As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have been re-reading Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. Last night I was struck by a story that Kimmel tells in Chapter 7, ‘The Freedom to Be Different’, and I want to share it here.
Whenever I read great or interesting magazine articles, I file them away for future reference. I’ll never forget the impact one article had on me as a father.
The writer had penned one of those “If I could do it over again…” type articles about being a dad. He listed various things that he wished he could go back and do differently with his children, who were now grown. One of the things he said went something like this: “If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have made such a big deal about my son wanting to go to sleep with his desk chair on his bed.” There was an explanation that went with this incredible statement. Apparently, his son (in the three- to four-year-old range) really liked the desk chair in his room. Every night, he wanted to have his mom or dad put the chair on his bed—near hs feet on top of the bedspread. When they asked why, he’d say things like “I really love it” or “I just enjoy going to sleep with it.” When they asked what was wrong with the chair staying where it was since it was still close by, he’d tell them how much he preferred having his desk chair on his bedspread as he fell asleep. When they resisted his requests, he’d get teary-eyed or actually start crying. His parents would scold him, and he’d cry more. On those occasions when they accommodated his wild request, he’d always tell them how thankful he was. What was most amazing about those nights was how easily he would fall asleep.
For the most part, however, his parents (especially his father) would make a scene about putting the desk chair on his bed, which always led to the tears and the shouts. When they did let him sleep with his desk chair, they’d stop by the room before their bedtime, and invariably his sleep movements had already knocked the chair to the floor. They’d roll the chair back to his desk, wish their son sweet dreams, and close the door. Every morning, their boys was fine.
As this father looked back on those months of nights that their son had cried himself to sleep because of their refusal of his simple request, he was overwhelmed with regret. He realized after the fact that his son’s request, though weird… was not evil. There were no moral issues at stake, and any parent who would try and make one is simply not willing to see the obvious. This father, with the advantage of time and the wisdom gained from years of foolish decisions, wondered why he hadn’t gladly picked up the chair, set it gently at his son’s feet, and not made the least little issue of it.
…. This was a father that wished he could go back and exhibit more grace in his son’s life. (pp 143-145)
I teared up as I read this story. Then I sputtered and cried as I read it aloud to Jon. What am I keeping my boys from doing that would make them happy and, in turn, make me happier, too? In what ways am I letting my OCD tendencies take over and run the show?
If Matty wants to bring his penguin AND his puppy to pick up Elijah and Brady from school, what’s the big deal? Why do I feel the need to insist he brings just one or the other (or on occasion, none)? Yes, there is a 75% chance that he will end up dropping one (or both) of them. And with Mattias there is a 95% chance that he will fall and they will be wet and muddy by the time we get home. (Oh, and that means that my jeans will also be wet and muddy, as they have become the place to wipe all things dirty.) But there are worse things. And so what if he insists on wearing a Thomas shirt EVERY SINGLE DAY! (He and Jesse do share 5 of them, after all!)
I want love and acceptance of my boys and their unique qualities to over-ride my selfishness. My personal desires. My “good sense”.
In twenty years, I want to be able to say, “If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing!”
We moved to Aberdeen and (gasp!) left our children’s Bible in Canada. So we decided recently that it was time to get off our backsides and get our boys some Bibles! Saturday morning we headed down to George Street to see what we could find.
In the end we got four Bibles, one for each of the boys. Elijah chose The Action Bible. It is pretty perfect for him right now. It is done in cartoon fashion. He started reading it as soon as we got home and didn’t want to stop, even reading between his turns while we played Pick Up Sticks.
Brady chose The Christian Focus Story Bible. It’s not bad, but we did try and talk him out of it.
Jon and I chose 2 for the twins. The first one is Children of God Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It is really neat — the stories are illustrated by many different artists, and are so different from one another.
A friend of ours, Melissa, did some major research on Bibles aimed at kids a few years ago, so we took her advice and bought the one she found to be the best. Our fourth and final Bible purchased on Saturday was The Jesus Storybook Bible. And let me tell you, it is AMAZING! (Thanks Melissa!)
Here is an awesome quote from the introduction:
God wrote, ‘I love you’ — he wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea. He wrote his message everywhere! Because God created everything in his world to reflect him like a mirror — to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing.
The way a kitten chases her tail. The way red poppies grow wild. The way a dolphin swims.
And God put it into words, too, and wrote it in a book called ‘the Bible.’
Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.
Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times they are downright mean.
