A Six Week Series on Parenting - Week Six

CaitieMcCabePortraits.com

CaitieMcCabePortraits.com

Enjoy Your Kids 

Well, I am way behind on writing this last piece of the series because I have not been following the advice I am about to impart.  I have been busy, busy, busy. I haven’t even had time to sit and write. Was all of it busy work? No! There was a lot of fun “busy” in there as well. Several weekend get-aways to visit my older kids have kept us on the go. However, it would appear that my inadverdent delay in finishing this series is in fact, rather timely! With school just about to end and summer break about to begin, my advice to you is slow down and Enjoy Your Kids.

We often get sucked into the summer sign-up frenzy. We see opportunities for our kids to partake in neatly packaged enrichment programs known as “summer camps”. The variety of camps is immeasurable. There’s the church Vacation Bible School (always a fun spiritual memory), Junior Life Guards (great physical exercise), Art Camp, Lego Engineering Camp, Equestiran Camp, Music Camp…etc.  The list is unending. All of these options are great!  However, we have the tendency to want to provide every opportunity and without realizing it, we have scheduled our child’s entire vacation! The first Monday of summer break dawns and we hit the ground running, throwing lunches into their hands, and rushing them off to their camps! We find ourselves just as frazzled as we were during the school year but without the homework!

I’m going to pretend that we moms sign our kids up for activities solely for their benefit and not to just pawn our kids off on someone else for our own benefit. We get caught up in the enticement of nifty activities and belittle the benefit of just being together.  And this madness isn’t unique to just summertime.  We over-schedule ourselves all year long. There’s music lessons, sports, dance, gymnastics, scouts and church. (Okay, we don’t actually do all of that but I think we’ve tried!) Scheduling a family game night in our house is like trying choreograph a flash mob. Why? Because we are all really busy doing really good stuff.

The thing is, enoying your kids just doesn’t have to be that complicated. Sadly, however, it would appear that we have to be intentional about enjoying our kids.  But take heart! Summer is here and it is a great time to start! Here are some suggestions:

1.   Get the board games out of the cabinet and set them in a pile near the kitchen. Play a game during breakfast over your first cup of coffee.  (If nothing else, you have started your day with your kids and a game.)

2.   Plan one outing a week with you and the kids.  Of course, here in Southern California, that is a standing date at the beach.  However, it could be the community pool or a favorite park. We let all our friends know that we will be at a particular place every Wednesday from 11- 4.  We pack a picnic and look forward to our weekly date.

3.   Go to the dollar store and stock up on play-doh, sidewalk chalk, watercolor paints, bubbles, construction paper, glue and glitter.  Put it all in a big box and pull it out weekly to fight the “we’re bored” syndrome.

4.   Teach your kids card games like Go Fish, Crazy Eights,  Hearts, Spoons, Sleeping Queens, Five Crowns, and Nertz.

5.   Go to your local Home Depot or Appliance Store and ask if they can spare any extremely large cardboard box. Refrigerator boxes are the best. Let the kids transform this box into a spaceship, castle, clubhouse, etc. using markers, crayons, or paint.

6.   Have tea parties in the yard. Of course, we serve apple juice and cookies instead of tea and crumpets but you can pick your favorites.

7.   Make a weekly trip to the public library and bring home stacks of colorful books.  Let the kiddos pick out their favorites.  The key here, is to then actually sit at home and read them aloud together!

8.   Watch T.V. with your kids!  A guilty pleasure, I know, but they love having you around.  Sit with them and watch their favorite cartoons or animated movie.  What makes them giggle or burst out loud laughing?

9.   Invite their friends over for playdates. (This is my secret little piece of selfishness.  If their friends are over, I can get my chores done.)

10.                 Serve others together. You can be flexible here.  If your kids       are older, you can volunteer at the local food bank or homeless shelter.  My 11 year-old and I just finished making a simple no-sew blanket for our military. You can even just seek out other moms who are tired and volunteer to take their kids for the day and enlist your kids to help “babysit”.  There is always someone else who needs a helping hand.  Teach your kids compassion by lending a hand together.

Enjoying your kids does not mean that you have to isolate yourselves. It helps to seek out like-minded parents and try to strike up friendships for your entire family. This way, you know that whoever your kids are with, they all are being held accountable to the same biblical standards. This makes for truly fun years of doing life together with other godly families. Together as families, go camping, serve in church, go biking, do Bible studies,   As your kids grow, so will their friendships and spiritual maturity. And the fruit of this will be that as your kids become adults they will be ready to influence the world rather than be influenced by the world.

