While I am thoroughly enjoying the political banter from my previous post, it is time to move on. Preferably to something more light and fluffy and less divisive. My ADD cannot possibly handle any more long, thought-provoking comments. Y’all are making me CONCENTRATE!! Thank you for all your insights. My political opinion is even stronger now than previously because I have been forced to think even more deeply and look even more closely at what I believe. Hopefully you have, too.
Our week and our weekend around here has been absolutely nuts, and I am wiped. The kids are in bed, Michael’s on-call, and I’m about to curl up on the couch and watch all the recorded shows I missed this week because of all the craziness. Thankfully I wrote this article earlier this week! Again, it’s a fleshed-out version of something I wrote about a few weeks ago.
Spilled Milk and the Greatest Intentions
“But I didn’t meeeean to!”
Grumbling, I jump up from the table and grab the nearest dishtowel. I swear every one of my three children has spilled milk on our new kitchen table at least once during the past week. It’s like they’re trying to one-up each other.
But, of course, it’s always an accident. They never mean to do it. It’s always unintentional. Not unlike the wallops they plant on each other, or the pinched arms, or forgetting to pick their towels up off the floor after bathtime.
OK, so maybe it’s a little different.
But the response is inevitably the same. “I didn’ t mean to!“
How much in our lives to do we mean to? Truly, I didn’t mean to forget to pick up the dry cleaning. I fully intended to buy kids’ shampoo at Wal Mart. I meant to call my best friend last week.
All lost in the great chasm of intention.
Really, though, my husband can survive one more day without a freshly pressed shirt (but only one more day – I must get to the dry cleaners today!) My kids can survive one night without washing their hair. My best friend knows I still love her. Some things we can temporarily afford to let slip.
We have a bigger task, however, that requires more conscientious thought and planning, and intention alone is never enough. The future of the entire world depends on it. Without it, the next generations are doomed. Seriously. I’m not just being dramatic. At least this time.
OK, maybe just a little dramatic.
But the task at hand really is serious business: we must raise and train and love our kids with the end in mind. Intentional parenting means we parent them into the adults we dream for them to be. In other words, what are your goals for your kids, what kind of adults do you want them to be?
At the urging of some seasoned parents, Michael and I made a list of characteristics we envision seeing in our kids when they are adults, and for each characteristic, we came up with things that we could do now to encourage and teach those same characteristics. For example:
Passionate and obedient worshipers – I want my kids to love God with their hearts, minds, and lives. What do we do now? Pray with them. Sing with them. Serve with them. Talk honestly with them about what God is doing in our own lives.
Responsible and self-disciplined – Doing more than is asked of them before being asked. Doing every job with integrity. Being the kind of person who does what he says he will do. Working hard without needing someone constantly having to make sure she’s doing the work. What do we do now? Our older kids have a daily checklist that they are responsible to complete. If they don’t do what is on the list, natural consequences and/or a dock in allowance follows. For our toddler, we give him age-appropriate responsibility and Try. Very. Hard. To. Be. Consistent. (insert frustrated growling noises here.)
Generous – Teach them to give happily and abundantly. We say in our house “things are not important; people are important.” More often than not, this will mean sacrifice. Right now, we teach them to tithe, but more importantly to hold all things loosely and share what they have in all aspects of life.
Those are just a few examples; our actual list is much longer. The hardest, most convicting, trickiest part is that character is caught, not taught. If Michael and I want to see these traits develop in our kids, we must first be an example of these same traits. What am I doing to show responsibility? Am I acting with integrity and complete honesty? How am I being generous today? How does my life reflect how much I love God? Ouch.
Just as a butterfly must struggle out of its cocoon in order to build stamina and strength, so also our kids must sometimes struggle in order to develop their characters. That means allowing my kids to experience difficult circumstances and figure things out for themselves. It means giving them responsibility, expecting them to work hard and with integrity, allowing them to make mistakes. Sometimes it’s not so complicated – it simply means allowing them to be in situations where they can develop that characteristic, and they don’t give it much thought or even realize that’s what we’re doing.
But here’s the really cool part: God Himself is an intentional parent. He allows us to experience difficult things and make mistakes, and He puts us in situations so that we can be formed and shaped into the people He wants us to be. He wants me to be kind. He wants me to be generous. He wants me to be responsible. So He is going to allow my patience to be tested. He’s going to put me in situations that are hard, and by His Word (and thus, His example) He will shape my heart to be more like His own.
And maybe – oh! the possibilities! – I’ll stop crying over that blasted spilled milk.