A Reluctant Farewell, 1901
I was talking with my sister-in-law one day last fall. She has three children, a girl and two boys, the oldest of which is eight years old. And you know about my kids already: two boys and a girl, the two boys in Bible college, our girl still here at home. The sis-in-law and I began talking kiddos, and she mentioned how much she enjoyed our kids when we visited down south last year, and then she asked the question I get most often from moms with young children:
You got any advice for me?
Let me be the first to tell you that the last chapter on our children has not yet been written. They’re doing fine right now; they all love the Lord and still love us, miracle of miracles, after spending all their lives being parented by two of the most human humans you’d ever want to meet. However, none of our children are completely on their own yet. Actually, I don’t think the final chapter will be written on them until the end of their lives. They will always be a product of our efforts as parents, and there will always be a chance that they will fall into some sin or wander away from the Lord. Just like there’s always that chance with Wes or me. Or you. Having said that, though, I do feel that I can offer a little advice to the moms of younger children, because I’ve been where they are, I’ve made some mistakes, and my children seem to have survived their childhoods. I offered H. two pieces of advice, and I’ll add a third one here.
Be consistent. Whether it’s discipline or rules or playing or eating . . . be consistent. Be careful about letting them get by with sassing you today, only to wash their mouth out with soap tomorrow for the same offense. When you make a rule, if it’s a good one, stick with it. If it’s not a good one, throw it out. Children know when you’re wavering, and they’re very good at wearing you down. Ask me how I know this!
Be balanced. Balance discipline with hugs and kisses. Balance work with play. Balance computer time with activity. Balance busy times with relaxed times. Be careful not to bend with every wind of “religious correctness” (akin to political correctness, but in the church setting) that comes your way. Have high standards that are biblical standards and stand firm on them; don't waver back and forth with whatever is popular at the time - keep your balance.
Be real. Children can spot a fake a mile away, especially when that fake lives in their home. Be the same person at church that you are at home. Be the same person at home that you are at the grocery store. Don’t try to impress people. Love the Lord and seek to please Him. Honor your pastor, heed his advice, but make God your Lord.
Wes and I grew up in independent, fundamental Baptist churches. We have heard many messages and listened to many lessons on the home and on child-rearing. The majority of what we’ve been taught has been excellent, biblically-based material. But we haven’t always followed each of those things to the letter. We talk of this often. How could our children have turned out well when we didn’t "obey all the rules?" I think it has to do with the above advice – be consistent, be balanced, and be real. Our children have seen us as real people, not untouchable spiritual giants, and I think they can see that we love them and the Lord, even in the midst of our imperfections and faults. Most importantly, there is God - He is wonderful at making our crooked paths straight!