"Are you parenting to survive the next 20 minutes or to enjoy the next 20 years?" - Julie Richard
I heard this quote during the "Leading & Loving It" webinar this afternoon and I thought it was worth pondering and passing on. I think every parent of a toddler or young child has been guilty of "parenting to survive the next 20 minutes" at some point, if not on a regular basis! Those are difficult years, to be sure. When our son was that age, Jason and I read a book that referred to the toddler years as the "first adolescence," and encouraged us to stand our ground and make sure that we established ourselves as the consistent leaders of our home during that time. The book suggested that if we did so, the second adolescence (the teen years) would go much more smoothly. Well, the second adolescence is just about upon us, so I'll have to let you know how that plays out.
So what does parenting to enjoy the next 20 years look like? I don't have all the answers, but here are the first few things that came to my mind as I reflected on this idea:
1. Avoid overreacting.
2. Parent out of faith, not fear.
3. Choose your battles wisely.
4. Focus on character development.
5. Extend grace.
What do you think? How do you avoid survival parenting?
Yesterday my son went with his youth group to volunteer with Target:Dayton
. They served a meal to the people who came in need of one. Some were homeless, others barely getting by. Timmy was in charge of the coffee.
As we drove home, after the bus dropped him back off at our local church, I asked him about his experience. These are the 3 simple things he shared with me and the profound lessons I learned from him:1. Tim's quote:
"Not everyone there "looked" homeless
." Mom's lesson:
Not everyone I meet today who could use my help or encouragement will "look" like they need it. That doesn't mean I should withhold it. Target:Dayton provides their services indiscriminately and lets each individual decide whether or not they need them and want to receive them. I should be so generous with my time, resources and attention.2. Tim's quote:
"I didn't know there were so many people in Dayton that were homeless. There were so many of them
." Mom's lesson
: The need in the world is greater than I realize or have ever actually seen with my own eyes. If I saw it all at once, it would likely overwhelm me and paralyze me. The need is great. I would be wise not to forget that.3. Tim's quote:
"There was a lady who worked there who came up to me and told me I was doing a good job
." Mom's lesson:
It helps to know when we are on the right track. Serving others isn't easy and when I see someone doing it well, I should tell them so. We all secretly wonder whether what we are doing is making a difference and whether we are "doing it right." Words of encouragement are precious gifts that keep the givers giving.One bonus lesson I learned:
The first time our children (or any one else for that matter) experience something, we need to pay attention to their reactions and descriptions. When we have "been there and done that
," we forget the power of a first experience and the unique perspective that comes with it.
"Mom, sometimes I have thoughts like, 'Is God really real?'"
This statement is part of a conversation I almost didn't have with my 11 year old son, Timothy, yesterday in the car on the way home from Wal-Mart. Once I had time to process that entire conversation and the events of that day, I knew that I would need to share it here. Some things are just too important NOT to share.
Earlier this week, Hurricane Sandy brought rain, snow, flooding, power outages, and havoc all throughout the northeastern United States. My husband, who has been gifted with a heart that longs to serve others in tangible ways, immediately sensed that he was meant to help those who were affected in some way by the flooding and devastation that the storm caused. He knew he had to go. We have been out on a limb (where God has called us to be) in so many ways, over so many years, that I didn't even bat an eye at this. Could we afford for him to go? No. Did we know how it would happen or where he would stay? No. Did that matter? No.
Jason pulled $500 out of our emergency fund, packed his duffel bag, pillow and sleeping bag, borrowed a church van (loaded with bottled water donated by church members), and I prayed over him and kissed him goodbye at 8:30am on Wednesday morning. Sometime before lunchtime that very same day, I got a phone call from someone we dearly love. He had been planning to make a donation to a disaster relief organization to help with Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts and heard that Jason was going. He asked how we were paying for the trip and I told him that God would provide. He said he was standing at his bank counter and wanted to wire money into our account to help out, and could I please give him our routing number and account number! Guess how much he gave, without me ever telling him what we needed. $500 exactly. That money, combined with the $120 that various people from Grace Baptist of Cedarville had pushed into our hands/pockets as they dropped off bottled water, will no doubt meet whatever needs come up in the days ahead as Jason offers a cup of cold water, a hot meal, the gospel of Christ, and his physical labor to those who need it most.
Wednesday afternoon, as Timothy and I were driving back from Wal-Mart, I hesitated to tell him that story. I didn't know if he was old enough to really understand the process of trusting God in that way. I didn't want to give him a false impression that you could just run out and do whatever you wanted for God and that he would throw money at you to cover the cost. Still, something in my spirit told me it was worth the risk that he might learn the "wrong lesson" in order to share what God had done and give Him glory. When I relayed the story, Timmy had the biggest smile. He said, "Mom, sometimes I have thoughts like, 'Is God really real?' Then I hear stories like that and I KNOW. I KNOW HE IS REAL and I think how stupid it is to think He isn't."
I am so glad I shared that story with my son. Just in case someone who is reading this is wondering, "Is God really real?" I thought I should share it with you as well. Two questions for you today:
1. What spiritual conversation have you not had with a young person in your life because you aren't sure he/she is ready for it? May I venture to suggest you give it a try? Children and young adults are far more spiritually attuned than we give them credit for!
2. What has God done in your life lately that you need to share with someone else? I know how much that story encouraged my son, and I am hoping it encourages you as well. What stories of His goodness have you not shared with others? We need to hear them!
Hebrews 10:25 NLT "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near."
