Monthly Archives: January 2013

Brotherly Love

mashed potatoesMy younger son, Aiden, came down with a fever in the middle of the night. By ten in the morning, he was on the upswing, and I was completely exhausted.

By mid-afternoon, however, his fever returned with a vengeance and he didn’t want me to leave his side. I was trying to figure out how to make dinner before the two older kids and my husband went for our mid-week Bible study.

My older son, Allen, came into the darkened room. “Does Aiden need anything?” he asked.

Aiden was resting halfway on my lap and it was all I could do to sit still, thinking of everything that needed to get done.

“No thanks, Allen,” I answered, attempting to move out from under my feverish son.

“Don’t go anywhere, mommy.” His hot hand held on to mine.

So much for that.

I called Allen back into the room. “Actually, there is something you can do.” Even in the darkness, I saw his face light up.

“Can you peel and wash a few potatoes for dinner?” I told him where to find them and the potato peeler.

“Sure, mom.”

By the time Aiden had fallen asleep enough for me to slip out of the room, Allen had peeled and washed the potatoes.

“Can I do anything else?” He was almost jumping up and down.

“Do you want to cut them too?”

“Sure!” We worked side by side until Aiden woke up again, calling for me.

While I was back in the room, Allen washed and cut a plate full of celery sticks.

After dinner was finished, Allen hovered around the room, keeping an eye on Aiden. He ran to get him water, got a damp cloth to cool his forehead, and brought one stuffed animal after another.

“It’s such a quiet evening, mommy,” Allen told me, “without Aiden talking.”

I thought about a typical evening, with Allen starting some activity and his little brother commandeering it – wanting to play with his cars or his Legos or draw on his art board. Usually, anything that Allen wants to do, Aiden is right in there, often taking charge in his not-always-so-gallant manner.

And this evening, when Allen could be playing in peace to his little heart’s content, he’s hovering around his little brother like a hummingbird.

I remember when I was young, my mom often quoting a verse to us six not-always-so-loving siblings: “Let brotherly love continue.”

Now that I’m a mom, all I can say is, “Amen, pass the potatoes.”

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Rising to the Challenge

Rising to the ChallengeOften parenting seems like a responsibility so great it is easy to feel weary under the daily burden.

I’m reading through a book that instead makes me feel like rising to the challenge. The title is Praying Circles around your Children, written by Mark Batterson.

Chapter one holds an awesome promise for any parent:

Your worst mistakes double as your greatest opportunities.

Those words jumped out at me, because I probably couldn’t count on two hands the mistakes I make as a mom … in one day (and on a not-so-great day, sometimes I make that many mistakes in one hour).

The book goes on to explain why our mistakes are opportunities:

Your mistakes give you the opportunity to teach them one of the most important lessons they’ll ever learn – how to say “I’m sorry.”

I have a very simple parenting philosophy that boils down to just three words: please, sorry, and thanks. If all else fails, I want to teach my kids to be really good at saying these words. … If they master these three words, they’re well on their way to great marriages, great friendships, or great relationships with God.

Those words jumped out at me, as I was just writing last week about the importance of being able to say sorry. The next paragraph jumped out even more. You know how sometimes you feel something has been written just for you?

You don’t have to do everything right as a parent, but there is one thing you cannot afford to get wrong.

That one thing is prayer.

You’ll never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent. Prayer is your highest privilege as a parent. There is nothing you can do that will have a higher return on investment. In fact, the dividends are eternal.

Prayer turns ordinary parents into prophets who shape the destinies of their children, grandchildren, and every generation that follows.

Ever been called a prophet before? Me neither.

But I can think of anything more awesome (or more sobering) than helping to shape the destinies of my children and their children. Helping them to reach – not the hopes or desires or dreams I have for them – but the unique and awesome destiny God has created for them before time began.

To realize that I, as a parent, have such a great calling makes me feel like squaring my shoulders and rising to the challenge, which I can only do by falling on my knees in prayer.

Apologies, Hugs, and Imperfect Parenting

Mother Holding BabyParenting is not an easy task. Whether there is one of you, two of you, or a whole village (as per that saying that it takes a village to raise a child), there is no guarantee that raising a child (or more than one) will be a walk in the park.

It’s strange that we can get degrees and certificates, classes and training, in pretty much everything … but parenting is something that we can enter into without a single class. Yet it is the most challenging of any task or responsibility we will ever undertake.

I just got a letter from someone who follows this blog. The note reminded me of a time, a couple years ago, when I was starting to struggle with being a mom. (Well, actually, I think the struggle started when I realize  motherhood equaled a permanent sleep deficit – which was probably about 24 hours after my journey of motherhood began.)

This particular struggle, though, was when my daughter was five, my older son was three, and the younger son nearly one year old. I vaguely remembered writing something about it, something I know I didn’t post as I didn’t have a parenting blog at the time. I looked through my parenting folder and found it:

It just wouldn’t go away, the self incriminating sentence that played over and over in my mind: you’re a horrible mother. I couldn’t do anything to justify myself because the thought came from my own mind. What’s more, I felt it to be true.

Whatever happened to the manifold promises I made myself before I became a mother?

I will not raise my voice.

I will pray for my children every single day.

I will not lose my temper.

I will not judge until I hear both sides of every situation.

Now, after having been a mother for only six years, I find myself raising my voice on a regular basis, falling to sleep some nights without having committed my children to God in prayer, and telling my arguing children impatiently that I do not want to hear about it … I just want them to stop.

Obviously, I didn’t finish the thought that I had been writing about (maybe another of their arguments interrupted me). 🙂

And since that time, I have had pretty low moments as a mom. I hated my impatience with them, my frustration at the little mistakes they made, the fact that I was too busy sometimes too busy to give them the time they deserve and need.

A conversation I had with my mom at one of these times was a great help to me. Besides what I already wrote in a separate post about this conversation, my mom also mentioned something that acts as a healer in our relationships with our children:

Just say you’re sorry.

When you know you’ve overreacted to something your child did, or when you’re going through a busy season and not able to spend as much time with your child as you would like … just say sorry.

Explain why you overreacted, or why you were under pressure. Kids understand a lot more than we give them credit for.

They also forgive a lot more easily than we usually do.

Last week, I overreacted when my son did something he shouldn’t have done at the dinner table. It must not have been that big a deal, because I can’t even remember now what it was. But I remember my reaction was negative, and his reaction to my reaction was even worse. I managed to catch myself, though, and apologize.

“I shouldn’t have gotten upset about that. I’m sorry.” That was all I said.

He turned around and smiled real big. “It’s okay, mommy. I forgive you.”

What could have been a prolonged “battle of wills” turned into his trademark, “Hug, squeeze, kiss” … disaster averted.

We’re never going to be perfect parents. Sometimes we might feel like we’re pretty horrid ones, actually. But we really don’t have any choice than to keep trying our best.

And on the days we can’t even manage that, to not be afraid to say sorry and “I’ll try to do better next time.”

Beyond that, I believe the love we receive from our children, and the love we have for them, will fill in the gaps and make parenting worth every effort we put into it.

Sometimes a “hug, squeeze, kiss” from a child is all a parent needs to inspire them anew for the task.

I know it works for me.

[Image by © B. Hermann/zefa/Corbis]