Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Mission of Motherhood: My Second Takeaway

Last month I read The Mission of Motherhood, a practical and inspiring resource by a dear sister and respected mentor in the faith, Sally Clarkson. I devoured every page. Underlining. Amen-ing in the margins. Highly recommend. (You can read my first life-altering takeaway here.)

I am currently reading Clarkson's The Ministry of Motherhood. I highly recommend this book also (based on what I've read so far) and I might unwittingly share some of the things I'm learning therein. Note: Her books are soooooooo good.

Takeaway #2: Parenting with the end in mind, I aim to be friends with my children above all else.

To me, this sounds sort of counter-cultural. To some of you it might be a duh statement, but where I grew up, I heard many-a parent talk about how they are their child's parent NOT their child's friend. They spoke as if the two exclude one another: If you're parent, you can't be friend, and vice versa.  I have always had a hard time resonating with this sentiment because my mama has always been my best friend. She carefully laid the foundation of friendship in our relationship, and I wholeheartedly agree with her approach. Let me explain.

I have come to believe that I set the primary example for my children in EVERYTHING. {This scares it out of me, y'all.} I am John's most visible example of how to keep his room clean and his crap organized (uh-oh). I am to John's daily example in how to spend time with God and participate in a dynamic relationship with Him. I am John's first and enduring example of what true friendship looks like.

Yes, I aim to invite him into my friendships. As John sees Mama participating with other women and with his daddy as a strong friend, he can glean what he will about the type of friend he is to be. However, how much more powerful and memorable my example will be if I show him how to be a friend by being his own, his very first best friend!

I've begun affirming my son every day, multiple times a day of my love for him and my friendship with him. Our conversation goes like this:
On our V-Day date at Chick-fil-A alllll the way in Ohio

"I love you, John."
"I love you, Mama."
"You're my best friend, John."
"You're my best friend, Mama."

We often whisper these words as sweet-nothings in each another's ears. He's two, but I mean every word. And I know he means what he says with the same strength and love. We are best friends. I pray that we will always be.

I recognize that a day will come when John is a teenager and then a man.
I recognize that he will need me and his daddy to be firm with him at times. (Rare times because firm is not really in my repertoire.:)
I recognize that John may not look at me as his best friend every day of his life.
I recognize but I do not fear.

The important work of kissing John (as he repeatedly presents me with his cheek), affirming John, delving into John's interests and introducing him to mine (hello, Starbucks), generally being a good friend to John is laying the foundation for him to establish healthy and intimate bonds in the future. I am parenting with John's future wife, children, and close friends in mind. I want my boy to understand how to love them well.

More than that, I know that I am (as Sally puts it) "instilling in [John] a deep experience of God by modeling his unconditional love and acceptance" (p. 131). I am John's first teacher of what God is like. I can either fail miserably at this by being demanding, a nag, easily angered, and keeping a record of his wrongdoings OR I can provide John with the security of knowing a loving, patient, and gracious mama who models God's love and acceptance toward him. I long to provide my boy the latter.

Even now, John and I carry on daily (strange) conversations. He is deeply interested in the alphabet, so we talk about "the sticky letters" (vowels) as he proudly names all five of them and tells me about all the cartoon characters who love vowels. We frequent coffee shops and draw/color shapes together. John is proud that he's learning the difference between hexagons and octagons. He also loves it when I tell him what letter all of his favorite people's names start with. We talk as we push trains across the kitchen "chicken" floor (and "couple them up") about which trains are strong, which are smart, and which are working together as a team. We talk about who will top John's over-priced birthday cake this year and we clap loudly and wildly and laugh uncontrollably when John tee-tees in the potty. Every single day, we chat about what we'll do together outside when the weather warms - visit the tigers at the zoo, fly his first kite, go swimming; this is our favorite topic of conversation! We sit and thank God together for each other, for Daddy, for horses, letters, numbers, and shapes, for fries and ketchup, for bagels and cream cheese "sauce" (our picky eater's current obsession). We affirm each other. At first, I did all the affirming: "John, I love you," "Of all the two-year-olds in the world, Mama chooses you," "You are my favorite, John. You're my best friend." And my favorite, which I breathe in John's hearing several times daily, "Thank you, God, for John." Nowadays I am beginning to hear my son affirm his love for me with deep affection and lots of hugs and kisses. This mom life is wonderful!

... A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:7)

Much of my time spent with John and many of our conversations look and sound nothing like the deep heart encounters that I imagine our future holding. I am laying the foundation. I am sowing into my boy now the kind of relationship I hope to reap our whole lives long. Love. Encouragement. Humility. Vulnerability. Grace. Affection. Deep commitment. These are words that I hope describe John and Mama as long as we live.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. (John 15:12-14)

And the biggest deal of all is that I model to my son how to love God by loving him as Jesus loves. To lay down my life for my sweet, small friend that he may one day lay down his life for his own. LORD, help me.

I firmly believe that being John's friend and his parent are so intertwined that one cannot cancel out the other. However, if being a parent means that I rule him as the authority, the wise one, the know-it-all, I'm not really that interested. And if being a friend means that I offer what little I know to my sweet son (and my future wee ones) with humility and courage knowing that God ultimately takes care of my children (My only real responsibility becomes listening to God who has my son's best interest and loving this kid like crazy.), well, in that I am very interested.

And because the Word of God is always informing my parenting choices, here are some verses that are helping me form my convictions as Mama-friend:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:1-4

This reminds me to invite John into my own spiritual discipline. I often apologize to him when I lose my temper and help him to understand why Mama was wrong. I feel that this practice helps when I have to ask John to apologize to me and correct him for wrongdoing. He knows that we are in this discipleship process together as friends. I aim to not show contempt for God's riches toward me by judging my son. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13) and kindness leads us to repentance (a deeply-held mind change about our behavior). How I long to be kind and merciful with John that he might be led to a humble, repentant, exhilarating relationship with Father God!

The next two verses don't need such explanation.

Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Amen!

{This post touches lightly on the topic of childhood discipline [the d-word makes me cower, but it's really just the practice of guiding our children well]. I am sort of an amateur in this department, so Josh and I are soon starting the Clarksons' book on discipline. I'm excited! Always something to learn.}

2 comments:

  1. what great comments! Thanks so much! Blessings!

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    1. Thanks so much, Mrs. Sally! Means a lot to hear your feedback! :)

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