Monday, April 13, 2015

The One Thing I Want My Children To Know When They Leave Home

I was watching my kids play together today.

I have so many hopes and dreams for them.

I want them to know love and I want them to succeed.
I want them to be kind and gracious and I want them to love others well.
I want them to be parents someday and know the joy of children and I want them to be givers - of their money, of their time, and of their talents.

Some may come to be. Others may not.

After all, those are my dreams for them. Not theirs.

We get to spend just the first quarter of our children's lives with them. Teaching them and helping them and then they'll spend the rest of their lives away from us. Living their stories and fulfilling their dreams and that one quarter will, so I've been told, be gone in a flash if we so much as blink.

So what do I want my children to know? What do I want them to carry away from their days with me?

Is it how to dress properly?
It is how to behave when we go to someone's house for dinner?
Is it the importance of good grades?
Is it to keep their rooms clean?

It matters what they wear and it matters how they act at dinner and how they talk to their parents and teachers and that they know how to pick up after themselves.

I want them to be respectful of others and hold jobs and thrive in society.

But, do you know what really matters to me?

Their hearts.

I am often tempted to squeeze their little souls into a mold of What Makes Me Look Good and What Makes My Life Easy Now and to base my mothering on all of the external praises that sound like, "What well-behaved and well-dressed and well-mannered children you have." That feels good...for a moment. It feels even better when I get to retell it later to anyone who will listen.

But, that kind of mothering always sends me (and them) on a hamster wheel - striving for some fictitious idea of behavioral perfection that neither I nor they could ever achieve.

But, here's what I've learned. Here's what I KNOW:

I am not trying to raise perfect children. I am trying to raise adults who run to God.

You see, they are little and it is so easy to focus on the now - when spilled Cheerios and temper tantrums and the disapproving looks of strangers are what seem most important.

But, ultimately, they will grow up. They won't be spilling Cheerios or throwing temper tantrums or pulling the batteries off of the rungs in the Target checkout line. (Hopefully. Though I've seen grown adults throw checkout line temper tantrums for the ages...)

So what is the one thing I want my children to know when they leave home?

I want my children to know they can run to God.

I want them to know that God cares about EVERY. SINGLE. THING. going on in their hearts. That He cares deeply about their hurts and successes and hopes and broken dreams and broken hearts and that they can RUN TO HIM with all of that and know that His arms are open wide.

Always. Always open.

They desperately need to see this modeled in me, in my husband, in our everyday life, now and while they're little, as we struggle and forgive and love and mess up. If we're not teaching them to run to God, then manners and politeness and grades and what they wore to church simply do not matter if they walk out the door of our home and don't know that God will carry them through any trial. That He will celebrate every victory.

That He feels their every loss and heartache and will be there for them - just like He was when they were little. Just like He was for Mom and Dad and just like He will be for the friends they meet who don't know Him and if God chooses, for their children, too.

These children, our gifts straight from Heaven, are growing into adults who will lead unique lives and face different struggles and hardships and circumstances that are as different as they are. And they get but one childhood with us and we can focus on all the wrong things, or we can help imprint the truth of who God is on their hearts and they can carry that with them - for every day of their entire lives.

So what is the one thing I want my children to know when they leave home?

That today as children and tomorrow as adults - in every trial, every success, every failure, every heartache, every hurt...

Wherever life takes them.

They can run to the loving arms of God.