In the midst of raising our children, there is no way we can know all our families will go through. Parents lose jobs, families lose houses, we grieve over the loss of loved ones. Tragedies, divorce, illness. We just don’t know.
There are timeless truths we can teach our children though. We can’t provide a perfect childhood, so scratch that one right off the to-do list. But these truths help prepare them for whatever life sends their way.
Parents are not perfect but meet my Jesus.
Growing up, my grandpa owned a bar. Actually, if I remember the family stories right, my dad owned a pool hall for a while as well. My mom found Jesus as a young mom. She’d always known about Him but when she started having babies, she realized she needed to know Him.
New Christian mamas and bars don’t usually mix.
In our extended family on my dad’s side, mom (and by association us kids) became known as the “church-goers.” But sometimes, when dad had us, he took us into grandpa’s bar. We would load up on Slim Jims and make suicide sodas. And we would hear from at least three different people during our visit, “Don’t let your mom know your dad brought you in here.”
I share this story to drive home my point. Parents don’t come perfect. We try to provide for the needs of our children. We strive for happy, healthy marriages that last a lifetime. But we let our children down. We make questionable choices. Aren’t always on the same page. We yell when we should hug and spoil when we should spare. Parents learn as we go too.
The best thing I can do for my daughter is what my mom did. Different circumstances, but similar lessons. She accepted the fact that we had a dad who took us to a bar. And she took it upon herself to introduce us to Jesus. In her, we saw a relationship with Him that was real and essential to her life.
We should communicate to our children that although we have their best intentions at heart, only Jesus made them, guides their path and promises them an amazing future.
Child, hold my hand. But let Jesus have your heart.
You have a place with me.
I remember the first time my daughter got her little feelings crushed. She was three or four years old. We were on a road trip and had stopped at McDonalds. We let her get a Hello Kitty watch with her Happy Meal. Happy indeed. She put the thing on right away and stared lovingly at it while waiting for our food.
A little girl stood nearby with her family. Allie went running up to her and showed her the watch.
"Look what I got,” she exclaimed. Practically dancing with joy.
The little girl took one look, turned up her nose and said,
“Well, you have it on backwards, you know.”
The nerve of that little girl! Immediately, Allie’s face fell. The mother told the little girl she needed to be nice. But the damage had been done.
A simple story. A great truth. We can’t keep our children from mean. Or rude. Or pain. I was in my 20s when my parents divorced, but it still rocked my world. I had never seen my mom so hurt or my dad spiraling so out of control.
It is good to shelter our children to a certain point. But I think we also need to send a clear message they can rely on when things don’t go right. If we are disappointed in their performance. When we might be going through some real struggles in our own lives.
Our children must know we accept them. We must stay emotionally open to them. We are their stability. So, when little girls are mean (rather than knock their block off like I wanted to that day), be there for your child with a hug and a listening ear.
When teenagers start spending more time in their room alone than among the family, knock gently on that door and ask if you can sit with them. The power of your presence reminds them they always have a place - with you.
If your own world gets rocked, stay connected with your child. Communicate. Even as an adult, when my parents separated, I still needed to know I had a place with each of them.
No matter what we experience in life, we’ll encounter it together.
Feelings are OK, but you are in control of them.
We are raising a real live girl at our house. Oh, the drama! I have to remind myself not to cut the emotional rants short though. To a five-year old who has lost yet another Barbie shoe to our overgrown puppy, the feelings are very raw and real.
We let her express her dismay, then explain to her that we can’t actually kill the dog. Nor does she really want to commit said murder. And then we walk through the fact that she must keep her toys up and away from the dogs.
I remember watching my nephew play baseball on a trip to Houston years ago. He was probably around third grade at the time. The game was a nightmare. Most pitches made it to home plate. And if the batter got a hit, he was certain to make it from first to third, possibly all in one swoop play, because the defense was practically nonexistent. Hard for family members to watch.
Apparently harder still for the boys on the field. Because every one of them burst into tears at some point during the game. Emotions ran high.
Today, Cam and his teammates know there is no crying in baseball. Wins, losses, broken collarbones, concussions, scraped up legs from sliding into second. These come with the game. But the boys learned that along the way. The feelings are OK, but channel them back into your performance.
Healthy feelings are felt and expressed in constructive ways.
If we could somehow teach our children these truths.
- If they could know parents aren’t perfect... but Jesus stands in every gap.
- If they knew deep, deep down that no matter what, the adults in their lives are there for them.
- If every adult learned how to properly feel and channel their emotions as children.
We’d be well on our way to world peace.