Be kind. Say please and thank you. Look people in the eye when you speak to them. Say your prayers. Eat your fruit and vegetables. Read at least 20 minutes a day. Keep your hands to yourself. Wash behind your ears. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Please quit tooting.
These are the directions that I pepper my children with daily. At times, it can be overwhelming for them (and me!) but it is necessary. Raising children is tough work. There are some days when I lie in bed and think, “Well, I really blew it today!” Instead of talking about good choices with Ella, I made a bad choice and argued back with her. The kids fought all afternoon. I yelled. Their dinner plates did not have a single vegetable or fruit on it. My dinner plate was a bag of microwave popcorn. I didn’t read with Matthew today. I ran around all day and still didn’t accomplish everything I meant to. And I am pretty sure I nodded off during Ethan’s prayer. Mama. Of. The. Year.
Even though I fail sometimes, all of these lessons are necessary. I mean we want kids who can function in society with manners and no tooting, right? As I sat in Sunday School this week, I was reminded that of all the lessons I teach my kids, there are a couple that are the greatest.
Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 15: 37-39, NIV)
We have been singing Amazing Grace and Jesus Loves Me since they were in my belly. My babies know how much Jesus loves them, and they are growing to love Him more and more each day. What a comfort to me that they will grow up having Jesus in their heart and by their side.
The second commandment can be tough. When everyone is getting along and it is good times, it is easy to love your neighbor as yourself. But what about those times when thy neighbor isn’t being nice? What about when your neighbor can be down right un-neighborly?
Ella came home last week upset. “Mama, can we have some alone time?” She crawled in my lap and cried big, fat tears as she told me about how her feelings were hurt at school. My Mama bear side wanted to say, “Sissy, what would Taylor say?? Shake ‘em off, girl. Go swing with someone else! You don’t need friends like that!” What was that scripture? Oh yeah. Love your neighbor as yourself. There was no condition like “Love your neighbor as yourself….so long as they are loving to you too!”
After some rocking, hair smoothing, and praying for the right words, I gave it my best shot. “Ella, sweet girl, I am so sorry your feelings got hurt. You can’t control how they act, but you can control how you act. Continue to be kind to them, and let’s pray for them to make better choices. Spend time with your friends that are being kind and don’t take your friendship for granted. When the other ones realize they made a bad choice (because you know they will because girls are fickle as all get out!), forgive them. Your best friends, however, need to be those friends that treat you the way you treat them…with kindness. Those are the best kinds of friends that you hold close to you.”
I may fail on a lot of my Mama Objectives. I can’t make my boys quit burping or tooting (and Lord knows I have tried!!). I don’t always succeed by having the perfect food pyramid in my kids’ diet. I may have to shoot “crazy eyes” before I get a please and thank you. And I get frustrated and raise my voice more often than I care to admit.
But if I focus on the great commandments in my family’s life, it’s all gonna be alright.