I haven’t written a ‘Pasta on Parenting’ post in a while. And boy, have I been getting some experience lately! Those kids, you know, they don’t slow down for a minute. The challenges come at you like flaming darts – it’s amazing! By ‘challenges’ I don’t mean that my children are going through challenges, or that we are having problems, or anything like that. I simply mean that being a parent is hard work. There’s always a decision to make, and you can’t make them lightly. Even if it doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal to take your daughter shopping for summer clothes or sign your son up for baseball or buy them a book at the store ~ all of these things involve important decisions. And if you make the mistake of thinking they’re not important, you may be regretting it later.
What ‘decision’ is involved in buying summer clothes for your little girl? Other than how much money to spend and what size to buy, of course. As parents, the Waffle and I have made it a priority since day one to teach modesty to both Mallory and Hayden. When it comes to picking out clothes for summer, shopping for our 7 year old daughter proves to be much more difficult than for our 9 year old son. Boys wear shorts. The shorts sold for boys are long. Boys wear t-shirts. Most t-shirts sold for boys his size aren’t inappropriate. So, we rarely run into ‘decisions’ that have to be made when shopping for Hayden. Mallory, however, is another story. It isn’t just about picking out a bathing suit. It starts with the clothes. The shorts are too short. They are low-waisted, they are short, sometimes they have words printed on the rear end. Let me ask you this: Why would any mother or father who loves their daughter find it appropriate to put clothes on her that cause another person to stare at their daughter’s butt? I can’t answer that because for me the answer is, “I wouldn’t.” When it comes to tops, there are just as many challenges: spaghetti strap tank tops, bare midriff tops, and tops that say things like, “I didn’t ask to be a Princess” or “Whatever it is, my brother did it.” Really? These things are supposed to be cute? What about teaching humbleness and responsibility? So, when it comes to buying clothes for our daughter, I rise to the challenge. Knee length shorts, no words on the rear, no spaghetti straps, and no sayings that encourage poor attitudes or thinking. I also have a problem with clothes that are too trendy or too ‘grown-up.’ Why do we want our daughters looking like runway models or pop stars? Which ones of them do we want our daughters to look up to (or look like)? For me the answer is simple: none. I want her to know about inner beauty and modesty and make it part of her character that will attract an honest, loving and upright man to be her husband someday. And if I don’t start training her to think and be this way now, when she is twelve it will be too late.
“Signing up for baseball is a challenge?” you ask. Yes, when the ball schedule has some conflicts with regular meetings time for our church congregation, it does pose a challenge. I sometimes find it tough as a parent not only to tell my son when he will not be able to go to baseball, but it’s also to tell the coaches. I don’t want to make my child be different, but we ARE different. As Christians we are called to be different from the world. At 9 years old, our son understands ‘exceptions.’ We have a rule that we live by: when the congregation meets, we are there. The exceptions to this rule are: illness. So, last fall, when a couple of Hayden’s ball games lasted too long and we missed a service, I had enormous guilt. “What are we teaching our son by letting him miss church to play baseball? That playing is more important than worshipping the Creator?” So, the Waffle and I decided that it wouldn’t happen again. It is important to teach what (and Who) comes first. If the children don’t learn that God comes first at an early age, then they will always be torn when making a choice between social events and church services. I’m an adult and there are still times when I feel tempted to skip services because I want to be doing something else. However, people notice our example. Not only our commitment to being at worship and Bible study, but our attitude, our honesty, our effort, and our concern for others. There are so many ways that we can ‘shine our light’ to the world. We just have to be willing to face the challenges head on ~ and then make the right choice when faced with them.
The bottom line is that decisions that often don’t seem important to us are very important to our children. They pick up on the patterns, routines and consistencies in our lives. But they also pick up on the inconsistencies, the lack of discipline and the hypocrisy. So, give them something they can believe in. Don’t make them wonder what to expect, let them know what’s important and how we make our decisions. That builds trust, and after all, isn’t trust what love is all about?