November 9, 2011
© Kathryn Young Thompson
I don’t yell at other people’s kids when I’m caring for them in my house. I’m extra patient with their annoying habits and work hard to focus on keeping my expectations for them age-appropriate. If they want me to stop what I’m doing and read them a story, I usually do it and I spend a lot of time just sitting with them on my lap if they’re having a hard time. I’m a pretty good mom to my own kids but I really put on my A-Game for guests. What if God asked me to keep an eye on a few of his kids for a little while? How would I treat them?
I’ve always believed that I’m a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me and has a plan for my life. I believe my kids are his children too and periodically I think about the huge responsibility I’ve been entrusted with, raising his spiritual offspring. But today when the image came to my mind of God standing on my doorstep and turning them over to me for an 18-year babysitting gig, it really made me question much of what I do as a parent.
Do I always treat my children as inexperienced equals whom it’s my job to teach and nurture or do I boss and coerce them into doing my will?
Do I work hard daily to discover their unique gifts and talents and encourage them to develop them?
Do I laugh at their jokes? Do I even listen to all their jokes?
Do I seek to listen, understand, and honor their opinions before shushing them or providing them with my grown-up wisdom?
What would it hurt to read one more story, give one more hug, or let them try on my makeup?
Do I honor their Heavenly Parent’s rules and discipline techniques while they’re in my care and try my best to implement them? (Think Jesus in the New Testament.)
Am I always ALWAYS motivated by love in our interactions?
Tonight after first grade basketball practice, I decided to try what I’ve been thinking about all day. Magoo had been bouncing around like a melon with legs, happily skipping around the court and ignoring his coach’s whistle tweets and instructions. I wanted to tell him off. As I formulated a lecture about respect and listening skills, I thought about what I’d say to him if I were taking my role seriously as God’s childcare provider.
I gave him a squeeze after practice, turned down the radio in our car, and asked him what he’d enjoyed about his night. Then I asked him to list all of the things he’d done great at practice. The list was long. Get rebounds before they hit the ground, be nice to the other guys, pass, shoot, get away from his defender when he was on offense, remember when he was supposed to be on offense. I threw in a few of the good things I’d noticed and he got really excited about what an awesome player he was.
Next I asked him what he thought he could improve. This list was much smaller and I needed to prompt him about his listening skills that could use some work. I lovingly told him what message it sends to his kind volunteer coach when he doesn’t pay attention. He was sad because that wasn’t what he had intended.
Then the thought came into my mind to tell him exactly how amazing I think he is. He is truly one of the most loving, kind, intelligent, fun, hilarious people I know – of any age. And then I asked him to show his coach and everyone he knows how wonderful he is, how wonderful I already know he is.
When I asked him what benefits would come from being more respectful and listening to his coach and his teacher at school, he said, “Then they’ll know I love ‘em.”
“Exactly. And if you listen more, you’ll learn a ton more and you’ll be a ton better at basketball.”
He seemed pleased about this and even asked me to take some time and teach him the things he missed the coach saying while he wasn’t paying attention.
I got it right this time and maybe tomorrow I’ll get it right too. I just have to keep remembering who my kids really are. And when I don’t remember and when I screw up, as I inevitably will, I have to remember who I really am and be patient with myself too. You should never be too hard on a daughter of God, especially when she’s trying her best.