Usually stealing is bad. (You hear that, kids? BAD! Even taking that dime from my purse! Yeah, you think I didn't see that, did you?) But these are ten things that my Mom did so well as a parent that I'm stealing them and using them with my own brood. Don't worry, Mom. This isn't your only present! It goes in the mail tomorrow... :)
1. Support and love their Dad.
I know that this may be a different ballgame if you are divorced or separated from the father of one or all of your kids. Same goes if you are remarried, single, or working through a difficult marriage issue. It puts more of a "support the dad as much as is healthy for everyone" spin on it. But if you are married to the father of your kids, let them hear good things about him come from your mouth. If you are verbally tearing down your husband in front of your kids when he's there (or not there), what kind of message does that send? If they don't see you welcome him home...give him hugs and kisses...you get the idea. I was outwardly mortified as a teenager when my parents would walk around our neighborhood in the evenings HOLDING. HANDS. Ug! But inwardly, I was so glad that our family and my parents' love was secure. And my mom would always do things like be the first line of defense on the phone when dad was on call for work, or support his hobbies like running or biking even when she'd had a long day and probably wanted to run away herself.
2. Let them see you in roles other than Mom.
When I was little, my Mom did not work outside the home. But as I got a little older, I saw her do things like host an after school Bible club at our house, do office work for my dad's medical office, work as the Worship Coordinator for our church, cover local events and write articles for local newspapers, and eventually she went back to school to finish her college degree. Seeing her as volunteer, employee, and student gave me insight that my mom was a valuable person even outside our home. I saw I had a lot of options for what I could do with my own future. As a mom, I have had seasons where I worked full time, part-time, and have stayed at home. All have had their unique challenges and rewards, and I have not felt that one was any "better" than the other. I hope that my daughter and my sons realize that God may give them different seasons of work outside the home and inside the home. Listening to His timing and providing for their families' needs the best way they can in that season is the more important thing.
3. Teach them independence intentionally.
My mom has always been a good teacher. She wanted to make sure that her children were prepared for life on their own. We had chores. Lots of chores. Every summer morning there was a list of chores for each of us on the kitchen table from cleaning toilets to cleaning our rooms to trimming those infernal bushes every summer. And the chores had to be done before Mom came home from work. Or else. When you began high school in our house, the laundering of your own clothes became your responsibility. Mom also taught us about money. Saving, tithing, spending. I had my own checking account at an early age. She taught us to cook as we helped to cook. Her babies would not enter the adult world without the skills to take care of themselves.
4. Reveal to them the joy of simple things.
Some of my favorite memories of childhood were picking violets and making dandelion chains...watching the clouds...taking walks...having a picnic...enjoying the free awesome stuff that God has given us. Yes, my kids like their TV time and video games...but we take a lot of time to enjoy the simple things, too.
5. Be an active participant in the things you do with your kids.
When we went to the pond every summer, Mom jumped in, too. She loves to swim. When we went to the roller rink, Mom skated- backwards! She loves to skate. We'd dance around the living room to the radio and Mom would join in and show us dances that she did as a kid. She likes her toes in the dirt on a warm day. And recently she braved the trampoline with my kids. She rarely was the mom that sat and watched her kids have fun. She was a part of the fun. Let me never be too grown up to join in the fun!
6. It's okay for moms to apologize to their children.
News flash: Moms make mistakes. I've made plenty. But I distinctly remember times that my Mom apologized to me. Usually when she lost her temper. She didn't release me from responsibility or punishment if I had done something wrong (also usually the case), but her apologies taught me that saying things in anger is not ok and that moms are, in fact, human.
7. Model a love of learning.
Being a nerdy family, there were always plenty of books around the house and trips to the library. There were family vacations where we took historical tours of Abraham Lincoln's past or explored Mammoth Caves. It is not unusual for both my parents to be found reading side by side. My siblings and I always did well in school, but our parents sparked in us a love of learning beyond the walls of formal education. We are all know-it-alls and we kind of love that. I am just thankful that I live in the era where I can google the answers to questions my kids ask that I don't know. Because they have a lot of questions. And I gotta keep that spark alive!
8. Encourage them to be the odd duck.
My mom is a fantastically creative person. She sings, plays piano, and composes music. She writes for a living. She always says she's a terrible artist, but she taught me about art in many forms and about appreciating it. I think for much of her childhood she felt like the odd duck out...a dodecahedron peg in a square peg world. So when we would create worlds and languages in our imagination....wanted to play songs of our own instead of practice our piano lesson...spend hours doing any number of odd duck things...she understood. And knew that it would serve us well later in life even if most of the world didn't "get" it.
9. Listen to the "big" problems in your child's life.
Adults tend to minimize kids' intelligence and problems. I don't get that. I think most of the problems we have with kids could be worked out by simply treating them as a real person. When you acknowledge a child is smart and let them know their issue is worth listening to, that goes a long, long way to working things out. I was a pretty care free kid until I went to middle school. Then my friends started this once a month cycle of fighting and making up. I would get so upset that so-and-so and so-and-so weren't talking to each other anymore and come home and just pour it all out on my mom. She would listen. Treat it as a real problem. And gave me a little advice, too. But mostly she just listened. When I had broken heart as a teenager, she would drive me around town and let me cry it out or take me on a walk to work out the anger. Not that I would always let her...but I always knew she was there if I wanted to talk, walk, or drive it out.
10. Walk out your faith in front of them.
This by far is the most important. And the most difficult. There are many times when the day far outlasts my patience as a parent. (I had one of those days yesterday, in fact!) And I grunt out the words to "Jesus Loves Me" at bedtime and I have to silently confess before I pray with my children. But if a negative and grumpy spirit starts ruling the whole day, week, month...it usually means I've neglected my relationship with God. I haven't been reading my Bible regularly. I've neglected to pray. I've let the to-do's and temporary circumstances take ground where worship and a correct perspective used to be. I'm pretty sure every Christian mom struggles in this. ( If you don't, PLEASE share your wisdom!) But I know I will keep fighting to keep my faith first and growing. I will intentionally teach my kids about Jesus, God, and the Bible. We may not do a family devotional each evening, but we read the Children's Bible and answer the questions at the end of the story. We make God an everyday part of our conversation. And that's certainly important- my parents did similar things with me. But there's something about a true and deep relationship with Christ that can't be explained or taught in a book. Some of my most treasured memories of my mother are of times when I really wasn't supposed to be there. I was the early bird of my siblings, and countless mornings I would find my mom sitting, looking out the window, praying, and reveling in the early quiet of the day. Two things were always with her- an open Bible and a steaming cup of coffee. So many nights I went to sleep to the sound of Mom playing the piano and singing...or on those summer nights when the windows were open it was Mom playing her flute on the porch. In those moments I knew, surely, that God was more than stories in a book. He was something worthy of my mother's beautiful worship and devotion.
Every parent falls short of perfection, whether we repeat the mistakes of our own parents or blaze a trail of mistakes all our own. But if I get one thing right, I hope it's living a life of worship that speaks louder than any words I could impart to my kids. With every passing year I realize more just how precious a gift that was from my Mom...how beautiful and how rare. I love you, Momma. Happy Mother's Day and thank you for being my Mom!
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)
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