Welcome to Day #4 of the Intentional Mothering Series!
When our first child was five months old we moved to a new place. I felt isolated and alone as a new mom. I began attending a mom’s group at a local church led by a wonderful woman, and grandma of nine, Donna; it was such a lifeline to sanity. I am so blessed (and you will be too) that Donna is sharing her wisdom as part of this series. Her example, in making time to have quality conversations with her kids, has positively impacted our household in many ways.
Those two words can carry so many different meanings. It could be a brief acknowledgement as your child passes through the room, the beginning of a request, or possibly deserving of an exclamation as tensions are high. Or it could be the start of a moment of communication that we, as mothers, so desperately want with our children.
Let me share a little of my background. Jim and I married in 1971 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Our first child, Laura, arrived in 1974. Before her brother, Bryan, was born in 1977, we moved to Jim’s hometown. Being from Southern California, I was so grateful for Jim’s wonderful family who helped me adjust easily to mid-western living. My start into motherhood, however, had been shaky. A week after Laura was born, I began hemorrhaging, which required an emergency D&C. Hormone surges and loss of blood sent me into a debilitating depression. I give God all the glory for pulling me through. The sun was shining again for me after about 3 months. After Bryan was born, I fully enjoyed the ups and downs of life with two young ones to care for.
Life can definitely be a blur when it comes to raising children. Whether you work outside the home, or have the task of child-rearing 24/7, the routine is relentlessly busy. Trying hard to be the perfect parent can be as hurtful as it is helpful. Finding a balance of providing protection, yet not holding on too tight is a challenging goal. I was mindful and grateful for a Heavenly Father who loved my children more than I could even imagine. I was confident He always had their best interest at heart. My husband and I endeavored to pray diligently for
our kids, even fasting weekly for a season.
Being approachable as a mother was always foremost in my mind. That is not always easy in the craziness of everyday life, but it is vital to a child. I’ll never forget an old black and white TV commercial. A small
boy, with an elated look on his face, runs through the front door with a school paper in his hand. As he starts running up the stairs yelling “Dad! Dad! I got a……”, he is cut short with his father yelling back, “CLOSE THE DOOR!!!!” The boy stops in his tracks, his smile disappears, and his shoulders slump. Gone is the moment. It seems it was a Bayer aspirin ad, and those parents definitely needed to take a pill!
How do we purposefully have open communication with our children? Every mother knows it is challenging to find time. One way I pursued it was at bedtime. I had heard early on about Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley, leaders of the Methodist Church. She had a houseful (19 total children, though not all of them lived) and experienced many hardships throughout her life. Her husband left her and the children for over a year because of a minor dispute. To her absent husband, Susannah Wesley wrote:
“I am a woman, but I am also the mistress of a large family. And though the superior charge of the souls contained in it lies upon you, yet in your long absence I cannot but look upon every soul you leave under my charge as a talent committed to me under a trust. I am not a man nor a minister, yet as a mother and a mistress I felt I ought to do more than I had yet done. I resolved to begin with my own children; in which I observe the following method: I take such a proportion of time as I can spare every night to discourse with each child apart. On Monday I talk with Molly, on Tuesday with Hetty, Wednesday with Nancy, Thursday with Jacky, Friday with Patty, Saturday with Charles.”
Susanna saw the value of time alone with each child (even if it had to be once a week)! Every family situation and schedule is unique. You have to look for and take opportunity to grab those moments. A good time for your child may be a very inconvenient time for you. Try not to miss the moment! Ask God to help you. Because I was able to be home after school, that provided another chance to spend time over a snack to hear what was on their mind. Every opportunity, whether in the car, at bedtime, at meal time, or in the middle of the night can be a time of precious communication.
James 1:19 says “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
This verse is a reminder to me that I don’t always have to give an answer or solution to a problem. I also don’t always have to share my two cents worth. Children, when given the opportunity, love to talk. They have stories, experiences, jokes, etc., to share with anyone who will listen. Trouble is, often times no one will listen. Especially in a busy household, voices can easily be drowned out. Even around the dinner table, it can be the one with the loudest voice and longest story who wins. The quiet ones can go unnoticed. A bedtime chat can be the greatest gift you can give.
Proverbs 12:25 says “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”
How many children go to bed with anxiety? School issues, relationships with friends, family situations can be very troubling to a child. Having an opportunity to get anxious thoughts verbalized can bring such peace.
Proverbs 18:21 says “There is power of life and death in the tongue.”
Our words are so powerful. Negative, berating words can be a wound that is only healed by God’s power. Encouraging, loving, uplifting words give life and power to be all God created us to be. Children look to their parents for affirmation…for that stamp of approval that says, “You have what it takes to be all God has in store for you. You are everything I have ever wanted in a son or daughter. You belong in this family, you can tell us anything because our love is unconditional.”
I remember a word of advice from a more experienced, trusted friend. She said, “Don’t show it in your face that you are shocked by what they tell you.” I remembered that the first time my daughter came home and asked me what a four letter word meant that she heard on the bus. I kept a straight face and calmly explained (in limited terms) what it meant and that it was a swear word. She was grossed out and merrily went on her way. That was hard for me to do! It would have been easier to have reacted in shock and never let her ride the bus again.
Another bit of advice was what to do when your child is being emotional, irrational, and words just aren’t cutting it (this was in reference to an emotional daughter in preteen hormone rage). She found that offering a hug defused the pent up emotions. Non-verbal communication is many times just a valuable as verbal. There truly is a lot of common sense that is useful in parenting. Try to remember how you felt as a child. You’ll gain understanding and insight to what your child is feeling and has need of. Try to think before you speak and check your motives. Give your child a platform where he knows he is loved, he can share anything, and that your heart is to be always approachable.
When I observe and talk with parents, it is easy to see that today’s challenges, to stay plugged into your kids, are greater than ever. We did not have to worry about getting our kids “unplugged” first! So many technological distractions pull kids away. Setting boundaries is often the only way to help keep them from becoming isolated. I have seen that there are times when you even have to “join them”. If texting is how your teen likes to communicate away from home, then text! It will never replace one-on-one, but it is a part of today’s
Isn’t it awesome that our Heavenly Father is our greatest example? He is always ready to listen, we can tell Him anything, and His love is unconditional. How glad I am that parenting is not in our own strength. We can only succeed with His strength. The truth of sowing and reaping will always remain true. He will bless all your efforts.
May God bless you, dear mother. Your job is the most challenging and the most rewarding in the world. Be encouraged today and in the days to come.
Listening, learning, and loving,
Donna’s family of four has grown to include a wonderful son-in-law and daughter-in law and nine awesome grandchildren, ages 6-13. She is blessed to see them flourish and grow in God’s truth and love. She is discovering that the principles she used with her kids still apply at every age and in each generation.
1. Take 5 minutes today to have a conversation with your child (look for a
time when they have their guard down and might be more open to
sharing…like before nap or while you eat a snack).
2. Are you an approachable parent? Do you look your children in the eyes; do you listen or do you talk at them? Take these questions before the Lord and ask Him to help you grow in these areas. Aren’t you glad He gives grace upon grace?!
3. Have you released your children to God, knowing He is the ONLY perfect parent? Are you prayerfully trusting the Holy Spirit to supply you with wisdom as you navigate the challenges of parenthood? Take some time and do that right now.