covered in drool, just like a toddler.

The other day, when she was successful in robbing the cat of his dinner, her hasty ingestion led to her vomiting the entire contraband all over the back door rug; a minute before I was supposed to leave the house. That is when I thought to myself, "My life has become consumed with a hairy, howling toddler." My self-pity didn't last long, fortunately. But this is indeed life as an empty nester. The pets take on a strange significance.

Yes, I miss my kids. This is year eight since the first one went away. They have busy lives, and while the first year away from home saw each of them return more frequently, their independence means that coming home isn't as easy. I've noticed their absence more this year. The quiet is more tangible because it's longer and the sound of their voices returning isn't as frequent. Luna, who desperately loves her pack, feels the same, as is evidenced by the her joyful apoplexy at their return.

But life is good. God is good to me. I am healthy, I can take care of my house, I'm not sitting in a hospital bed or confined to my own at home. I have enough to eat and a roof over my head. In between battles between the cat and dog, I have a full life. This is the way it is meant to be. We raise our children and then we watch them fly. If I became too consumed with melancholy at their absence, I would have a problem. I have had my moments, but when you have a dog who has learned to tip toe so she can sneak up behind the cat while your back is turned, life is intereseting. I'm studying more, reading more, thinking more, and working with my hands. Soon, I'll be back at teaching on Sunday and helping in the young mom's bible study. 

In the past few weeks, I have seen the bloggers who have shared about sending a child to Kindergarten, to high school, or to college. I nod along, because I know what those things feel like. Some share the reality of very mixed emotions. It's exciting, but at the same time, difficult. I get that.

Ladies, it gets easier. Being alone and without career is forcing me to really seek God, to really test that exhortation I frequently hand out: "Find your sufficiency in God." When the day lies open before me, and I feel like I don't know what to do with my time, God has a way of filling it with not only activity, but simply himself. In between missing my kids, I've had precious moments when I am left saying simply, "Thank you, Lord."

For all those women watching their babies fly the coop, it really does get easier. And if you're really bored, I know the name of a good Beagle breeder.

Friday
Aug222014

Maybe we could be easier on the boys

When I was a teenage girl, I was boy crazy. This interfered with my education. A couple of years ago, I was looking at pictures at my parents' house and found my old report cards. The difference between my 7th grade report cards and what I achieved in high school was quite striking. While I always loved reading, I'm afraid I was more worried about boys than anything else. I was relieved to get out of high school, where one can actually worry less about such things.

The Temptation to Hover

When my daughter became a teenager, I was concerned she would repeat my mistakes. My concern led to hovering, and that probably interfered with her deveveloping male friendships. Note I said friendships, not romances. I think it is healthy for boys and girls to be friends. Looking back, I think I was (like many other women) worried about every boy who came along becoming a distraction.

We do worry about our daughters' purity. Please do not misunderstand me and believe I am saying we don't have to worry about such things. Teaching our daughters biblical attitudes towards young men and other girls is a crucial part of their development. But it isn't the only thing teenage girls need to learn.

Other Distractions

There are other distractions that are just as serious, and in a day and age when more young women than ever are pursuing advanced education, it is something worth thinking about. While a boy can be a distraction that leads a girl down a path that is far from the Lord, so can academic achievements. Having a 4.0 grade average can be a wonderful thing, but it can build an attitude of self-reliance. If a young girl succeeds in school, it will definitely help her in life, but it can also make her rely on herself and not God just as easily as that cute boy she's been mooning over. 

Pride in Accomplishments?

I am not discouraging study or education. My husband and I both have university degrees, and our children are all in school. My daughter is in year eight (yes, eight) of school, preparing for approval for her doctoral dissertation. She's an excellent student. But I wouldn't want her to find her identity in those achievements rather than Christ. I wouldn't want her to place her hope in her academic ability rather than Christ. I think sometimes because education is good, and it equips our daughters to live as adults, we don't think it can be a problem. It can. While we are worrying over her dating in high school, we should also watch carefully her attitude toward her own accomplishments. Does she recognize God as the giver of her academic success and thank him for it? Is there the hint of pride in those accomplishments?

Teach Her to Serve

One way I think we can teach our girls to balance their time is to find ways to serve. Instead of every extra-curricular activity being about them, how about finding time to work with the kids at church, or volunteer with people less fortunate? Or how about serving a grandparent, an older neighbour? How about finding time to use that great intellect to tutor someone? That intellect ought to be used to further the Kingdom of God, not just a girl's portfolio.

The Beginning of Wisdom

I do agree with the many who are concerned about dating issues with their daughters. Having raised three kids to adulthood, and going through our own experiences with the issue, we were very attentive to that. But I can tell you that sometimes, we worry too much. Anything can trip our children up; or us, for that matter. Anything can lead to sin. Don't forget to watch for other things. It may be that the thing that tempts your child doesn't wear saggy jeans and and a sideways baseball cap. It might be the lure of a grade point average.

Proverbs 9:10 reminds us: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." Our daughters need to understand the difference between knowledge and wisdom. All of their academic knowledge may teach some wisdom, but only God will teach them the wisdom they need to live a godly life.

For a related post, check out Melissa's piece at Out of the Ordinary on a similar theme.