After giving a seminar Thursday morning, I took my two older sons out for a lunch date. They always enjoy these moments when they have my undivided attention and we get to bond with one another. (Edric’s version is to play sports with them, have man to man talks, or go to the barber shop to get their hair cut.)
Before we even settled into our chairs, Elijah was like, “So what are we going to talk about? I really like this, mom…” He started rambling. Edan was his usual cool and calm himself, quiet and reserved.
After we ordered our food and settled down, I asked them, “How can I improve as a mom?” This question is always a good starting point to get my boys to open up and be receptive to me.
Elijah shared that I HAVE improved with my temper. Whew! He said, “You are very patient now and you don’t snap anymore. I can tell when you are irritated but you don’t get angry.”
Edan took a longer while to share. He is my reflective thinker. Midway through our lunch, he began to open up. “Oh, I know what you can improve on, mom. When dad calls you, you should go right away. And, when we are playing board games, you shouldn’t have your IPad or be distracted so you can focus on the game.”
There are instances when Edric calls me and I dilly-dally because I am preoccupied with my own thing. Edric does not like this. And the kids have noticed it, too. That’s got to change. As for the board games…Honestly, I don’t like to play board games! I do it for my kids and Edric because it is family time. But, more often than not, I multi-task by getting on the Internet or writing. Edan was right, I need to be engaged and full present.
As we conversed some more, I also asked them what they can improve on. Voluntarily, they addressed their own areas of weakness. Elijah admitted that he has to be more focused and Edan said he had to eat his meals faster. We discussed their observations for a bit and then I also encouraged them to proactively include Titus in their activities and not to isolate him. Sometimes, he gets left out and this really hurts his feelings.
Prior to this lunch date, Elijah was already making a more conscious effort to be kind to Titus. “Titus, you are always included. Anytime you want to join, you can, okay?” He would say this in the context of their play. As a result, Titus became very affectionate with Elijah — hugging him and wanting to be near him. Titus is my hugger.
Edan, on the other hand, is still learning to work through his differences with Titus. Being the very methodical, organized person that he is, Titus’ anything-goes-personality tends to clash with his. But he is trying harder.
We had a great time talking, laughing, and just being together. There is something special about taking my children out on a date. It sends a message to them that they are important and that I like them (which is different than just loving them). For example, I love people but I really like being with certain people. In the same way, I love my children but I want each of them to know I really like them; I prefer their company; and getting to know them is a priority to me.
Children are incredibly discerning. They can differentiate between knowing they are loved and feeling absolutely certain they are loved. Of course they prefer the latter. Who doesn’t?
I used to know that God loves me in the head because I grew up in a Christian home and learned about faith and Jesus, but it wasn’t until I really began a relationship with Jesus and grew in intimacy with him that I was absolutely certain that he loved me. I not only knew it, I felt it and experienced it. And it motivated me to pursue holiness, righteousness, obedience, and live to please him.
Similarly, most children KNOW their parents love them. Well-meaning parents provide for and meet their physical needs, and make choices “for their good.” However, this doesn’t always fill a child’s longing for acceptance and secure attachment. Neither does it cause a child to take on the values of a parent or make a child internally motivated to obey and please them.
Edric and I are discovering that even homeschooling is not enough. Homeschooling makes us connect with our kids very often but each one of them needs one-on-one attention and shepherding. They have different personalities, struggles, and needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting them.
I like what Elijah told me about one-on-one time, “I like to be with you to talk about life and things that I can’t talk about in public. There are some things that I want to talk about that are personal. And when I get to do that I feel more relaxed and less stressed. I really feel loved when you want to be with me.”
Who would ever think that a 9 year old has to deal with “stress”?! Yet it is interesting to have conversations with him and realize he is plagued by doubts and pressures; that there are circumstances that trouble him and he needs us to come along side him to point him in the right direction.
I think it is such a privilege to be parent. What a precious stewardship. One day, I dream of hearing God say, well done, good and faithful mom! I gave you Elijah, Edan, Titus, Tiana and coming-soon-baby, and you led them to Me.
But I often have to ask myself, Am I doing my best? Am I being the kind of mom that my children need to know and love God? Do I prioritize my children? Have I embraced motherhood as the most important job I have at this life stage?
It’s humbling and challenging to journey through the stages of parenting and realize, year after year, that Edric and I don’t always know what we are doing and we don’t always get it right. What worked for one child may not necessarily yield the same results in another. We are perpetually dependent on the the Lord for wisdom, creativity, insight, and patience. As we walk with him, he is our teacher. He shows us how to apply his parenting principles but customize them for each of our kids.
And one very effective way of ministering to our children is setting aside intentional moments to be with them. It makes our children more responsive to discipleship. It also allows us to get to know them personally and uncover attitudes and heart issues that need prayer.
At the end of the day, we invest in time, teaching, training, bonding, listening, and laughing together with our children to pass on a godly legacy that they can pass on to their own children. It is for this reason that God made us parents and gave us the four precious children that we have. As Psalm 78 says, We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments…(Psalms 78:4-7 NASB)