Today I had the opportunity to share with subscribers of Cedarville University's ParentPrep blog about the top fears Christian parents have when sending their children off to college. Check it out and pass it on to those who may be encouraged by the message. CLICK HERE
A few days ago, my son and I went on an early morning walk to the local coffee shop. Well, I walked anyway. Timmy rode his scooter. To his credit he stayed with me most of the way, and when we reached a long stretch of smooth sidewalk, I gave him clearance to leave me behind and enjoy the ride. As I walked along by myself, I noticed that I kept passing these tiny little black insects on the sidewalk. They looked like miniature caterpillars. Every few steps I would pass one, slowly making its way across the path. I had to be careful not to step on them. In the half mile I walked, I probably passed 50 of them!
Eventually I caught up to Tim who was waiting for me at the street the coffee shop was on. We went inside and enjoyed some time together, sipping our drinks and chatting about the day ahead, and then we started the trek back home, hoping to make it back before it started to rain on us. As I walked and Tim rode his scooter, I asked him how many of those black caterpillar-y bugs he thought he had passed on the ride to the coffee shop. He had no idea what I was talking about. One by one, as we walked, I started pointing them out to him as we passed by them. "Look! There's one. And another! And Another!" He was shocked that he could have missed them. I explained to him that he was going so fast, that their movement was undetectable to him, so he probably just saw them as tiny black lines on the sidewalk, if he saw them at all. I was going slow enough that I could take notice of them, perceive their comings and goings and realize what they truly were.
Before I knew it, Timmy was off again scootering toward home. I was left thinking about how much of life I race by every single day, and what I am missing in the process.
I went to a local book sale yesterday. It was in an old high school gymnasium and there were rows and rows of folding tables covered with all kinds of books, all for $2 or less. I went SLOWLY up and down every aisle not wanting to miss a potential treasure. The stack of books I walked away with made me laugh. There is no rhyme or reason to the things that caught my attention, but I suppose that is also just part of who I am. I like a multitude of authors,a plethora of genres, a variety of musicians, and don't even try to pin me down on what my favorite color or animal is!! How can one get tied down to just one of ANYTHING?!? ... other than a spouse, of course. :)
One of the books that caught my attention was, Faith of Our Fathers, by John McCain. I brought it home (for 50 cents, no less), and started reading it last night. In the prologue, are the following quotes:
“Our family lived on the move, rooted not in a location, but in the culture of the Navy. I learned from my mother not just to take the constant disruptions in stride, but to welcome them as elements of an interesting life.”
“First made a migrant by the demands of my father’s career, in time I became self-moving, a rover by choice. In such a life, some fine things are left behind, and missed. But bad times are left behind as well. You move on, remembering the good, while the bad grows obscure in the distance.”
I had to pause after reading this section and think about the influence that John McCain's mother had on his life. The book itself, is not about her. It is about his father and his grandfather, who were both Four Star Admirals, and about McCain's own life and how he tried to live up to his impressive military heritage. Even so, his mention of this gift of perspective from his mother in the prologue speaks volumes to me about the impact we can have in shaping our children's view of the context of their lives. His father and grandfather gave him an example to strive toward and his mother gave him a proper perspective of the challenges of his military upbringing. These influences came together, by God's grace, to make John McCain into a man who, later in life as a prisoner of war, had the fortitude to refuse a dishonorable early release by his captors based on his family legacy and endure five years of torture and solitary confinement.
As parents, it is our responsibility to give our children an example to follow and an attitude to embrace. Children don't get to choose the family or the circumstances that they are born into, but they do get to choose their attitude. There were many times in John McCain's life when he resented the pressure of being the son and grandson of Navy Admirals. His mother could have commiserated with him... she, no doubt, suffered greatly as the wife of a man who was away more than he was home and who was constantly in harms way. But she didn't. She taught him that his life was "interesting," not bad, "interesting." Over time, this birthed in him an ability to see his circumstances as temporal and his chosen attitude as permanent.
As a little girl, my parents moved our family from Florida to Arizona. We moved away from every family member and friend we knew. We moved from a lovely, brick ranch home on acreage with a pond in the backyard and horses across the street to an aluminum mobile home in a trailer park in the desert. You might think that as a child, I was devastated by the change. I was not. It was an adventure! It was an adventure because my mother and father made it an adventure. I vividly remember my mother telling me about the "chandelier" hanging in the dining room of our new home in Arizona. (It was really a simple hanging light fixture, but because of my mother's excitement and description, it was a chandelier to all of us, and we couldn't wait to get to Arizona to see it.) I remember as we drove across the county line in Arizona, as we crested a hill and the town we would be living in came into view, my father said with great pride, "Look! The promised land!" It was lovely, but it was a different kind of lovely than we had ever seen before... desert instead of forests, wide open spaces, sand and bright red rock formations instead of grass and lush greenery, a man-made lake instead of the Gulf of Mexico. In that moment, and for the rest of my childhood, however, there would be no comparing it to what we had known before, it was only "the promised land."
As an adult I have moved many times and seen much of the country and I am grateful to my parents who gave me an example to live up to and an attitude to embrace, and now it is mine to pass on to my son.
Proverbs 22:6 KJV "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."
We are officially licensed foster parents. I have no idea where this road will take us. How many twists and turns, ups and downs we will encounter. I suspect tears will be involved, as well as laughter. I just read the following quote on a blog that was written by a foster mom the night she picked up their first foster baby. I want to remember it. And live by it.
"How long will he be with us? Who knows! It could be a few more days or it could be a lifetime. What I have complete peace about it that my God has a perfect plan for his life and for whatever amount of time He allows him to be in our family we will love his as our own, teach him about his Heavenly Father and tell him how precious and loved he is. Will my heart break if he leaves us? Yes! Will I cry? You bet, already bawled at the thought many times! Will I regret opening our hearts and home? NO WAY!"