When I became a parent, I was surprised at how often other moms compared themselves and their kids to everyone else. I did it quite a bit too. Upon meeting any new mom, the questions typically (and very quickly) end up here: “So does she sleep through the night?” “How many words does she say?” “Do you do educational Pinterest projects with her every day?” “Do you also have your own Etsy store and work from home and cook healthy meals without gluten and have a very happy marriage?” Ok, so they don’t ask that last one. But seriously. I definitely feel the pressure sometimes.
Recently, while I was at the playground with Heidi, I was people-watching. I was really fascinated with how parents interacted (or didn’t interact) with their kids, what kinds of things kids got in trouble for, and what was overlooked. I realized a few things from this observation (and eavesdropping!) about parenting. And it made me wonder: what are the more important questions we should be asking each other aside from our kids’ eating, sleeping, and learning schedules? I know I’m not a perfect parent, but there are things I decided I wanted to prioritize in my days with Heidi while I still have her with me nearly all the time. Yes, I want her to learn to read and makes friends and do chores around the house and be an upstanding citizen of society. But more than that, I want to teach her some other values. I realize some of this might seem like too much for a two-year old, but they are also good things for me to strive for myself.
1. Life isn’t fair.
I think for a long time, I really thought life was supposed to be fair. But God never said life was fair. The world is broken and not how God intended. He never said circumstances and blessings and trials would be equal and evenly balanced. He said He’d walk with us, He’d help us absorb the pain, and help us see life from a new point of view…one that says He is all we need to have a blessed life. The earlier Heidi learns this, the better. (Note: Blessed does not always mean happy). “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:44.
2. Say, “I’m sorry.”
We all make mistakes…especially when we’re little, still learning boundaries, and learning how to be kind. I obviously give my daughter grace since she is only a toddler, but if I am aware of a situation in which it’s appropriate, I try and have her face the friend she has wronged, and I ask her to say that she is sorry. Before I was a parent, I saw others moms do this and thought it was brilliant. I am learning that the humbleness that comes from apologizing to someone else is priceless in life. I figure the more practice she gets, the easier it will be for her to right her wrongs and mend relationships in her life as she grows older. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James 4:10
3. Say, “I forgive you.”
This can be just as difficult as saying sorry. I don’t want Heidi to hold grudges, nor do I want her to become bitter with unforgiveness. Just because one friend did one mean thing does not mean they are mean in spirit or mean forever. When one of her little friends apologizes to her, I ask her to say, “I forgive you.” She obviously cannot speak it yet, but I hope that in theory, the practice will become second-nature, and she’ll learn to let things go and release others from their mistakes. This is important for me to remember too….mostly in my marriage. 😉 “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14
4. She is not entitled.
She may have started out life with anything and everything she needs or wants, but that doesn’t mean she’s entitled to it now or ever. I hope to teach her not to take anything for granted, to offer thanks to God for every good gift, and to still be thankful in times where she doesn’t get what she wants. I want her to be aware that nothing in life, including time, is guaranteed. This one kind of goes along with #1. “13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4
5. Put others first, so long as she is able and willing.
This is really tough at such a young age, and I still sometimes struggle to teach her this. One of the biggest ways I can teach this principal is to model it myself. We are taught to always put our kids and our husbands and our families first. While I believe in that whole-heartedly, I also feel there’s a fine line to walk so that we are also opening up our hearts, lives, schedules, and homes to others who may need extra love. A single parent. A new mom. A lonely widow next door. A family struggling to find a sitter. It could be anyone. If Heidi sees me considering others and making a regular effort to include others, it’s my hope it will come a little more naturally to her as she grows. You never know when you will be on the needy end and longing for a helping hand. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
6. Sharing happens outside the toy room too…not just inside the toy room.
Too often, I catch myself really pushing “sharing” on Heidi when we’re at a playdate, in a toy room, around lots of kids, etc. But when we’re out and about, just running errands or living life in general, it’s not even something I consider. Last week, I wanted to be mindful of this. So when we took my car in to get the oil changed and the brake light replaced, we were in the waiting room with a momma and her two little boys. They were very busy and rambunctious, and the younger one took Heidi’s coloring book when she wasn’t looking and started flipping through it. Heidi’s eyes narrowed and I could see her building up to a scream or possibly an angry slap in the face (whoa, Nelly), and I immediately said, “Heidi, should we see if he wants to color too?” The anger melted from her face, she brightened, and said, “Yeah!” So we ripped a page out, gave it to the boy, and set our bag of crayons on the chair next to us so he could color too. They had fun coloring together. I won’t say it wasn’t annoying when he took five more pages from the book, but it did have 400 pages in it so I suppose I can’t complain. Give an inch, they want a mile!! TODDLERS! “16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:16
7. Show compassion and empathy for others.
I have to say that the only time I ever feel like maybe I’m doing ok as a parent is when I catch Heidi showing compassion for others …period. “12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3
8. Mom and Dad make mistakes too.
I want Heidi to know that sometimes Mom and Dad make mistakes. Sometimes we’ll have to apologize to her, each other, or others. We are not these untouchable, invincible, do-no-wrong people. We are imperfect humans who have stepped into a marriage and family, knowing we’d break each others hearts, and we’d constantly need God to help us repair the damage. Heidi’s greatest view of marriage and family as she grows will be how Cody and I treat each other and how we treat her. (For another lovely blog post on this topic, read the beautiful wordsof my dear friend, Laura). “6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” James 4
9. She can make choices, and those choices have consequences.
While I do want to groom her to make good choices, I also want her to learn that she has the freedom to choose and that her actions come with consequences. She is already learning this through discipline (which is always so hard for me to do!), but I know it’s a valuable lesson. This also goes the other way. Besides learning discipline, she can also learn to stay thankful and positive in life. She is responsible for the choices she makes as well as her attitude. “It is impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear. This is the anti-anxiety medicine I try to lay in my wide open palm every day.” Ann Voskamp
10. There is always something to thank God for, no matter what.
Many of God’s greatest gifts can’t be seen or even touched. I want Heidi to know she is immensely blessed regardless of what she does or does not have. I want her to have a firm foundation should life ever deal her a heavy hand of loss. I want her to know the true nature of God as a giver…He gives so many gifts, like peace in trials, comfort in loss, clarity in confusion, and hope in despair. So if it turns out she’s not the best reader….or she still crawls into bed with me at age five…or if she still favors peanut butter over everything else when she’s in grade school … or she simply hasn’t found something she’s the best at yet when she’s older… I hope she still feels rich in the things of the heart and soul, and I hope that that is enough for her. I hope she still sees God as good, even if He takes away. “Job replied,”…Shall we accept only good from God, and not trouble?” Job 2:10
It’s never too early. She mimics everything I do, from prayers to watering flowers to taking time to read my bible to singing and dancing while I cook. There is no magic age to teach children life lessons that even we have not grasped yet. We are their greatest role model. So in making them better little people, maybe we’ll become better big people too.
LOVE begins at Home. It is not how much we do,
but how much LOVE we put into what we do.