A Six Week Series on Parenting - Week Three

Issues of the Heart

I remember the first time I heard another mom refer to her toddler’s sinful nature.  I had never considered naughty behavior in this light before!  I had to wrestle with whether I was even comfortable with such a reference. After all, we were talking about her baby who couldn’t have even been 18 months old! Sinful nature? That seemed so harsh.  But the more I wrapped my brain around that, the more I realized the truth in it. We are born into sin and we need a savior. The sooner we recognize that truth in our own children, the sooner we can gently begin pointing our children to their savior. The word, gently, is key here.  Romans 6:14 says “we are no longer under the law but under grace.” Why is it then, that we hold our children under legalistic rules?  So many rules and a consequence for every one of them does not leave much room for grace and mercy.

If we can recognize our children as the adorable little sinners that they are, an extension of our own sinful selves, then we can begin to model grace and mercy. I believe God gave us children to illustrate His love for us. Having a child fills us with an overwhelming and sacrificial love that we didn’t know we were capable of. When we experience that, we get a glimmer of the way in which God loves us. It is in this way then, with grace and mercy, that we should lead our children to Christ. The book Shepherding A Child’s Heart, by Ted Tripp, is an amazing resource. The premise of the book is that we as parents should not be focusing on the outer, perceivably well-behaved child, but rather on raising a child that embraces Christ, desires to be Christ-like, and thereby grows in relationship with Jesus Christ.

Intentional or not, you are the most influential model of Christ that your children will see. So choose to be intentional. Model compassion, grace, forgiveness, and mercy. Model the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I remember being a young mom listening to a speaker at MOPS. This mom was sharing how she taught her kids responsibility.  When little junior forgot his water bottle for soccer practice; he went thirsty for one day and never forgot it again. When he forgot his homework assignment; he missed recesse and learned about consequence. Well, that all may be true, but everything about it rubbed me wrong. Where was the compassion? Where was the grace? Where was the mercy? And I determined, at that very moment, to be the opposite of that mom.

As mom you have the incredible job of raising children that will eventually become adults who can function in society.  Of course, you want to teach them responsibility and I believe chores, allowance, consequence and discipline all have their place in raising children.  However, I think it is equally important to sprinkle all of these with grace. If one of my kids had an unusually busy schedule, homework, or simply had a friend over, I liked to bless that child by doing his/her chore. It didn’t happen everyday but it happened often. And I didn’t mention it. I just want the atmosphere to be that our family is a team and we pitch in and help each other when we see an opportunity to do so. My husband is a very generous person and modeled that for the children. All of my kids had jobs in their teen years and through college.  They know how to save money but they are also generous with one another. They loan each other money without a thought, knowing it will be returned as soon as possible and they each have paid their debts in a timely fashion.

The point is, you can raise responsible kids without being a drill sergeant. Not only did I want to model the fruits of the spirit but I wanted to model some very practical methods for being successful in life. Model preparedness. For instance, as I folded the laundry, I would make three little piles of soccer clothes in my room so the kids knew where their gear was for practices and games. Before leaving the house, I would ask each child if he was wearing his shinguards and cleats and was carrying his water bottle and ball. Before leaving for the beach, we would all go down the mental checklist together to see if we had everything we needed, be it sandtoys, sunblock, towels or lunches. While packing for trips, I would make a checklist for each child’s suitcase for that child to complete and then with each child I would go over the list and look through the suitcase making sure everything was indeed, included. Over the years, these things eventually became second nature and my kids learned how to do it all on their own. Did this always work?  Of course not!  I remember I took the kids on a trip two hours from home, only to arrive and discover one child left the house without shoes! I didn’t get angry though as I, the mom, had failed to check my preschooler’s feet.  Off we went to the nearest Target, purchased the cheapest flip-flops I could find, and set out to enjoy our trip.

I guess what I am trying to say is that you have this overwhelming opportunity to cover your kids in grace and mercy!  Just as Christ covered us!  Demonstrate forgiveness, demonstrate grace, demonstrate mercy.  These can NOT be earned.  They are gifts that we have the privelege of choosing to lovingly bestow.

Yet, I have often failed miserably and not used grace.  I’ve lost my cool and my temper more times than I ever want to admit.  However, on many occassions I have gone back to my kids to ask for forgiveness. So while I completely blew it in the whole “model self-control thing”, rather than beat myself up over it, because it is past, I now choose to think of it as giving them the opportunity to practice forgiveness!

So, issues of the heart begin with examining our own hearts as moms. Am I like that MOPS Speaker, trying to create perfect little people and hiding behind the “Let Them Learn By Suffering The Consequences” mindset? Or am I demonstrating responsibility, with a hearty helping of grace and mercy, by gently prodding my children into adulthood by modeling it for them?