I read in a book once that a good technique to teach your little ones to come when you call is to “practice” by calling them to you sometimes just for fun. Hug them, say something silly, or tell them you love them–so that when you call them to you, it’s not always because they’re being disciplined or ordered to do something.
(Just in case you’re wondering: despite my brilliant read-it-in-a-book parenting techniques, my four children do NOT come when they’re called 100% of the time. Particularly the three-year-old, who seems to go deaf when she catches wind of my voice about 78% of the time right now. And admittedly the newborn and I have more of an I-go-when-he-calls relationship right now.)
A few nights ago I was rocking the baby to sleep in the living room and watching the older three kids wrestle and dance and play together in the living room. I watched my beautiful five-year-old daughter dance and laugh in her Elsa pajama dress, and one of those warm-fuzzy feelings came over me. I heard myself calling out to her, “Faith, please come here. I need to tell you something important.”
And she came over immediately. To my surprise.
“What do you want to tell me, Mommy?” she said, a huge smile on her face, and sparkles in her eyes.
I didn’t actually have anything I needed to tell her at that moment. It was more that I had been loving her as I was watching her, and my love brought to mind all of the things I want to make sure I tell her.
“Do you know how loved you are?” I said. “Do you know that you are a gift to me? Do you know that you can never do anything that would make me stop loving you?”
More sparkles in her eyes. A shy grin. A twirl. And she was off again. A twenty-second conversation, tops.
There are so many more things I want to tell my daughter, about life and God and people and friendship and suffering.
I want to tell her that God will guide her through what He leads her to, even if it takes years of slogging through something to realize that He’s been with you every step of the way.
I want to tell her that sometimes we can only learn the depths of God’s mercy by going through trials that make us need it more than we could have imagined.
I want to tell her that it’s true–“those who look to Him are radiant.” That authentic beauty comes from having a beautiful heart.
I want to tell her that she should follow her heart in life–but only if her heart is in turn guided by a well-formed conscience, a strong prayer life, and a desire to know and do God’s will.
I want to tell her that God can work all things together for her good.
I want to tell her that she should be patient with the faults and quirks of the people around her, because over and over again in life she will realize little and bigger faults and quirks of her own that others have been putting up with for years.
I want to tell her that even with great faith–even when you could speak all of these truths and more to someone else’s life–life is still going to be hard.
Ah…I want to tell my daughter these things and so many more.
Our actions as parents may speak louder than words, but words are important, too. We need to tell our children many things while they still want to listen to us. Even if they won’t understand them for a while. Even if we feel like we’re annoying or cheesy or hypocritical. Sometimes having to teach something helps us realize that we need to walk the talk better ourselves. We need to pepper our conversations with our children with little flecks of gold: in those precious moments as we tuck them into bed, that stolen few minutes we’re reading a book on the couch just the two of us, or even (maybe especially) those times we have to apologize sincerely for being too harsh.
Some of my deepest conversations with my kids have come when I’ve gone in to apologize to one of them for going off the deep end. I am pretty sure my oldest three kids have figured out by now that their mother isn’t perfect. (Sometimes it blows my mind how quickly they forgive me when I’ve been horrible!) I’m also pretty sure that my kids know by now that I always apologize when I’m truly in the wrong.
When I apologize, I tell my kids that I need their prayers to help me be more patient, have more self-control, be more gentle. Would you say a prayer with me to ask Jesus to help me work on that? I tell them that when you let Jesus into your heart, He makes “fruit” in your life. Do you remember the Fruits of the Spirit? Which one does Mommy REALLY need to work on today? Jesus was NOT in Mommy’s heart a few minutes ago, was He?” (Mother and child both burst into giggles.)
I tell my children that they should not say, “It’s OK” when I or anyone else apologizes to them. Because it’s never okay for someone to sin against you. You say, “I forgive you.”
There’s so much I want to tell my kids. And even though I’m a stay at home mom, and even though I homeschool, and even though I’m around these little souls all day, every day…still I wonder if there is enough time. I know I can’t get it all in, that ultimately God is in control and I am not. But I can do my best, offer the trying up to God, and remind myself that the work is hard and the days are long, but my time with all of these young children is truly a short season of my life. I know that my sweet little girl will one day soon outgrow her princess pajamas. That those open-hearted sparkles in her eyes won’t stay there forever. And that she won’t always be there to come when she’s called.