- The sooner your kids learn you're not perfect, the better. There will come a moment when you realize (probably in the midst of disciplining) that your sweet little angel is now old enough to remember. And if you're anything like me you may become instantly panicky thinking "oh goodness! they are now going to remember not only the good things but all the times I mess up..." Be real with them! Tell them if you mess up. Don't try to cover it up or ignore it. Chances are, they are watching you like a hawk and they know many of your flaws even if they don't understand it or know how to express it. Apologize, confess, and in doing so, teach them how to do the same. You may not be on that pedestal anymore, but you will be more real in their eyes, and they will begin growing in a deeper understanding of unconditional love and forgiveness.
- Just say no to the comparison game. God made you the momma of your little ones for a specific reason. You have unique giftings that will enable you to best meet the needs of your kids. Suzie Homemaker next door may very likely do things differently than you. Her kids may do more stuff. Her kids may do less stuff. They may make different crafts, play different sports. She may choose different schooling situations for her cherubs than you do. With the internet constantly at our fingertips, it's so hard not to look at our families in light of what those all around us are doing. Don't listen to the enemies subtle whispers that "if you would just do it like so and so things would be so much better"... So what DO you do? Pray for your little ones. Pray about the decisions you and your husband make on their behalf. Be confident in the decisions that God leads you to make even if they are different than those around you.
- Find ways to say yes. Even if saying yes means you may have more messes to clean up. In looking at the days that I am most exhausted, they are often the days that I am a broken record set to "NO!", and often times they are things that could have been yes with possibly a little more energy put forth on my part... "Mom, can we make a home movie theatre with all the chairs in the house and all the stuffed animals? Mom, can we dump the bucket of water on the back porch and mop it around ourselves? Mom can we build a tent in the living room?" etc etc. Be deliberate with your "yes" and look for ways to say it. In the long run, there will be plenty of opportunities for them to learn to respect your no! Don't create more unnecessarily...
- Look into their eyes. Put down what you are doing and look in their eyes. It connects you to them and says "you are important and I am listening". And believe me, they know if you aren't. (listening that is). We started with our girls when they were very young saying "look at my eyes" when disciplining. There is an instant connection that comes along with eye contact. Simple, but true. As you look in their eyes, pray for discernment into the heart issues, the deeper questions. You will see things that need to be addressed and the unspoken communication is priceless.
- Disconnect from your iWhatever. Not permanently. Not even for a full day. I am fully aware that some people use such devices to work from home and actually enable themselves to be more available to their kids. Just long enough to show your kids (especially tweens or teens) that it can indeed be done and the world won't come to a screeching halt if one goes several hours without checking a news feed or updating a status. Here's the thing. I believe that those of us of my generation (did I just say that? how OLD am I?!?) have to walk a fine line between criticizing all the connectivity that creates such a different atmosphere than what we grew up in and embracing the technology that defines reality for our kids. I may never be as tech savvy as my kids, but I can show them by example how to strike a balance between being connected and using the internet for the amazing tool that it is and being obsessed with creating a cyber personality that is a far cry from reality.
- Require obedience while encouraging questions. We've always had the rule of "obey first, then question if needed." I'm not saying it always works, but in theory, our girls know that when they first show obedience, they are allowed to question us if appropriate. Obviously, this does not apply in all situations, but there have been times when they have respectfully asked if they could question a decision after showing that they were willing to be obedient, and we have then changed the decision based on their input. Especially as they get older, I think it's so important to show that you value their opinions and knowledge of situations.
- Consider the source of your conviction. You will learn that there are SO MANY out there. Convictions that is. People are convicted about books to read, movies to watch, schools to attend, games to play, products to buy, foods to eat, the list goes on and on. The question you need to answer for yourself as a parent is what has God convicted YOU of. What is he telling you for your family? Are you making decisions for your kids because God has convicted you or because you feel pressure from someone else's convictions. It's easy to get the two confused. I'm not saying you shouldn't listen to Godly council of friends and family, but still it comes back to considering the source. Are you convicted because God used a friend to convict you or are you convicted because of what is right or good for someone else?
- Be their best friend.... and their mom. Yes, you heard me right. I know, I know, all the best parenting experts remind us that we are to be the mom, not the best friend. And I do agree with the heart of that guideline, and there are many times when you will not feel very much like the best friend when you have to carry out a discipline measure that angers or hurts in some way. However. Don't discount your ability to be a true best friend to your kids! Especially as they get older. Take advantage of opportunities to simply enjoy their company. They're probably pretty sure of your love for them, let them know that you LIKE them as well.
- Allow trusted friends and family the joy of investing in your kids. You may think this is fairly obvious and wonder why I would bother pointing it out. Let me take it a step farther. Allow trusted friends and family the joy of investing in your kids AND go away while they do. That's right, leave your kids. For a day, a night, a week. You are not being a bad mom if you allow yourself the "me time" you may need. Better yet, escape with your spouse. Allow your kids to see the importance you put in your relationship as a couple. I repeat, you are NOT a bad mom if you occasionally need an escape. Invest in your kids by allowing others to invest in them. I firmly believe that in the long run, the occasional day or night or week apart can be good for your relationship with your kiddos and for overall family dynamics.
- DON'T BLINK! I'm not kidding, don't do it. Because the second you do
will become this...
And as if that's not scary enough, this
The point is obvious, I suppose. Time flies, and as much as we want it to slow down, it doesn't. Soak in every moment. Savor every heartbeat. Choose joy in the mundane moments when you think no one is looking, because they are looking. Little eyes are always on you, taking it all in, and your life has just become a lesson book that they will constantly be reading. By doing little things each day to teach them the fear of the Lord, you are building a fortress within the walls of your home. A safe place, where they can take refuge.
So press on, momma! Eyes wide open, not blinking. This parenting thing is an overwhelming, God-sized task that is not for the faint of heart, but thankfully He gives what we need for each day.
"He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge."