Monday, April 25, 2011

What's Worked For Us

Randy and I were talking to a friend who is also a parent. The friend complimented us on how great our kids were and said, "You have been really blessed with great kids."

After having been told that a couple of times from other people, I had finally had it. I looked at our friend in the eyes and said, "How those two turned out is not a blessing. They are YEARS of hard work, many tears and a lot of sleepless nights. It's inconvenient and gray hairs and some missed opportunities. It is a commitment and a calling from God that we've failed on many occasions, but take very serious. So a blessing? I wish. It'd be great if they were naturally wonderful children. But,no. They're human and hopelessly flawed and prone to temper tantrums, but we are determined to make them into people who love God first and all that that means and to be productive and diligent contributors to the Gross National Product."

After our friend closed his mouth at my tirade, he was sorry he said anything in the first place. So we began to talk a little bit about our parenting philosophy, some of which we've gotten from the book Growing Kids God's Way, but all of it from God's Word.

We are not experts, certainly, and don't claim to be parenting gurus. We have had our fair share of disasters and have stumbled along the way. But because we've been asked many times about how we get our kids to answer "yes ma'am" and come immediately when we call, we've decided to revamp our blog and take some time to offer a few ideas of what's really worked for us.

More to come.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bullies, Birds, and the Number of Hairs on Your Head

I was sitting in a McDonalds with a friend, chatting and catching up while our young children played in the play area. You know, the tubes that look like they’re made for giant hamsters. We call them “habitrails” for kids.

Now when you have children, God implants a device within moms. It’s amazing and ingenious and I have yet to see it in dads. It’s that natural tuning that allows moms to hear their child’s voice even though they’re in a large room full of other screaming children. We can hone in on our child’s call. It’s all over Discovery Channel and Animal Planet and it just so happens that human mommies have it too.

So there we were, enjoying some adult interaction when all of a sudden I hear it. It’s my then 4-year-old little boy’s cry. I got up to follow the cry and what I saw is forever emblazoned on my brain. There, in the tallest section of the habitrail, is my precious blonde-haired blue eyed baby boy, being pummeled by a slightly bigger boy. Graham is looking down at me with complete terror and confusion.

There are moments in our lives where we feel things that in otherwise normal situations we believe that moral human beings shouldn’t feel. This was one of those moments. I felt enraged and murderous. I fully believe that in that moment I had a lapse in judgment and could not make my brain figure out how to get up the tube to where my son was. I could see the other boy punching him and biting him on the ear, but for the life of me, I couldn’t get to him. I knew, though, that if I did get to the boys I would forever regret my actions. The other boy was not a child to me. He was not someone else’s little boy that was loved and cherished as my son was. He was a threat.

By this time, all of the other moms were abuzz and yelling at the other boy to stop. The kids finally made their way down the tube and my son safely, once again, into my arms.

He was relatively unharmed except for some shell shock. My son barely remembers the incident, (though my daughter remembers it with perfect clarity and is still organizing a mob to take out the punk) and seems completely unaffected.

Flash forward to 5th grade. Randy and I are in France when we get a call from my sister. My son had been clocked in the face by a kid who was apparently having a bad day. My son believed he was playfully teasing the boy, but the boy must have heard it wrong and took offense.

Now remember the part where I’m in France? It’s about 1am for me when all this happens and I seriously felt like I could sprint across the ocean on foot to throttle this other kid. Once again, God is protecting me from myself.

Recently, while on a trip, I overheard Graham telling Rachel that there were some boys talking in the lunchroom about the incident in the 5th grade. They decided it would be fun to punch Graham to see if he’d cry. Every mom bone in my body wanted to throw those boys in jail (and I don’t believe they’re going to need my help with that in the future). I fought back tears and tried to be calm. Randy put his hand on my arm and I quickly got my self-control. The last thing an 11-year-old boy needs is for “mommy” to grab some other boys by the ear and tell them to “leave my baby alone.”

So I prayed. I asked God, “why?” And His response was as clear as a bell. “Step back and cool off. I am making him.” Graham does not live in fear. He’s not afraid of those boys or to go to school. He simply shrugs his shoulders and has a “whatever” attitude.

That I can handle. I really like that about him, in fact. It makes me believe that one day Graham will be a youth pastor or a teacher or simply someone’s mentor and be able to tell them his story. He’s tucking it away as a life experience and something that was just another mark on his currently short timeline.

It is my job to protect my children at all costs, but there are times when I believe I have to step back and let them figure things out on their own. I can’t fight all their battles.

That’s how God is with us, isn’t it? The Almighty, All-Knowing, Creator of the Universe is our bodyguard. He’s our Daddy. But I believe he allows things to happen to us that shape us and form us into His image. And if the pain I feel while being forced to watch my child being subject to a bully, imagine…imagine the pain that our Abba Father feels while his children suffer.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:7

A Parent's Prayer

My Mother-in-Law has A Parent's Prayer framed in her guest room where Randy and I sleep when we're there. It is the best prayer I've ever read that expresses the kind of parent I want to be.

Oh, God, make me a better parent.
Help me to understand my children,
to listen patiently to what they have to say
and to answer all their questions kindly.
Keep me from interrupting them,
talking back to them and contradicting them.
Make me as courteous to them
as I would have them be to me.

Give me the courage to confess my sins
against my children and to ask of them forgiveness,
when I know that I have done them wrong.

May I not vainly hurt the feelings of my children.
Forbid that I should laugh at their mistakes or
resort to shame and ridicule as punishment.

Let me not tempt a child to lie and steal.
So guide me hour by hour that I may demonstrate
by all I say and do that honestly produces happiness.

Reduce, I pray, the meanness in me.
May I cease to nag:
and when I am out of sorts,
help me, O Lord, to hold my tongue.

Blind me to the little errors of my children
and help me to see the good things that they do.
Give me a ready word for honest praise.

Help to treat my children as those of their own age,
but let me not exact of them the judgments
and conventions of adults.
Allow me not to rob them of the opportunity
to wait upon themselves,
to think, to choose, and to make decisions.

Forbid that I should ever punish them
for my self satisfaction.
May I grant them all of their wishes that are
and have the courage always to
withhold a privilege that I know will do them harm.