As I mentioned in previous posts, I recently prepared a message for a parenting series we were doing at church which tried to identify the things we did right as parents. One of the posts listed some kindergartener’s view of their parent’s greatness. Another cited what my daughters said when they were 6 and 4 years old. And now, I sent my girls (who are 30, 27, and 24) an email and asked them to tell me what our strengths are as parents. Again, the things they described as strengths are things I (we) were not aware of at the time with minor exceptions.
From the 30 yr old:
- When you were with us kids, and the other parent was not with us, you always built each other up to us.
- I always felt like you put each other as #1, not us kids, we were second.
- You always promised us you would never get a divorce and that you were committed to each other and to our family forever. No question. There was so much security in having your parents make that promise!
- This is a big one for me: You let us see you fight, but I think that was great that you did that and did not always go somewhere private. Why? Because I saw you fight and then I watched you make up! Because of that, I am not afraid of fighting with my husband. I also know there is a right way and a wrong way to do it, and I know how important and essential forgiveness is. You kept it real!
- You loved us SO much for who we were (are), and not what we did and how we performed.
- Mom, this is mainly you since you were the stay-at-home parent---you were so purposeful in your parenting, and so thoughtful. You took your job very seriously. Thank you for that.
- You took so much time to make each of us feel special individually, not just as "the three girls". You let us be different from each other, and in fact, you celebrated it!
From the 27 yr old:
- Never afraid of ya'll getting divorced (even when my friends' parents were splitting up).
- Never allowed to compare myself to my sisters (or anyone else); always encouraged individuality and God's special "different" plan for each of us.
- Saw you and mom have a personal relationship with Jesus, but weren't legalistic and never forced us to go to church or "perform" because we were pastor's kids; allowed our relationship with God to be our own.
- Always felt loved after discipline (consistent with restoring relationship after fight/punishment).
- "Not talking" or "sweeping things under the rug" were NOT options-- always had to restore relationship.
- Taught us how to process feelings verbally and resolve conflict at a young age
From the 24 yr old:
- Conflict resolution: I had realistic expectations of what marriage looked like, knew it was healthy to fight, and saw how conflict was resolved in a healthy respectful manner.
- Words of affirmation: I felt so secure in our house, you told me "I will never divorce or leave your mom", "I love your mom so much" so no matter how many of my friends were going through chaos, I felt safe and secure in our family.
- See not what people do to you, but why they do it to you.
- Love was not performance based.
Needless to say, that was incredibly affirming and a blessing to read. I don’t share these lists with you to toot my own horn, but to encourage you as parents and let you know that you are making a difference. You are impacting your kids. In the most mundane moments of life, you are teaching them about who you are, who God is, and how much they are loved and treasured. We don’t remember doing most of the things they described in their lists. We were trying hard to be good parents, doing things that we thought were healthy but the things they remembered are not the things we remembered.
I encourage you to ask your kids, young or old, to reflect on what you did that is/was healthy, right, and made you a great parent. Most of us know stuff we were lousy at so ask to see if they’ll tell you stuff you are good at.
Have a great day. I welcome your comments. God bless, Matt.