Friday, February 22, 2013

To My Children (after a hard week)

My Darling children,

It's been one of those weeks when I wonder if you've been replaced by alien look-alikes from Mars who only look like my children.  Or maybe the mushrooms in Monday's sausage and potato soup were poisonous and caused you to develop a sudden case of selective amnesia wherein you instantly forgot every positive lesson I have sought to teach you over the past four or six years, respectively, in how to live as a loving family.

Instead of training up children in the Lord, I fear this week shows I still have a long way to go to avoid being a failure as your mother.  Perhaps it would help jog your memory if I reminded you of a few rules of the house.

Because we are a family, ...

We say please, thank you, yes ma'am, and no sir.  Mommy comments on your manners quite often, praising you for these few simple words that make grown ups feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

But when you forget, when mommy looks in your eyes and corrects your mistake, you're supposed to repeat after her with a parroted "No ma'am," not merely turn your head and go back to what you're doing.  Yes, I will keep annoying you by saying those magic words over and over until you repeat them back to me. Don't sigh or pretend you didn't hear me.  I know better.  Just practice the politeness and move on.  With practice, those words will hopefully come naturally one day and will help you have positive, healthy relationships with others in your adult lives.

We express gratitude instead of entitlement.  You are not entitled to television, computer time, sugary treats, trips to the zoo, toys, or anything else of the sort.  These are all blessings from God and your parents.  A simple "thank you" for any such blessing is always much appreciated.  And when you want something else?  Yes, make your request known, but if it is denied, don't take this as an invitation to practice your lawyering skills with such fervency, a stranger would think your very life depended on mommy changing her mind.  (She's not budging, by the way.)

For instance, when mommy plays three games with you but doesn't have time for a fourth, be thankful for the hours she devoted to spending time playing/cutting/gluing/reading/teaching/feeding you.  Don't take her refusal as an invitation for you to sulk and then tell everyone we meet that mommy was "too busy to play with me."  Those words are untrue and hurt mommy's heart.  Washing your socks may not seem important when what you'd prefer is another round of of Clue Junior, but the day you have to go outside in 32 degree weather with no socks on, then maybe you'll understand.

Also, when mommy allows you to watch a single episode of Scooby Doo in the afternoons and a second episode auto-starts, push the pause button.  You know how to work the remote as well as she does, even if you're 1/7th her age.  Mommy will eventually realize your error; she will stop the second forbidden episode in the middle.  Don't then screw up your face and lower your eyebrows in disgust before breaking into full whine about how this episode is the only one I never have let you finish before.  Be thankful for the one and go outside to spend time with your siblings. Your time with them is shorter than you know.

We accept the meal on the table as a blessing, not a curse.  Not every meal will be your favorite.  Not every meal is mommy's favorite either.  I would rather never again eat macaroni and cheese or meatballs in my spaghetti, but I know you enjoy these foods and so we eat them with great regularity.

Accept that mommy and daddy adore mushrooms.  I know you all hate them, so I rarely include them in a dish anymore, even though we ate them by the pound before you were born.  But when mommy puts a few rather large ones in your soup so you can easily just scoop around them, please do just that.  I promise they didn't poison the rest of the food, and it won't kill you to leave them in your bowl.

What's more, your rather loud insistence that you hate mushrooms, sausage, etc. isn't considered polite table conversation and won't convince me of anything I don't already know.  Never tell me "I don't like..." if it's sitting on your plate.  Take a bite, then leave it there.  It probably took me several hours to prepare this meal you're frowning at.  And that's not to mention how hard your daddy worked to pay for the food so you could grow up healthy.  We aren't intentionally trying to make you sick.

We treat others with kindness, forgive, and forget.  You are all so good at the forgiving part, always ready with those kind words on your lips as soon as the request for forgiveness presents itself.  But forgiving also means forgetting.

That means you're not allowed to exclude your sister from your games for the rest of the afternoon because you don't want her to make the same error a second time.  That also means you can't bring up what your brother did to you a week ago.  Forgiving means forgetting, giving the person another chance, wiping the slate clean.

Your siblings may drive you crazy.  But, you wouldn't push/yell at/throw things at your friend at school or at church (or you shouldn't, in case you've forgotten).  That means you shouldn't act that way towards your siblings either.  Treat them with the same kindness and love you would like them to extend towards you.

Remember how often others in our family have had to forgive you.  Forget their trespasses as you hope they forget yours.

We understand that our words and actions can really hurt. When you don't listen to mommy, when you ignore her instructions, when you talk back...when you fail to respond with love, gentleness, patience, gratitude, and kindness, it hurts her heart.

Yes, you may be small in stature, but you can hurt mommy more than most people in the world.  You can even make me cry so hard, I'll feel like I'm breaking apart.  

Some days, it may seem as though I am doing everything the opposite of how you would choose to do it.  Some days, it may seem as though I'm asking you to do "all the hard work."  But remember: mommy is trying her best to be the best mother she can be.

I will screw up.  I will have to say I'm sorry and ask your forgiveness, hoping you will still love me anyway.  Some days, I will make so many mistakes, you'll wonder how God could have picked me to be your mother.  I often wonder that, myself.

Even so, everything I do, I do because I love God and I love you, not because I want to make your life difficult or because I want you to follow a set of rules merely for the sake of following them. 

My children, I want you to learn to love as Jesus loved, to think of others before you think of yourself, to treat others with kindness even when they don't deserve it, to be joyously thankful for the little you have instead of always looking down the road with longing.

Look in your heart.  Remember the teachings of your youth.  And seek to put those precepts into practice.  It's hard, I know.  But we must never give up on each other.

We are a family.


  1. Hang in there Jen. I am in the trenches with you and I love that Christ makes the impossible possible through us. As a Mom, I need to cling to that hope.

    1. It's the gratitude that really gets me. :-) Yep, Kellie. We're in this mothering boat together. Some weeks, the waves are just rockier than others. If He weren't in the boat with me, we'd have already turned over.