First, know that I can only boast in Jesus, and all that His word has taught us on this subject. We are NOWHERE NEAR perfect, I assure you. Just ask our kids; I'm sure they'd be quick to point out all our flaws. Todd and I both have to go back often and apologize for something we handled wrong.
From a very young age, we disciplined our boys. As babies, they would pull our cheeks, or scratch us, or yank my hair. I would grab their tiny little fists, and I would say "No!" very sternly. The same when they started biting....we would tell them no and swat their hands. When they started walking, it was the same thing, I would swat their little hands, legs, or their behinds. We never put things up for our kids, we expected them to know that certain things were hands off, and we expected obedience out of them. If they would try and touch something, we would discipline them. We didn't expect others to have to put their things up either when we came to visit, so we wanted them to know what was okay and what was not.
I'm sure that all the grandparents thought we were unfit parents. (I actually know this is true, because my mom-in-love and I were talking of this at the baseball game the other night.) It seemed harsh, to have to so sternly speak to one so little. We had started this process, though, and we knew that to be effective parents, we had to be consistent in every area of our lives.
Fast forward to years and years later, and these same boys that used to test me almost beyond what I could bear did not need a whole lot of disciplining after those toddler years. Sure they would test the waters every once in a while, but by this point in their lives, they knew that the truth was expected and that they were to always speak to any and every adult with respect, and even a "yes ma'am or yes sir". I can count on one hand the times they got in trouble enough to warrant discipline after the age of five. One thing I never like hearing (then or now) is a kid speaking rudely to an adult or to a parent. Todd was the same way, and he never allowed the boys to speak with meanness in their voice to me. Todd never speaks to me that way, and he was not about to allow one of the boys to speak to his wife in that way...I have actually heard him say that to one of them before.
Over our years of parenting, we have lost friends along the way. It's hard being around kids whose parents don't discipline them, and that was something we never wanted to be said of us. When I learned that we were having boys numbers three and four, I sat and cried, because I didn't want people to dread being around us. All those boys?! They have a reputation for being wild and rambunctious! We wanted people to like our kids, and we did not want them to have a bad reputation before anyone ever even met them.
As I said at the beginning of this, we are nowhere near perfect, and quite often, we would goof. We would get onto the wrong kid, or we would believe what someone else said of them without getting both sides of the story. The major roll as a mom that I have had is to step back and let my husband handle some of the problems. With all these boys around, he knew better what they were going through than me, and though at times, I would feel he was too harsh, I would not say anything like that in front of the boys. Now I know that I slipped up in this a time or few, but I would make sure to right it in front of them as well. Todd's the man of the house, the head of our household, and like Jesus Christ is the head of His church, and we are to submit to His authority, I am to let Todd lead our family in this same way.
That is the hardest thing about being a wife, and though some days I totally fail at this, I know that the Lord is refining me and helping me to be more and more the wife that His word talks about. The older we've gotten, the easier it is for Todd and I to speak freely with one another, but with kindness and gentleness. Todd told me recently that he felt like I was babying one of the boys too much, and though at first I denied it, when I stepped back and reevaluated my actions and words, I realized that it was true. I try to not baby them... we are raising future husbands and fathers, and I want them to be strong, independent young men who know who know how to make a decision. (Indecisiveness is a huge issue in teenage boys and even in some men...I have seen it so often.) He has also taken constructive criticism from me. I know recently, I felt he had been too harsh in his words with one of the boys, and a few minutes later, I heard him in the room with him, talking and saying he was sorry if what he said came across as mean or harsh, but explaining more gently why he'd gotten upset with him.
All of our boys are so different, and they all require different things of us. Two of them are extremely sensitive, and we do have to speak differently to them. The other two are more like Todd and can handle more constructive criticism. We try to teach them that the world is not always after them like they think, but they're just different and sensitive and require a different approach.
