As I picked up my son today from school I was greeted with an enormous smile and hug. He had a few blue envelopes in his hand and I quickly realized this is what was left of his birthday party invitations. He ran up to me and stated that he had passed almost all of them out, and he was so excited. When a small child has a massive smile on their face it is hard not to smile with them! So, there I was standing with my little, a goofy grin on my face when all of a sudden, one of the little girls in his class ran up to him with her invitation in her hand. Quickly my smile diminished as I fretted over what would come out of her mouth. Side note here… This little girl has not done anything to warrant my disdain, only that her facial expression was a little mischievous and well, being the mama bear that I am I worry!
This little girl told my sweet, chipper son that another boy in his class did not want to attend his birthday party. She then proceeded to tell my baby boy, that his exact words were “I don’t think so… “ as he tore my son’s birthday invitation into pieces and threw it away. The girl finished her exhortation with the statement that he was going to another child’s party instead. She smiled the whole time she was is in reporter mode, as if this was funny to her. As this little drama unfolds I am carefully studying the face of my soon to be 9 year old son. Not once did his smile falter. Without skipping a beat my son replied “that’s okay, I don’t mind…” and we turn and walk away. However, as he turned his back to walk away I saw the weakened smile that I was afraid of… the type of smile that registers a hurt or a slight. It broke my heart. My 9 year old son handled this difficult situation with more grace and integrity than most adults would in his place! As we walked towards our car he told his friend with whom he would be hanging out with after school, “That’s okay my Mom is the best birthday present ever! She will be there!” As a parent at this point my heart is so conflicted with emotions. I am honored my son thinks so highly of me, angered at the audacity of some children, sad that my son was treated with such impertinence, and slightly awestruck at the way he handled himself. It is in this very moment, as I am assuring my son that there will be several friends at his party that I realize I have a really good kid. A kind and respectful kid!
Over the years I have struggled with the same issues and thoughts as every other parent out there. Grappling with the same questions and insecurities that other parents do! Things like: Am I doing this right? Am I too strict? Are their self-esteems as high as they should be? Do they act this way in front of other people or do they reserve their crazy behavior for me alone? Today, I have come to the conclusion that I must be doing something right if my soon to be 9 year old can handle rejection of that magnitude (peer/social rejection) and still come out smiling. If I were not as strict as I am then my child might very well be the one who was being mean spirited. If his self-esteem was low he would have crumbled under insult rather than stand tall. As for his behavior at home… well I have been assured by countless others that he is kind, respectful, and well-mannered when with them, so I can only assume that he saves his outbursts and off moments for me alone… (Lucky me!)
So I begin to ruminate over the past 12 1/2 years that I have been a mother and ask myself ‘how is this possible?’ I begin to introspectively reflect on the parenting choices that I have made both on my own and with my beloved husband. As I ponder these things I am humbled by the fact that it is God’s grace that shines through. In our difficult times and in our good times God’s love has never failed us. As I have mentioned before, we pray with our children daily. Once in the mornings on the way to school and once at night when they go to bed… oh and when we have meals. It’s not about how frequently we pray, but what we pray when we are together that I believe gives my children strength. The wonderful thing about God’s word is that it does not return void! His promises are rich and life-affirming. His word brings hope, forgiveness, and grace. When we absorb these concepts and fill our hearts with His word then these traits manifest in us.
Some of the things that we pray over our children come in the form of hopes. Here are some of the hopes we have for them: Hopes that they will be a good friend. That they will grow to be mighty men of God. That my boys will bless other people, as God has genuinely blessed them. That my sons will be defenders of the weak and kind to all of God’s creatures big and small.
Some of the things that we pray over our children come in the form of scripture:Matthew 22:39 (NIV) How to love. Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV) Give them strength to be bold and courageous. Micah 6:8 (MSG) The way they are to treat others. Psalm 51:10 (NIV) To be pure in mind and heart. Isaiah 11:2 (NIV) Blessing them with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Matthew 7:2 (NIV) Treating others as you wish to be treated. I could go on and on but you get the idea. These are the cornerstone of our faith and family. We believe them and we pray them over our children.
Not everything is about prayer. Although I want it documented that I do pray a whole lot! It seems the older my children get, the more exposed to the real world they become, I tend to pray more fervently for their protection. It is my job as their mother and it is also my honor to do so! Like I said before it’s not just about prayer. Before we married my beloved and I talked of children. We talked for hours upon hours about the family we would have and how we would go about raising our children. We took the lessons of our childhood into consideration during this time. Lessons about trust, respect, honesty, love. Whether the experiences were good or not so good we acknowledged them, learned from them, and created a vision of what we wanted.
One thing that was important to the both of us was/is that our children have excellent manners. In a world where “Please” and “Thank You” are outdated sayings, we want our children to reflect genuine civility. We went to great lengths to make sure when they were toddlers that those particular words were constantly used in proper context. We have taught them to address adults with respect and not to call them by their first names. We have not only taught but modeled behaviors such as opening doors for other people, and picking things up when you see someone has dropped it. My children are no strangers to the concept that it is rude to interrupt a conversation and, that if it is urgent they may use “Excuse Me” or “I am sorry to interrupt” before proceeding. We still work with them on “May I please” when they are asking for things, but hey, no one is perfect. The way our children represent themselves is important to my husband and I. However, it is not that we want them to act this way because they are told to; but rather that they desire to act this way, because it is kind and courteous.
We, (my beloved and I) have made it a point to treat our children with the same courtesy that we give to others. We do this naturally, and therefore it is modeled and not forced upon our children. We do not have a “do as I say not as I do” scenario around our house. We believe that it is our responsibility to bring up a future generation of adults who will understand the importance of kindness, compassion, and integrity. Leaders who know what it means to be respectful and polite, defenders of those who can and/or will not protect themselves. We do this with both humor and humility. Learning to laugh along life’s journey has been instrumental to our success at this point. Life can be hard and parenting can be crazy but laughter covers a multitude! Humbling ourselves and apologizing when we are wrong has demonstrated to our children that we too are works in progress, and that there is not one person aside from Christ who is perfect. Hopefully in the years to come our children will grow in their assurance that God loves them unconditionally and more than anything or anyone in this world. It is my prayer that the boys will also rest in the assurance that we will always love them with no strings attached. I am honored and blessed to be a mother, to travel alongside my children in the adventure of life.