By Susan Ream
When I was raising my children, I remember thinking, “If only they came with instructions.” We only get one chance at this parenting gig, and before you know it they’re grown and out the door.
I am not a perfect parent, but I serve a perfect Father. As a mom, I felt woefully in need of God’s help. Every time I fell on my knees and begged for wisdom, he answered. His grace covered me. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9 NIV).
The master designer started me out as a mom with a big bang named Daniel. My rambunctious little boy whizzed through the house like a reckless tornado, dismantling everything he touched. His favorite pastime was leading his little sisters into mischievous missions. God also blessed me with two daughters who are as different as can be. When they were little, the oldest was quiet, meticulous, and private. The youngest was expressive, messy, and transparent. Although I puzzled at these polar opposites, they were no surprise to God. Each one was created by the grand designer and knit together in my womb.
To top it off, my husband and I are as different as night and day. You might say we were a family of misfits doing life together under one roof. Honestly, I think that when God put our family together, he did it with a wink and open arms saying, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 NIV). He knew what we were in for.
I had my hands full with three distinctly different personalities. My challenge was to love and discipline each child according to his or her needs. Loving them meant embracing and celebrating all aspects of their individuality with no conditions. It was humbling to be entrusted with a child’s life. But God made no mistake. He chose me to be their mom, their constant, their biggest fan, and their safe place to fall. Each deserved the investment of my heart. As they grew up unique gifts emerged, as did weaknesses.
One child’s honesty won my trust, while another’s sneaky antics warranted consequences. Generosity was the song of one child while self-centeredness became another’s theme. Curiosity led one into trouble while contentment rested sweetly on another. Kindness drew friends to one but pride sent her sibling’s friends running.
My youngest child’s tender conscience did not allow her to keep secrets from me. When she did something wrong, she tattled on herself. Her confessions came from a contrite and sorrowful heart. As a result, her consequences were mild in comparison to her siblings’. They tried to play the unfair card time and again, saying, “So she can say I’m sorry and she’s off the hook?” Each time I explained, in kid-friendly terms, that repentance leads to reconciliation.
I learned through trial and error that discipline must be laced with grace. Children hear your heart before they listen to your words. Tone and attitude is everything. My parenting mantra was Say yes as often as possible, and say no only when absolutely necessary.
You are bound to understand one child better than another. Seek to know your mystifying child. Ask God to give you a heart for the child you don’t understand. Never favor one child over another, and do not compare them, saying, “If only you were more like your sister.”
I believe children add color to our lives. We live a very limited life if we do not explore the treasures hidden in the individuality of our children.
Celebrate the uniqueness of each child. Help your children celebrate the differences they see in their siblings. Allow humility to reign and cast out pride. Teach your children about the body of Christ and the importance of each part to the whole.
God bless the mom who invests her whole heart in honoring the intricacy of her children. May she be ever mindful that through Christ we can do all things, but without him we can do nothing.
Susan Ream is basking in the grace of God. She loves all kinds of people. Being a Mom is her favorite role. She has collected many “kids” throughout the years. Most of her life she has been a pastor’s wife. She cherished that opportunity and proudly supported her devoted husband. She is a mother to three grownups and Nana to eleven extraordinary grandkids. Much of her writing features insights gained through the messes of life. God never wastes a hurt, and He is faithful to work ALL things together for our good. You can follow her at nanaslovenotes.com.