Friday, June 10, 2011

Who's Building Whose Character?

"Character Building"... the great parenting buzzwords. 

Last night we watched our oldest son graduate from high school.  It's been a week of emotions and reflection for me.  As a homeschooler, I feel a bit of pride/relief that he successfully transitioned to public high school after 8 years of homeschooling.  I hadn't ruined him.  Yay!  As a mother, I'm feeling incredibly proud of the young man he's become... and continually amazed at his hard work, dedication, and determination.

Next year we will graduate son #2 who chose to stay homeschooled along with his 3 younger brothers.  It might seem like at this point in my life I should have some wisdom to share with moms of young children.  You know... wise words about character building and such.  But I don't.  And not only because anyone who knows me personally would laugh out loud if I tried, but mainly because I've found raising these boys has had at least as much impact on my character as I hope I've had on theirs.

So my advice to you... don't miss out on the lessons your kids can teach you!

1.  It really starts when they are born... the sleepless nights, the spit up on a new sweater, or the colic that keeps us walking and bouncing for hours.  From their very first days, they are stretching ( think of this as exercising or growing) our patience, compassion, and ability to hide our frustration behind grace.

2.  Our children will disobey.  They will challenge us, disappoint us, and ignore us... and they will each do it a bit differently.  We learn quickly that what works with one might not work with another.  So we evaluate and learn to respond accordingly.  And if we are lucky, we learn to see these qualities in others and learn to appreciate and relate better to people in general.

3. This is a tough one... but the trait that annoys you most in your child, is most likely your own worst attribute.  Nothing is worse than the moment you realize that, in the worst way, your child is just like you.  But this gives us a chance to grow along with our child as we learn to adapt our behavior or attitudes to better coexist in society.

4. Then there are the qualities that we see in our child that are completely contradictory to the way we function.  My instinct was often to "correct" these qualities or "mold" them.  But I urge you to take the time to appreciate these qualities and learn from your child!  I have learned so much about perseverance, compassion, mercy, hospitality, and confidence by watching my children in their young journeys.  I can honestly say that they have made me a better person.

5. Your relationship with your child can teach you more about God than any book on the shelves.  Our love for our children gives us a glimpse at God's great love for us... and really, who better to keep us in prayer than our children?!  I still remember clearly an incident from my early years as a parent...

I had given a 4 year old a bowl of cheerios to nibble on.  He didn't want to share with his 2 year old brother.  This caused great grief and misery for all.  I urged him to share (because sharing is right, right?) and explained to him that he could have more when these were gone... in fact I had more cheerios than he could eat in a week in the box in the cabinet if he could just share what he already had.  He didn't care.  I finally had to pull out the box and show him just how many there were. And it struck me... God has more grace, generosity, mercy, strength, and good gifts for us than we can possibly imagine... if we would just seek Him.

Nothing is too much for Him.  And it is His grace and love I see in the lives of my children as they mature into fine young men.  Because I'm pretty sure that praying over them without ceasing is the only thing I've done right as a parent so far!


The Prude said...

Well said!
I should show this to each of my children when they are ready to start families.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! They still require parenting in college, but it's really fun seeing them turn into decent human beings and finding something they're passionate about!

I'm pretty sure if we just make sure we're around for them and continue to pray over them, we've figured out most of the battle. The rest we'll just improvise!