How was your Valentine's Day? I hope that you had an awesome one! We had a simple celebration, with the goal of affirming our love for one another. The harder part is staying committed to loving, even without a special day to celebrate. For the past couple of weeks, I had been journaling my thoughts about gifts of love we can give our husbands. I wanted to start with him, as our relationships with our spouses is the foundation for our homes and families. But how about the kids?
Admittedly, it is much easier for me to focus on my children than my husband. From the day they were born, my life has changed radically, literally overnight. I'm sure that is true for you too. As a mom, I am committed to giving them the best of what I can offer them.
However, we often equate the best gifts to our children as material blessings or experiences. At least I do. As I watch other parents, it is hard not to feel pressured into getting the latest and greatest for our kids. If my child isn't involved in every sport under the sun, along with music, scouting, fine arts, tutoring, dance, gymnastics, martial arts, etc., I feel like I have fallen short as a parent.
But to be honest, I have neither the time or the money to invest in all these things. Is that what parenting is all about, bringing my children to other people so they spend more time with their teachers, coaches, or scout leaders than they do with me?
To be sure, I am not advocating hiding out in a hole all day with my kids. But if my days are so full of other things, I am going to be hard pressed to fit in what God really wants me to do, which is disciple my children throughout their lives (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Even though we live simple lives, I am still having a hard time making this a priority. And we are supposed to be a ministry family!
Right now, as long as my children are under my roof, I have a job to do. And I don't have a lot of time to do it. Eighteen years goes by in a flash. We're into year 16 with our daughter and are quickly recognizing that if that much time has already gone by, two years is just a blink of an eye. Even Jonathan is four years old and quickly growing up. Time is ticking.
And so, this mini-series for the rest of this month will be focusing on gifts that we can give to our children as parents. Like the gifts we give our husbands, they are also not costly in terms of money, but probably far more costly in terms of time, sacrifice and commitment. And yet, those are probably the more important gifts. High-tech gadgets are quickly replaced. Experiences come and go. But what is sown into the heart of our children builds their character, values and outlook, which influence them for life.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the gift of security. I personally believe that one of the best ways to indirectly bless our children is to cultivate a strong, vibrant and growing marriage, which is why I started with our husbands first. Research has shown that when a home is secure, children thrive.
But there are other ways that our children can grow up with a sense of security. Things such as:
- Routines: Especially for little ones, having a consistent schedule and way of doing things helps both them and us. Of course, this is not always possible, but I have found that even if we are running "late" with the schedule, if we do things the same way and in the same order, there is a stability for our kids. (At least, when my kids were little they had no idea what time it was so this worked!) That was the way it was this week. With the move, things have been very chaotic and unpredictable. But our routines helped the kids make the transition with minimal trouble.
Sometimes this is a sacrifice, especially if you like to be on the go, doing what you want, whenever you want. It is sometimes a shock to the system! But I have found the time spent in setting a strong routine pays off later on and they are able to be rested and ready to flex with you.
- Appropriate physical touch, such as hugs and affection: yes, even to boys and teenagers (and especially teenage boys!) let your children know that you love them. I know I tend to withhold physical affection when I am upset with someone. It is especially in these times that I need to will myself to give that child a hug, even when I don't feel like it. Even if I cannot say it, I need to show them I love them despite my frustration with them at the moment!
- Loving words: Like many of you, this may be foreign and we are floundering around for examples or help. Coupled with a hug, an "I love you" can really minister to a child. It lets them know you're there and you are committed, which helps them to be rooted in something solid. It may require going out of our comfort zones or rising up over our troubled emotions, but this effort on our part will sow seeds of security in our children.
These are just a few ways that I can think of. Can you think of others?