The most rewarding and the hardest job that I have ever had is being a mother to my two school-age children. There are days when everything seems to flow along easily – and other days when it seems impossible to navigate the twists and turns of relationships and life. When I have wanted to give up on a project, I have reminded myself that I have to consider not only what might be best for me at that particular moment, but how that action will appear to my children.
Life and parenting are hard and occasionally messy. How are we to act properly in an imperfect world, in relationships with imperfect people? When confronted with tough decisions and situations, I have found that I often make the right decision once I ask myself – What would I want my child to do in this same situation? What is the right thing to do? This often allows me just enough of the outsider’s perspective that I need.
Rebecca Hagelin, senior communications fellow at The Heritage Foundation, whose new book, “30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family,” is a great reference and workbook for parents, has also helped me. Hagelin provides 30 concrete ways to make a positive difference in your family’s life. They include “Commit to the Daily Battle, Envision the Childhood You Want for Your Children,“ and “Let the Golden Rule, Rule Your Home.”
Hagelin’s focus on first determining your long-term goal for your child makes sense, but is often left out in our world of instant gratification. Decisions made based on short-term pressures can have long-term effects. This book reminds us to be fully aware and present in our parenting; that our daily actions can have long-term consequences.
This past week, our family has been on spring break. We drove down to the southern coast of Georgia to visit my husband’s grandmother for a few days. This is so special to me, creating shared family experiences. My favorite memory of this past week is of my children laughing with their great-grandmother until all three could barely breathe. The gift of family and laughter – shared memories and fun, is one that could not have been replaced by any amusement park or camp.
We returned from spring break to spend Easter at home. My 9-year-old daughter Maggie is in our church’s junior choir, which is singing at the Easter sunrise service. This means that Maggie must be in her robe at the church with music in hand at 5:30 on Easter morning. Since she is too young to drive, an adult must drive her there.
I can remember attending sunrise services when I was her age. My sister and I, decked out in our Easter dresses, would freeze while standing outside in the early morning. As the sun broke through the darkness, I could feel God’s presence in the dawn’s chill. The sun’s rays represented to me the rising of Jesus as well as hope and warmth after a cold and dark journey to the church.
When I told my daughter what time that she would have to leave the house and asked if she was sure she wanted to sing, her response made me smile. “Mommy, I have to go – I am singing for God.”
Of course I would drive her – how could I do less?
Spring break week has also included my being short tempered, exhausted and easily irritated by my children. I would like to say that I reacted properly on all occasions - but I did not. Like all parents, I am not perfect – I will continue to pick myself up and begin again on those days when I am fully human, asking for forgiveness and mercy and accepting the grace and love of my children.
Today is Easter, the day Jesus, who was crucified for us, was raised from the dead. Today is a day for love, for hope, for thanksgiving and celebration. God’s love is so deep and enfolding that we are loved in spite of our sins - loved for simply being. We cannot earn God’s love – but we can accept it, and pass it along to our children.