Speak gently, give praise, and say yes whenever you can...Find the patience, make the time, play with toys... Look for what your children do right; focus on these things.
I have so many great memories of my time as a mother with children at home. Being a mom gave me the greatest purpose that I have ever enjoyed. In the years that have passed since my children became independent and, may I say, delightful adults I have been privileged to nurture, encourage, teach and love many people of all ages and from a vast array of backgrounds. But there is still something really special about my memories of being the mom dispensing apple juice and graham crackers.
I know that my memories of mothering are selective and that there were a lot of challenging and exhausting times that I've chosen to ignore. One of my young mommy friends recently reminded me that I only remember the good times. As I watched her wrangle her frustrated toddler into a life jacket I had to admit that she was probably right, but I really do remember the mom years as happy.
Being a parent is the most important and challenging responsibility that we have as humans. It is a long term project that requires . I've always, in my imagination, compared it to gardening. It helps me to wrap my mind around the task of parenting if I think of children as gardens. Now, let me add here, in the spirit of full transparency, that I am not a very good gardener.
I begin with great enthusiasm; I'm thrilled to be at one with nature and embracing my inner pioneer woman. By the time August arrives I'm covered with bug bites, the weeds have won, I have canned approximately 550 pounds of tomatoes, and there are 200 more pounds on the vines. The green peppers, eggplant, and green beans generally fail, but the tomatoes make the garden look like a botany experiment gone terribly wrong. But back to children.
Children are like gardens in that we sow in them the character and values that we want them to take into their adult years. Like gardening, the parenting process requires that time be set aside and dedicated to the job. Parents plant, water, compost, and weed. Parents plan, think, reflect, and learn. Parenting takes conscientious dedication, and a willingness to sacrifice time and sleep and the right to be the most important person in your own life. But there is another element. That element is joy.
How much joy to you take in parenting? How often do you take the time to simply enjoy your children? Do you slow down and look at them with wonder at their marvelous faces and minds? It is so easy to let parenting to become a series of schedules to be maintained and chores to be done while containing the exhaustion of infancy, the chaos of the early elementary years, the confusion of adolescence.
It can be so much more than that if you decide that it will be. You have control over this. Joy in your family is one decision away. And let me be clear: your children know if you are enjoying them or not. Life is so much more sweet when we live together and enjoy each other. Life is just better when every person in the family matters and is valued. That is a Harbor Home.
In our Harbor Home, we often refer to the old acronym for joy: Jesus, Others, Yourself. We imbued our now grown children with this concept, and they are shining examples of this. By prioritizing faith over all else, and the needs of others over the needs of self we have all the components necessary to have joy. This is essential in every Harbor Home.
This is a far cry from schedules coming together well or homework being done in a timely fashion or the evening meal being a gourmet feast prepared by a mom who just worked a ten hour day. Those expectations are unreasonable. Joy is stopping in the middle of all of that...literally stopping and taking a breath and looking at your family. Pause a moment and thank God for all the goodness you have. Look at your children and smile. Say aloud that you love them.
When you take joy in your children, the bedrock of their confidence in themselves is solid and unshakable. When you take joy in your family, the inevitable challenges of being a parent are not fewer, but they become bearable. You can bear them because you know that there is joy in the midst of it. You can bear them because you know that challenges are how we learn.
When you take joy in your children, you are teaching them to see the world through an unusual and positive lens. They will be more capable and resourceful, because they will believe that life is ultimately good. Make the decision to bring joy to your heart and your home. It begins when you speak gently, give praise, and say yes whenever you can. You can't always do these things, so do them whenever you can. Dig deep and find patience. Make time to play with toys. Let your children catch you looking at them and smiling. Watch for the things your children do right and focus on these things. Encourage them. Bring a new spark of joy into your home and your children's hearts.