Todd and I decided when the boys were the ages of five, four, and two that we were going to raise them in church. We were raised that way, and we wanted the same for them. So we started attending church consistently, not making it an option of "Do I really want to go today, or do I want to stay home?". If it was open, we were all going. Sports would not be played on Wednesday nights or Sundays. If that was the case, we would not allow them to play. There was one year that they played lacrosse that a few games were on Sunday, but believe it or not, we only had to leave church one time, and it was only about fifteen minutes early. To this very day, even if Todd and I are gone and they're home, they go to church. WE go to church. We just don't miss, unless we have to because of being out of town or if we're sick.
And more than church attendance, we have taught them what it is to have a relationship with Jesus. Not to just attend church on Sunday and Wednesday, but to walk in constant fellowship with Him. To pray, to read His word, to walk in His will. They "catch" me doing this all the time, and that's always been the case. From the time that they were little, they knew what it was like to see me have quiet time, and they would respect that and me, and try to not interrupt. (Of course, sometimes they had to, and it was fine.) I've taught them to study His word, to underline and mark up their bibles, and to journal about where they read or to write a verse that stood out. They take church notes most Sundays, unless they forget to bring their bible and journal. (It happens, trust me.)
They do these things because they've learned from an example. I hate the phrase, "Do as I say, not as I do." I have NEVER said that to my kids, and I think it's totally wrong. If we want to teach our kids how to act, then we must act that way. If we teach them to not say bad words, and then say bad words, do you think they'll listen to what you've taught them or do you think they might repeat what you've said? I think they're sponges. They do as they see done. They learn by example. Our pastor preached on this Sunday~parenting with integrity. His catch phrase for the whole sermon was summed up in this one phrase~reflect what you expect.
I know that kids are kids, and this may not always be the case for them. But I believe they're capable of doing what is expected, and I am not expecting mine to forget how they've been raised. My prayer for them for years leading up to now has been two things:
That they would love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and others as themselves, and that they would CLING to God. Over and over in His word, God tells us He will never leave or forsake us. We can certainly turn our backs on Him, though. In fact, if they're going to do this, it's going to be the age that Graham is now. It happens when they grow their wings and leave the nest. They're heavily influenced by the world around them, but I pray that they're always transformed by the Word of God, and not conformed to this world. (And y'all. I know of godly parents who've raised their kids in the same way, and now their kids are like the prodigal son. I don't know why that happens, but I know that God is still trustworthy, and to commit them to Him means that we have to trust Him with them.)
Sure, we expect a lot of them, but they're capable of a lot. Will we love them if they mess up? Of course. We're their parents, and we love them without condition.
We are not done yet, by the way! We have a lot of years left of growing up kids, and we will not stop or give up, and I pray that we do not become weary. If you're thinking that all of this sounds too hard, it is. It's not easy. The easy way is to not be consistent or to just give up, but we must not ever do that. None of it is possible without the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our strength and He gave us the wisdom to parent these boys of ours. His word that says everything is possible with Him, and I believe that with all of my heart. It's never too late, either, so don't go thinking that you might as well give up. Even if you're on your last kid, and they're about to fly the coop, commit them to the Lord and pray as if you're going to battle for them. You are, by the way. The world wants our kids, and the enemy wants power over them. But greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).
I guess I'm in a sentimental mood today, because of all the graduation things that we've gone through, and because of all the kind words that have been poured out over Graham. I am so thankful that so much love was showered on him this weekend, and I am so grateful to every sweet word spoken or written. It's not some secret formula that we've gone by, it's been through the example of our parents and how we were raised, some of our own tricks and tips, and a lot of prayer, and a smattering on the dependence of others to help us raise them up. Our church family comes to mind....though it's not their job to raise or disciple our kids (also, isn't it funny how close the words are discipline and disciple are? To discipline your kids is something you do for their own good, much like discipling is and how that teaches them how to live a life with Christ Jesus.), they have come alongside us and have given us all kinds of resources and tools to do this.
I am so thankful for the fact that God placed us within our church family seven years ago.
It was for this very purpose.
Well, now that I've written a book in blog post form, I will let you carry on with your day.
Thanks for reading! Love to all.
So the one who boasts must boast in the Lord.
2 Corinthians 10:17