As parents of kids who are getting older, Matthew and I begin to count the days we have left with them in our care. Partly because those days become precious, and partly because you begin to plan the celebration! Just kidding, sort of. The reality is that we are given these kids for only so long and if we do our jobs correctly, they will fly away from the nest and never look back. Except at Thanksgiving and Christmas. And Mother’s Day. They better not forget Mother’s Day.
I’m kidding again. As a parent you hope to always be a small part of your children’s lives, but a lot of that depends on how you raise them. I tell my husband we want to raise our kids in a family they want to be a part of for the rest of their lives. I want them bound to us as their parents and bound to each other. We’ve always told them, “Friends come and go, but your siblings are forever… So treat them better than you treat other people.” This has been an ongoing lesson for our daughter who tends to treat our youngest child more like a pet than a brother.
We’re working on it.
Here are some other things we are working on with our kids.
“It’s only awkward if you let it be.” If you have teens, you know they avoid awkward situations at all costs. Even situations that are not really all that awkward, like me singing in the grocery store, or talking to a complete stranger in the check out line about what they are buying and what they are going to make with all that. Sometimes uncomfortable situations may truly arise, but they are only awkward if you let them be. We face those tight spots with people with as much grace as possible, and move on.
“Say thank you and show gratitude.” Our kids are like most these days and have so much. They get to do so many things. We want our kids to always be thankful and to show their appreciation to those who are generous. Ultimately, we want them to remember that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly lights…” (James 1:17), and we want them to be thankful to their heavenly Father for all they have.
On that note, remember “If you never ask, the answer is always no.” Sometimes our kids have gone without something simply because they were too afraid to ask for it, or they assumed the answer would be no. As the saying goes, “A closed mouth never gets fed.”
“Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.” This was a principle we adopted a while ago, and we have been pleased to see it reinforced by other influences in our kid’s lives. This is a good principle for when they are applying for a job, and trying to keep a job, too. But it reaches much farther than that. It shows that you will do what you say you will do, and that you are honoring the other people to whom you have committed your time. Now, we all run late sometimes, but if we are honest, we run late because we didn’t prepare to not run late. If you do all you can to honor your commitment, and still cannot, then of course, we hope grace will be offered. But running late should be the exception, not their habit.
“Be thrifty, not cheap.” I guess this one should be pretty self-explanatory. Living a life in full time ministry means we were not going to live a life of luxury. But there is a difference between thrifty and cheap, and we have tried to teach our kids that difference.
“Find your passion, and serve God with it.” Whatever gifting and talent we have is only given to us to serve our God and to make him famous. We have tried to help our kids find their passion, each one, and have hopefully shown them how to glorify the Lord through it.
“Don’t be afraid to commit.” We have been heavy on the relationship issues in our house. So many young men these days are afraid of commitment. So many marriage relationships fall apart because there is no real commitment there. Our two older boys have had only a few dating relationships. Our daughter, sixteen, has not yet even had her first date (Her choice). And Evan is still patiently waiting in the wings. Why? It would sound as though they are afraid to commit, when the reality is just the opposite. When our kids start a relationship, it involves our whole family. We all commit to it together. When our kids enter into a dating relationship, we have repeated conversations about where the relationship is going, and how it is going. This level of commitment has surprised a few girls, even scared a few off. But that’s okay, too
Matthew and I hope to send these kids of ours off one day ready to face all kinds of life situations. We are doing all we can to ensure there is no failure to launch among them. Life lessons are important, and we know our time is running short. We are working like a one armed paperhanger to get these lessons, and others, across.
Parents… don’t retire too early. There is still much to do even though our kids think they have it all together. It’s an act. It’s our job to hang in there till the game is over. A lot of us are in that seventh inning stretch, but we’re not quite done yet. You wonder if anything you are teaching them is sticking. You wonder, “Are these kids listening to me?”
Yes. They are.
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