It’s more than being outnumbered: On teaching character and grace

The jig’s up.

Being the mother of four kids, I can no longer slip things under their little radars. There’s nothing I do that escapes four pairs of eyes and ears, and they let me know. Every. Time.

4kids

Like the candy drawer — they know where it is. Or when I eat something outside the predetermined snack or meal time. Or when I’m impatient with another driver. Or when I say we’ll have dessert tomorrow night and then we don’t.

Teaching them how to be decent human beings full of love and integrity is a double-edged sword, isn’t it?

Because you only know you’ve succeeded when they start calling you out, and you know they’re right.

If you spend any time with kids, you know how their questions can be. Are you thinking curious, bright and full of wonder?

Oh right. Yes, well, that too.

But also: Incessant.

“Mom, what are we having for dinner tonight?”
“Mom, what are we doing today?”
“Mom, can I have gum/dessert/candy/a snack/a playdate/screen time/a nap (just kidding)?”

In the car on the way home from the pool recently, one of them asked about dinner. I told them my plan (and I really hate planning dinner, so it was a miracle I had one), and immediately two of them started whining about it.

I did a quick inhale through my nose to calm down. (It didn’t work.) I had three thoughts during that inhale: First of all, I’m making this food to keep you ALIVE because I LOVE YOU. Second, there are plenty of kids with not enough to eat. Third, STOP WHINING.

And it was the sun and the effort of the day and the fact that they’d whined every day about dinner for four days and maybe also my own hunger for lunch, but I started yelling.

“I do NOT want to hear ANY MORE COMPLAINING about what we’re having for DINNER, OKAY?!”

“Well, maybe you could stop YELLING AT US,” one of them replied. (calling me out #1)

“I’M YELLING BECAUSE I’M MAD!” (+ for using my words. – for well, yelling.)

3-year-old then starts singing a preschool TV program song softly to me: “When you feel so mad, and you want to roar, take a deep breath… and count to four. Mommy, you can count too!”

Everyone busts up laughing. I smile and soften, too.

God trusts me to teach them integrity and build their character, yes. And then he lets me do it imperfectly so that I can also teach them about grace.

And the only way I can teach them that? Is by giving it to myself first.

Have a story to share of when God taught you a thing or two through your kids? Share it with me in the comments.

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4 comments on “It’s more than being outnumbered: On teaching character and grace

  1. Claire says:

    Kim!

    Peace be with you.

    I just recently experienced Gloria expressing interest in returning to public school. This hurt because we’d just finished a truly epic year of unschooling and loved every minute of it (okay not every minute, but the majority of minutes we liked lots).

    Anyway I thought I was being so sneaky about all the hints I was dropping about how awesome not going to school was going to be vs going to school. And finally she said very sweetly, “Mama? I kind of feel like you’re pressuring me to stay home from school.” And she was right, I was, so I stopped and let her show me what it is like to be gracious and full of wonder instead of controlling and closed off.

    Love,
    Claire

    • Claire, I love this. How beautiful that Gloria could feel it, name it, and help you both move on. And probably the coolest thing is that a year of unschooling taught her that she could freely choose school again.

  2. Renee says:

    Kim, I really enjoy your blog.
    Our adopted daughter was taken to an orphanage by her parents when she was 11 months old. She joined our family when she was 3 1/2. She is very strong willed and when she started understanding what her birth parents meant, she would tell me how much she missed them whenever she was mad at me. In one of my weak moments I said ‘You don’t even remember your birth parents.’ She quickly responded ‘But they will always be in my heart.’ I guess she told me and I know it was a lesson from God.

  3. Renee says:

    Continuing from my last comment. After feeling like a bad parent for what I had said to my daughter, good things came out of it. I was reminded to pray for my daughter’s birth parents. They had given her life and had made sure she was in a safe place when they could not care for her. It also prompted a conversation between my daughter and me. I told her that I would gladly talk about her birth parents at any time except when she was mad at me. That was a positive change in our relationship.