Sixteen months. Sixteen MONTHS?! Yesterday, my daughter completed the last AP exam of her Junior year in High School. Which means (Lord willing) she will be leaving for college in sixteen short months. I am not a doctor, but my guess is the number one cause for hyperventilating moms is realizing they only have a few months left to “finish” full-time parenting.
I know a mother’s job and influence continues, but the opportunity to impact your child on a daily basis ends for most of us when our child heads off to college. While that’s a wonderful, exciting time in her life, it can cause a bit of panic in mine. I picture myself trailing after her towards her dorm sharing vital tips of wisdom – “Remember to cook that at 350* for 30 minutes”, “Never take any wooden nickels” (A favorite in my family, although I’m still not sure what I was supposed to do!) and “Wash your brights separate from your darks, if possible.”
When your first child is about two or three years old, it seems like most of your day is spent in correction. In our house, it was the “terrible three’s”. I remember calling my dad during a particularly “no” filled day and asking if I would still have to punish her this often when she was older. He promised me if I were diligent at three, then the rest of her childhood would seem easy in comparison. He was right. After those crazy few months, our daughter has been delightful and punishments have had to be given only rarely.
At some point after the year fondly known as “establishing who the parents are”, we tend to go into more of a maintenance, correction mode. Most parenting books will tell you this is a result of establishing firm but loving boundaries when your children are young (for the most part!). Because rebellion becomes less common in our homes, we sometimes forget to train our children how to avoid sin and deal with ongoing temptations.
Life is about choices. Every choice we make has some sort of consequence. It may be good or bad, but something happens because of the choices we make. Many are so minor we don’t even notice them. Others can change our entire world. Some consequences may be immediate, while others will happen years later. As Christians, we also believe that some of our choices have eternal consequences.
Part of teaching our children to make good choices is teaching them how to prioritize. Eternity changing decisions need to be made with the most thought and prayer. Choices about what to have for breakfast shouldn’t require as much of our time and effort. Yet often, we find our priorities have gotten all out of order. Suddenly we find we have spent hours searching for the perfect outfit, but don’t have the time to read our Bibles or attend Church.
Most non-profits will tell you one of their biggest battles is convincing people to no longer be apathetic about the social problem their group is trying to address. Many spend countless hours and dollars developing ways to help people understand the urgency of the problem. Groups like charity: water and Toms have actually done a great job of informing and engaging people about their mission with creativity and style.
We know our world is filled with more problems than we can count. We know God commands us to serve others and teach them about God. The pure enormity of the problem is overwhelming. So overwhelming, most people become apathetic. It is easier to block out all of the problems and opportunities and focus on our little world, where we feel like we have more control. The problem is, not only are we not in control of anything, the problems of the greater world can become so large they begin to invade our personal worlds. I think everyone learned that lesson in very real and horrible ways during World War II.
One of the most effective ways to teach your children God’s principles and concepts is through casual, but planned conversations. Some parents call them teachable moments. A teachable moment is when another child almost darts into the street and then a car whizzes by. The parent uses what just happened to reinforce or introduce the concept of “that is why you don’t run into the street without looking, because he could have been killed!”
Teachable moments are different than lectures. There is almost a “we are in this together” tone to the conversation. The conversation mentions the rule or the principle but focuses more on the natural consequences of not obeying the rule or principle. (As opposed to the more lecture oriented “If I ever catch you, I will ____” consequence!)