Sunday, October 11, 2009

What Not To Say

I was shopping with a friend of mine a few weeks ago. She is a super woman. She is raising 6 kids under the age of 8, four of which are adopted and she gardens, cans, bakes, sews and saves the world in a single bound. She is a tiny petite girl who asked me if there were size two dresses at the store we were at. How on earth would I know? The last time I needed a size two I was 2.

As we were walking the mall, she told me that she is really self-conscious about her long torso and short legs. Do you know why? Because when she was in junior high she bought a new outfit. The first one she picked out by herself and bought with her own money. It actually sounded awful but wasn’t everything in the ‘80’s? Her mom made a comment to her about her body that she remembers to this day and it still makes her feel self-conscious all these years later.

I am sure her Mom didn’t mean it to be that way. She was trying to help her because she loves her. I think my mom had the same thing in mind when she used to tell me to sit up straight and stop chomping my gum. It used to drive me up a wall, but now that I’m a Mom I get it. You want to help your kids fit in to society, learn to look their best.

But my friend’s story made me realize that I want to be much more careful about what I say to my kids and how I say it. Even if it is truly something I want to help them with or that needs to be addressed. I think the way I view myself as a mom and the way my kids do is probably really different. I often don’t come across as an encouraging, supportive mother like I want to.

For instance, I can hardly stand to be in the same room as my kids when they eat their cereal in the morning. Slurp, crunch. Slurp, slurp, crunch. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. But I try to let it go because those are things that will come in time. I don’t want to say what I’m thinking: “You guys are eating like pigs and its driving me nuts! Keep your mouths shut when you eat!”

I’m certainly charged with teaching them. But I need to be careful not to put too much importance on those outer, temporal things. I have to try to remember what it says in my favorite parenting verses.

Deuteronomy 6:5-8

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them to your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and gates.

And Ephesians 6:4 says

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

It doesn’t say make sure they are well dressed, groomed and don’t eat too loudly. It’s not vitally important to God that they keep their fingers out of their mouth and nose, although I would certainly appreciate that. It doesn’t matter so much if their rooms are a mess. God’s concern is the state of their hearts. I know I have been guilty of exasperating my children about superficial things. I don’t want to, but I do.

Jenna likes to wear grubby pants. These are her favorites.

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I would like her to dress nicer. I dressed her in dresses until she was 11 months old. Then she screamed every time she had a dress on after that because she couldn’t move fast enough. We do have to compromise sometimes. I don’t make her wear dresses. I can live with the holey jeans, not the paint smeared sweats for school.

I don’t make her French braid her hair even though I learned how to do it just for her. She wants long hair but hates to comb it. I do make her comb it. Sometimes we can agree on regular braids or a pony tail which will be all messy when she puts her favorite stocking hat on over it.

But are any of those issues worth ruining our relationship over? No way!

I think there are a few things for me to be aware of when dealing with these issues.

First is Timing. Is it the best time to bring up the issue? When everyone is scrambling to get out the door or a friend is over. When you are tired and annoyed. I need to choose a time when we are alone and calm.

Second is tone. Even if I am making a valid point, it’s not a good plan if I am being mean or argumentative.

Jenna: Mom, can I wear my paint-stained sweats today?

Me: Not on your life! Those belong in the garbage! Do you want everyone at school to think you are a hobo?

Matters like this call for gentleness on my part. I can lead my kids and train them without being harsh or rude. I found some direction in Proverbs for this one.

Proverbs 15:1

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 25:15

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.

Sometimes I am just lashing out at my kids or nagging them so they won’t be a poor reflection on me or because I am annoyed. I need to take these verses to heart which means they’ll end up on my fridge.

This topic especially hits home for me with Jenna. She is a wild child. She is a lot like me and we butt heads because of it. I want to her to be lady-like. But she’s a girl. I don’t want her to look back and remember my words with pain or regret. It’s a tough line to walk between training them to have manners and grooming habits and breaking their spirits. Why would I want to break her of this?

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The running free with messy hair and bare feet are part of who God made her to be. And part of growing up. And part of a fun childhood. I need to watch what I say. I want to be sure that my words are reflecting the love that is in my heart for them. The love is great and I want them all to know that without a doubt.

Ephesians 4:29

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Psalm 19:14

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.


Sarah Johnson said...

Proverbs 15:23, "A word in season, how good it is!" Thanks Michelle!

Anonymous said...

Guilty as charged!! I don't like to be nagged and I don't like being a nagger-so what was I thinking???


Mommy Missionary said...

Mom - it's just what Mom's do! WE can't help ourselves! I love you and am glad that I learned to chew my gum quietly.