No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne — everything — to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!
You see, the best thing about this Story is — it’s true.
There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.
It takes the whole Bible to tell His story. And at the centre of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle — the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.
Man! It gives me goosebumps! If you are in the market for a Bible to read with your kids, you really need to consider this one.
Many years ago, we wanted to teach Elijah and Brady The Lord’s Prayer. We also wanted it to make some sense to them, so Jon made a kid-friendly version. We would say it together each night at bedtime and it went something like this:
Our Father in Heaven, Your name is great!
We want You to have Your way
On Earth just like in Heaven.
Please give us what we need each day;
Forgive all our bad things as we forgive each other.
Help us to do good; save us from evil.
For the world is Yours, and the power and the glory,
Forever and ever. Amen. So be it.
It was a nice way to finish off a day with the boys, praying the words that Jesus prayed.
A few months ago Jon began a series during our Sunday morning services at The Mission on The Lord’s Prayer. This time, he decided that instead of using his kid-friendly version (which he says he would change now anyway), he’d go back to the original (non-KJV) version. It was a 6 week series and each week the kids would review the part of the prayer that they had learned up to that point and then Jon would give a brief ‘lesson’ on that day’s section. It was a wonderful opportunity to study Scripture intergenerationally. (But that’s a bit off topic.)
So, anyway, the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about this special prayer and what I can learn from it afresh. The line that has been jumping out at me again and again is:
‘Give us this day our daily bread’ or in our kid-friendly version, ‘Give us what we need each day’.
I am reminded, once again, that what Jesus taught us to pray was not that God would provide what we need in the future, but what we need today.
What do we need today? Sometimes I think that what I need today is some assurance that God will provide for us tomorrow. But in truth, he’s already given me that, I am just good at forgetting it. If I am thinking clearly, I can look back on my life and see so many times when God provided (sometimes quite miraculously, I would say) for us. More times than that, I admit, I can look back and see times when I have worried and stressed and cried out to God, desperate for him to provide for tomorrow, unable to rest in the knowledge that God had provided in the past and would continue to take care of us each day.
At the moment, I find myself in that same place, restless and worried about our future finances. Do I think that things are going to change and that God is suddenly going to stop providing for us? No. But I worry that we are not being good stewards of what God has given us; I wonder if we are spending frivolously on extras we don’t need. And that doesn’t sit well with me.
Oh that I would truly live simply and with a thankful heart, fully aware of Who has given me everything I have, which is more than I need or deserve or ever imagined He would bless me with.
Where does the time go? I can’t believe that it has been 2 years since I could hardly move because I was so hugely pregnant with Jesse and Mattias. But looking at my beautiful babies, I guess I can’t deny that they really aren’t babies any more.
These guys are so different from each other. Seriously, I can’t imagine them being more opposite (Apart from the way they look. I guess one could have blue eyes, one brown; one could have dark hair, one blond… But they really do look so different from each other).
So here it is, Jesse and Matty described in ways they are similar and then by ways they are different:
~ They love to play outside. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t have them begging me to take them to the beach (so they can throw rocks) or to the train park (so they can go down the slide).
~ They love their big brothers. Elijah and Brady are (usually) very good to them, and J & M really love to be with them. On school days, I am constantly being asked to go pick up ‘Jahjah’ and ‘Daydee’.
~ The highlight of their day is the time between supper and bedtime when all the boys play chase with Daddy.
~ They love to colour and to play with cars. Their newest obsessions are trains (Matty loves building the tracks) and monkeys (we have the Curious George movie and Jesse is constantly asking to watch it).
~ Both boys are quite shy with new people. They barely speak when there are other people around.
~ When we go grocery shopping their favourite part is getting to ‘clean up’ (put the groceries on the belt at the check out).
~ At home, they like to help load the washing machine and hang up the wet clothes to dry. They also like to set the table. Jesse’s favourite thing to do is carry the milk – only slightly stressful! – and Matty likes to carry the ‘poons.
~ The most important part of the bedtime routine is the singing. We sing ‘Something about that name’ and other songs that come to mind, mostly ‘Jesus loves me’ and ‘Jesus, what a beautiful name’. They ask for ‘Jesus’ when it’s nap/bed time but don’t like it if I try and sing it any other time.
Now here are some of the ways they are unique:
~ Jesse is small. He is consistently measuring at the 2nd percentile for height and the 25th for weight.
