I’ll never forget sitting at our kitchen table several years ago, deep in thought over some project I had going on. Suddenly, in my peripheral vision, I saw a tall man enter the room—which frightened me, since I was home alone with my boys. My adrenaline pumped for a brief moment, until I realized something shocking: the “tall man” was my oldest son, Jordan. Somewhere between eight and nine o’clock that morning, it seemed, he had become a man.
My days with small boys were full of Tonka trucks, training pants and Spiderman action figures. Somewhere along the way, they graduated from Barney to Arthur to Wishbone. One day they ordered their typical kids’ meal from IHOP and inhaled it in 45 seconds, then looked at us with eyes that said “I’m going to need three more of those plates, please.” The day will come when his sneakers will no longer cost $15, and you will consider $40 a bargain. You don’t imagine that at some point there will be a “last time” for your son to fall asleep in your lap, or slip his hand into yours as you walk through Target. As sad as that seems, however, there are good things to come—after all, who wants to spend 18 years dealing with training pants?
The day will come when you are surprised by their maturity. It is easy for us moms to forget that our children are spiritually growing and physically maturing, even though that has been our goal and objective from before they were born. I can picture Mary, having spent three harrowing days searching every valley, every bazaar, every bakery; questioning every tailor and tanner in Jerusalem looking for her missing Son. She must have been frantic with worry—her twelve-year-old gone for DAYS, in a city that had been filled to bursting with hordes of all sorts of pilgrims. Did she eat? Could she sleep? And when she and Joseph finally arrived at the temple where He sat, listening and questioning the teachers, did she even hesitate to enter the intimidating circle of men to demand an answer of her Son? “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress,” (Luke 2:48 ESV). But when He answered her, I wonder if there was reproach in His voice. Mary knew the identity of her Son’s Father. She, more than anyone, knew Jesus’ personality and disposition. Why did it take her three days to look in the temple? Perhaps she had become so caught up in the routine of her life that she neglected to notice His growth and maturity. And so it can be with us as well. Even though our children are certainly not divine, we may overlook the subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes that take place in them. They need to know that we acknowledge their growing independence, and respect it.
We must pay attention to our children’s individual personalities as they grow. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Bible students apply this passage in a number of different ways. Some argue that this isn’t simply a directive for parents to instruct their children in the way of the Lord (although many scriptures reinforce this fact), but state that this passage means that we should train them in the way that they are bent—observing carefully their interests and talents. We should be most focused on where they will spend eternity, but their lives here on earth will need a plan, often involving a career, in order to be productive and content. Though it is hard sometimes to see beyond our little boy or girl, they will likely only spend a quarter of their life living with us, so we should help guide (not decide) their future.
“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” We’ve likely heard this quoted many times, and the older our children grow, the more we need to remember it. It isn’t anything new. God said it centuries ago. “Be not deceived; bad company ruins good morals,” (1 Corinthians 15:33). “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another,” (Proverbs 27:17). “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm,” (Proverbs 13:20). When our babies are small, the only tragedies that usually result from a play date at the park are scraped knees and hurt feelings. But the older they become, the more cautious we have to be about our children’s playmates. It has been our experience that for the most part, our boys shied away from troublemakers (To be fair: occasionally our boys have been the troublemakers—kids make mistakes!). While we did not necessarily choose our sons’ friends, we did make it easier for them to play with boys we knew to be respectful and honest. It is helpful to know the families of your children’s friends. Open your home, and make it a place where your children’s friends want to be. Before you send your child into another home, remind yourself what a priceless treasure God has entrusted to you, and don’t hesitate to listen to your intuition. This is serious!
A Few More Words of Advice:
- Whether you have two children or twenty, as they grow you will have to learn how best to discipline, encourage, and relate to each one. Though born into the same home by the same parents with the same surroundings, they will all need to be known as individuals. What works with one may be detrimental to another.
- Be fair, but be reasonable. Just because one child needs a new pair of jeans doesn’t mean all of them need new jeans. Your seven-year-old may not like it when your seventeen-year-old is allowed to stay out a little later, but he has to learn to wait his turn for those kinds of privileges. We have to be careful not to foster a sense of entitlement.
- Don’t put up with the “Oh, MOM, you’re so lame!” syndrome (nip it in the bud when you see it beginning), but do your best not to embarrass your child. That means not calling unnecessary attention to him/her, or posting lullaby song lyrics on his Facebook (Facebook: a subject for another article!).
- As they mature, make sure you listen to them. If they disagree with one of your rules, teach them how to talk about it calmly, without disrespect or argument. It doesn’t mean your rule needs to change (though sometimes it will), it simply means that you have taken the time to hear them out and develop your relationship.
- Maturing young men and women need role models. When our children are small, we should befriend, encourage and interact with the teenagers in our congregations, because often they will serve as our children’s role models. There have been many older Christians—from teens to widows—who have made a huge impact on our boys. (We need to see ourselves in this role as well.)
- Spend the time and make the effort to grow and develop a relationship with your son or daughter. Talk over dinner. Ask him questions in the car. Give her your full attention. Enjoy your child! If you are consistent, you will have a friend in your child, and he/she will be much more likely to listen when important matters arise.
With small children, sometimes it seems the days are never-ending. We can barely get out of our pajamas before suppertime. What we don’t manage to accomplish is often much more obvious than what we do accomplish. But it won’t always be this way. Another time I’ll never forget happened during the summer before Jordan left for college. Somehow the five of us had ended up in our bedroom, talking about our day. As so often happened, Jordan and Jacob began wrestling, and then pulled my husband, John, into the mix. Micah, about eight years old at the time, was preparing to jump into the violent tangle of flying arms and legs and I was fussing at all of them to quiet down. Suddenly Jordan paused, and with a wicked gleam in his eye (because he likes to make me cry), he began singing “You’re Gonna Miss This.” And I do.
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By Carla Moore
Carla and her husband, John, live in Dripping Springs, Texas where John is a full-time minister. They have three sons: Jordan, Jacob, and Micah, and discovered the joy of having a daughter when Erin married Jordan! Carla has been a homemaker for 26 years and mom for 23, and has enjoyed a number of part-time jobs while staying home with her boys.