#16 Okay, onto a lighter subject! Proverbs 16: 24: “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Tell your children daily that you love them. Make it a ritual when they wake up, leave for school, or go to bed. They love to hear it and they need to hear it. (And you never know when it will be the last time you get to say it!) Tell them things you like about them. Especially if you want that behavior or personality trait to continue. Hug them with all your might, even when they start to shy away from it. (But maybe not in front of their friends because, you know, they would just “die of embarrassment, Mom!”) They will be grown and gone all too soon. Eighteen years is so short.
Sometimes we need to stop and remember to do this, considering all the cleaning and cooking and things we need to get done. Sometimes we forget to stop and enjoy the very people we are doing it for. (Actually, we are doing it for God!) Remember to laugh with your family - laugh a lot. Relax and find some quiet moments where you can just sit with them and enjoy them. Life is too short to take everything, including ourselves, too seriously, and to fill our days with too many planned activities and electronic gadgets that detract from our family-time.
If someone hasn’t been raised to laugh and enjoy good moments with good company then they will probably have a hard time learning to make satisfying, comfortable relationships with people as they get older. (This is not scientific, just my theory.) Have joy in this life, despite the circumstances. I know that life is hard and that there is always one challenge after the next after the next. But remember that joy is a choice, and it’s based on where you place your thoughts. Teach that to your children by modeling it for them.
#18 Learn to revel in the little things and to find the abundant blessings in each day. It will have a tremendous impact on your emotions and your ability to praise and trust God. I like Luke 16:10, about how being faithful with little means you can be faithful with much. But I also like to think of it this way, “Whoever can be thankful for very little can also be thankful for much, and whoever is unthankful with very little will also be unthankful with much.” If we can notice and be thankful for the little things, our lives will be so much more rewarding and full.
Sometimes, I have to remind myself to get out of the “grumpy, busy, leave me alone so I can finish this” mode and just enjoy the moment. Maybe it’s a moment when my kids are cracking each other up with goofy jokes, and I need to pause and watch them laugh, to watch their eyes twinkle. Being someone who is very reserved with emotions, especially excitement, it is a delight to watch my children with their unhindered expressions of joy. They haven’t yet learned to restrain their excitement. And I hope they never do!
One of my favorite things to watch in the summer is when Ryder goes outside to play. He can play better than any kid I’ve ever seen. He has this little yellow tractor that he will pedal up and down the sidewalk for hours. It has a little trailer that he fills with all sorts of random things, like pipes and sticks and water noodles, and he goes about building “worker things.” No one can play like this kid does! I could watch him for hours and never get bored.
And he loves bugs. (Ah, a kid after my own heart!) This winter, box elder bugs kept getting into our house and Ryder caught one. He named it “Friendy.” He would carry this thing around and sit and watch it. And whenever we found another one, we would yell, “There’s Friendy!” and he would come running to see.
One precious little moment that will be cemented in my head forever (because I took the time to notice) was of watching him holding his first Friendy. I almost went back to doing the dishes, but something made me stop and just watch him. He was watching this Friendy walk around in his little, cupped hands. He stood there for a moment considering it, and then he leaned in really close and whispered in little-kid-speak, “I want to keep you!” Oh, so sweet! Here is a kid that can’t be quiet to save his life, but was so gentle and loving with this little bug. Melted my heart!
[We did have a sad moment, though, when he found a squashed Friendy in the window sill. He stood there looking at this flat Friendy. His eyes misted over a little and the corners of his mouth turned down. Being a good mom who wants to help him understand the harsh realities of life with truth and delicacy, I got down on his level, put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, Honey . . . we’ll find another one soon.” So we went on a Friendy hunt and we found another one. And then another, and then another, and so on. Friendy’s overstaying his welcome, I think.]
Now, my Hunter has a really sweet side, too. He will do some genuinely thoughtful things that would be easy to overlook if I didn’t pay attention. He always makes sure to think of me and to do things that he knows I like or that would make me feel special. When he was just a toddler and slept in our bed, he would reach over and rub my back with his little hand and say, “I love you!” Every night! And when he sits down by me on the couch, he will make sure that I am warm and will cover me with a blanket. And when he makes me something, he works really hard to make sure it is something I would like. He’s always so thoughtful.
One time, he was making a little clay figure for me. He knew that I loved the cute, little smiley faces that they put on their projects. So he worked really hard to make it just right, constantly looking up at me with his adorable, eager eyes (he has the most beautiful eyes in the world, if I do say so myself) to see if I was watching and pleased with what he was doing. He wanted it to be perfect for me. The effort and thoughtfulness that he put into it to please me really warmed my heart (and gives me a good example of how I should strive to do things for the Lord).
He ended up making this adorable blob of a creature; a little, round owl. It really had a charm all its own, with its cute, smiling face beaming from its midsection. And then, he painted it. It was like a stained glass window with splotches of blue and purple and yellow all over its body. . . except on its front. For across its face and dripping all down the belly was a layer of blood-red paint. With a few strokes of the paintbrush, it went from this darling, innocent owl to a menacing, sneering predator that looked like it had been munching on fresh road-kill. I laughed and laughed (not out loud, of course!). Bless his heart, he tried so hard! But I still have it and I love it!
Kody is my builder. He will sit and build intricate Lego designs for hours. And it’s very important for him to show me and my husband each design. It means so much to him to hear, “Good job,” as he shows us all the details and thought that he put into it. And, as I alluded to before, he has a really gentle side and he shows a lot of concern for others.
When he was two years old, we went to the park. A bus-load of grade-school kids showed up and overran the playground. However, there was one girl that didn’t have anyone to play with. While she seemed invisible to everyone else, Kody saw her. And without saying a word, he sat down next to her and put his arm around her. Then he hugged her and began leading her around the playground by her hand. Here was this little white boy and this pre-teen black girl walking hand-in-hand around the playground. She was smiling the whole time! And it was amazing for me to watch.
It was amazing to me that this came completely from inside him, that he noticed someone that needed some encouragement and he was compelled enough to reach out and provide it. At two years old! And he hasn’t changed. He still has a softer heart for others than any person I know. One time, when he about eight or so, I dropped him off for Sunday School at church. And as I was walking out, I looked over and noticed that he had his arms around his friend, Caleb, and that there were two older, rougher boys pushing them back and forth between them. I pointed it out to the person at the desk.
“Boys will be boys,” he said. And all I could think was, No, not my Kody. He doesn’t rough up others like that. That’s not “being boys.” That’s being naughty and rude. After we picked him back up from class, I asked him what had happened. Were they just playing?
And this is what he said, “When I got there, they were picking on Caleb. So I told him that I would protect him, and I put my arms around him and let them push me, instead.”
Oh, I tell you, it broke my heart. It broke my heart and yet filled it to bursting, to know that he would care enough about others to sacrifice himself for them. And this doesn’t come from anything I taught him. It’s all from him. I, on the other hand, wanted to grab the trouble-makers by the cuff of the neck and shake them back and forth and give them a good talking to. (And that’s the nice version.) But I didn’t. I just told Kody how proud I was of him for being who he is, and how if that ever happens again, he should tell a leader or come get me and I’ll have a talk with their mothers.
It takes conscious effort to notice these kinds of things sometimes and to commit them to memory. Many, many special moments come without trumpets and fanfare. Train your mind to notice them and to be thankful for them (and to tell your kids about it!). It will be so rewarding for both of you! Getting involved in their world takes time and focus, but it’s worth it. They will soon put away childish things in favor of more boring, grown-up things. Enjoy their youth and be silly with them. Notice the tender moments. You can’t get them back when they’re gone!