~ Matty is the ‘big’ one. He measures around the 25th percentile for height and the 50th for weight.
~ Jesse doesn’t eat much. Some days it’s a struggle to get him to eat anything other than yogurt and fruit. I guess that’s not too bad!?
~ Matty loves to eat and doesn’t often refuse whatever we offer him. His first sentence, uttered a number of months ago, mind you, was, “I don’t like it” and was said immediately after he was handed his plate of food at supper.
~ Jesse has straight dirty-blond hair that got bleached out in the sun and brown eyes. (I just chopped his hair off, so it is also recently much shorter than Matty’s.) His fingers and feet are short and chubby.
~ Matty’s hair is wavy and a bit darker. His eyes are a darker brown and rimmed with magnificent Brady-esque lashes. His fingers and feet are long and thin.
~ These days Jesse loves to walk on his toes and/or walk backwards. When we walk to get E & B from school, Jesse generally stays close to me and listens when I tell him to stop or to hold my hand.
~ Matty loves to run and can get going pretty fast! He likes to see how far away from me he can get and will rarely hold my hand without being forced to do so.
~ Jesse loves to “play” with Elijah and Brady. He follows them around and does his best to copy everything they do. Right now they are in a Star Wars phase, so that usually means that Jesse gets to be an ewok and carry a stick.
~ Matty loves the big boys, but is more often found playing with cars or blocks while the other 3 play together.
~ Jesse likes to be clothed. He wants to have socks on, a hat on, etc.
~ As soon as Mattias gets up in the morning he is taking off is pyjamas, or begging someone (anyone!) to help him do it. If we let him he would be without clothes 24/7.
~ Even though he is smaller and only 23 minutes older than Matty, Jesse IS the big brother. He bosses Matty around (even as I am typing this I can hear him saying, “No! No! No Matty!”) and he always makes sure Mattias has what he needs. For example, since he began walking, if I am ever giving Jesse a snack, he reaches for a second bowl/cup/candy to give to his little brother. It is so sweet!
~ Jesse loves to line things up and keep things in order. Playing with cars for J means lining them up in a row.
~ Frustratingly enough for Jesse, Matty is more inclined to dump things out and knock things over. Or even better, wait until Jesse’s built a tower and then crash it!
~ J is a dancer (but I use that term loosely!). He likes to move when he hears music.
~ M is a singer. Whether there is music playing (which there usually is) or not, he will often be singing.
~ J is a charmer. He likes to smile and wave – from a distance – to strangers. He is a great hugger. Having his little arms around my neck is one of my favourite things!
~ M is a goof. He loves to make us laugh and will do the same thing again and again if we’ve given him a good reaction. His smile is incredible – another one of my favourite things!
I am working on appreciating the craziness that is my life (after all, I wouldn’t want it any other way) and the amazing family that God has blessed and entrusted me with. My desire is to get to a place where thankfulness overflows and selfishness disappears. By His grace, I’m moving in that direction.
Eight years ago I was about 11 weeks pregnant with Elijah. At that time I never would have imagined that I would have 4 amazing little men that call me Mommy! But here I am, and I feel so blessed to have 4 healthy and growing sons. Sometimes – more often than not, I’m afraid – I take them for granted. And I take my role as their mother for granted, too.
I used to talk about how I don’t want to simply survive, I want to thrive. I think that in many ways I have only been surviving as a parent in the recent past. (I know, I know, I have young twins! But that is a poor excuse for being a pathetic mother for the last 2+ years.) There is so much responsibility that comes with parenting. And it seems that as they get older I realize that there are more and more layers of responsibility that come.
My boys need me. They need a mom who they know will be there for them, no matter what they do. A mom that isn’t going to yell at them when they make a decision that was not the wisest one. A mom they know will love them no matter what. A mom that they never need to ask, ‘Do you like me?’, because they know by the way they are treated and the things that I say that I love them more than I ever imagined possible.
They need me to teach them. Teach them how to love. Teach them how to be gracious. Teach them how to interact respectfully with adults. Teach them how to interact appropriately with kids. Teach them how to handle conflict. Teach them how to express their emotions. I need to teach them how to be like Christ.
I feel so unworthy of this high calling. So ill-prepared. So tired. So selfish.
Oh that I would be the mom I long to be, the mom my sweet sons deserve.
Forgive me, Lord, in all my doings.
Way back in the middle of March a friend of ours, Rachel Owens, took some family photos for us. Here are a few of my favourites: