I'm not exactly sure when our kids went from being too young to understand anything "grown up" that we were talking about to requiring us to spell out almost every conversation we have. I'm not sure when the precise moment was that they began to process and mull over what they heard us talking about in passing. I suppose that moment doesn't really matter all too much now, but we are definitely on the other side. Our kids hear EVERYTHING. They see EVERYTHING.
Being a good example is something I suppose we strive for continuously, right? Or at least we say we do, so we can feel good about our parenting. We tell our kids to be kind, to share, to be honest, to be hard workers. We try to emulate these characteristics so that they have an example of what we are trying to teach them right in front of their faces at all times - but let's be honest, we fall short. A lot.
The other day, my husband was called into work on his day off, which I mentioned in my earlier post I was not too happy nor feeling very kind towards the people involved in the situation. Dave's days off are almost sacred to me. It's two days all week where I feel I'm not outnumbered so badly and I get to have adult companionship and conversation. Ok, I know I sound a bit possessive, but seriously - it's the closest thing to a break I get that I don't have to pay for! Anyway, back to the subject...
Before he left for work, we were all able to sit around the table and have lunch together. All the kids had just woken up from nap and weren't aware that Daddy was going to have to go to work. Dave broke the news to them. The kids, especially Luke, were very upset. The "why's" began to come at us at a speed we couldn't keep up with and then I stuck my foot in my mouth. I said, "Dave, you should just have told them you were sick." Good Melissa - be totally angry, selfish and in your sin go ahead and sin some more and lie. Totally awesome! Of course not thinking about what I said until I said it and then desperately wishing I could take my words and eat them - a whole other flood of "why's" began to flow. Dave gave me this, "what were you thinking" look as he began to field all the questions.
Luke asked why the employee called in sick. He asked why Daddy needed to go in because that employee called in sick - which were all valid questions, that I myself was wondering. He then asked, "Daddy, why don't you say you are sick?" Great - I have encouraged my son to be a liar.
Dave responded with such wisdom. "Luke, we work hard because God wants us to work hard. I am responsible and if I call in sick it's only because I'm really sick. And when I'm really sick, I just lay in bed all day. It's no fun. We are honest - we don't even lie when it's the easier way out." The kids looked at him and took his answer as truth and moved on. I realized that we took what could have been a bad moment and used it for a learning moment - and then I felt great that I, um, facilitated such a great learning opportunity for my family. :) I then realized that I am disciplining my kids, quite often mind you, for behaviors and attitudes that they are learning from none other than me. I get so frustrated that they don't put their shoes in the shoe box - but my shoes are nicely thrown by the chair. I get irritated when they don't pick up their toys, but the magazine I was reading was left on the floor right where I was reading it last night. I get angered when Emma doesn't tell me the truth right away, and then I realized I just offered the suggestion of dishonesty as a way to get what I wanted. I have to look at myself in the mirror and realize what kind of reflection of good virtue and character I am instilling in my children.
The other day it was clean up time. Luke didn't want to clean up which is no big surprise, and I love his excuses as to why he can't pitch in - they are quite entertaining. But this day he said, "cleaning up does not make me happy." Great. Apparently we are continuing on the mindset of, "if it doesn't make you happy, then just don't do it." That's gotten my generation really far. Anyway, as those words tumbled out of his little four year old mouth, I dropped to my knees and looked him in the eye. "Luke," I said, "I want you to be happy, I really do. But what I care more about your happiness, is that you are a good person who works hard and loves Jesus. If I don't teach you that sometimes we have to work hard even when we don't want to - you may be a really happy grown up but you won't be one that anyone really wants to be around." He understood my words, turned around and began to clean up and was thrilled when I told him he was a hard worker. As he was cleaning, I wondered if I am an example of hard work. I work hard, there is no doubt about it, but am I working hard on things that are tangible to my kids? I don't know, something I suppose I am still chewing on.
My daughter Emma, before leaving the house or her room for that matter, sits in front of her mirror and puts on her "special" make up and perfume. She likes to find lotion and smell pretty. When asked why she does this, she will tell you that she learned it from me (which is quite humorous, since I don't often get a chance to even touch my makeup unless I'm pulling it out of the toilet - thank you Lily) And though that's really sweet, and she's such a pretty little princess, I would much rather have her emulating more virtuous things. Like reading her bible, or praying or being kind to her brothers and sister. Does she see me reading my bible, or praying or being kind? Does she see me being respectful and honoring her dad? Not this morning, that's for sure.
But seriously, what kind of example are you showing your children? What characteristics and virtues are you reflecting to them? Is their behavior just a mirror of the behavior you show to them? Are you being the type of person that you are requiring them to be?
In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul says, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." I encourage you today to consider if this is the message that you are not only speaking to your children, but one that you are living out.