In honor of mother’s day, and on this side of motherhood, I have a few things to pass on to my friends who are still in the trenches:
- Be a parent, not a best bud. Your kid will have plenty of friends (especially once you teach her how to be a friend). Parenting isn’t a popularity contest and that’s a good thing because you’d lose.
- Don’t be afraid to show him what he should say yes to and what he should say no to. We have more freedom of choice at this point in history than ever before. Choice is truly a wonderful thing but it can quickly become dangerous or overwhelming without boundaries. That’s where you come in. Don’t be afraid to tell him in age appropriate ways what’s off limits for them and why. But choose your battles.
- Balance the boundaries with lots of freedom. Embrace creativity and whimsy and the occasional touch of chaos.
- Admit when you make a mistake. (You will. Often.) Show them how to apologize. Model humility and teachability. Show her that she doesn’t have to be perfect.
- Teach modesty both in the sense of dressing in ways that demonstrate self-respect and in the sense of humility (see above).
- Teach them to celebrate and embrace their masculinity or femininity and their own unique worth. The world (and, sadly, often the church, too) wants them to be ashamed of their bodies.
- Let your home be the place where the kids hang out as much as possible. As tired as you’ll sometimes be, don’t use other kid’s parents as free babysitting.
- Laugh with them. Make funny faces in the bathroom mirror. Play in the mud and the rain. Dance. Make a mess. Be silly.
- Teach them—boys and girls—how to sew a hem and a button; how to make at least one meal other than breakfast; how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ (and why); how to do their own laundry; and how to change a tire.
- Don’t lose yourself. It might seem like love at the time to pour every bit of your energy and time into your kids but it isn’t. Show your kids how to live a life well. If you’re married, date your husband. Practice self-care. Be who you are meant to be, the person you’ll continue to be once the kids are grown and gone. You’re modeling how to be a whole and holy human for them and that’s love.
- Never forget that what you’re doing matters. You aren’t creating a human being–that was done for you. But you and everyone else who loves your kid are making an environment that makes it possible for that amazing human being to become what she or he was meant to be. And that’s something worth spending your life on.