Sitting in the quietness the other evening, the realisation hit me…in a handful of days we will officially have a teenager in the house – not just a teenager, but a daughter teenager. Wait…what?? (In the eloquent words of my middle son…) How? When? Was I asleep for the last decade? How time has flown, what a journey, what a rollercoaster, what a number of new grey hairs!
Watching my children grow mentally, physically, socially and spiritually has indeed been a privilege! It has also been a rollercoaster of sleepless nights, worry, tantrums (sometimes both sides!!), moods, endless shelling out of $$, food, sanity and love. It has been interesting to say the least to observe and be an active participant (whether I like it or not) in my children’s endeavours to grow their sense of independence and identity. And I hope beyond all hopes that through it all I have managed to give them sensible boundaries to allow just the right amount of growth and decision making, to develop them into decent humans. In all my worrying, I always turn to this verse to put me back on track…
Matthew 6:33-34 – But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Below are some rambling tips that I have decided in advance are worthwhile to keep in my back pocket…or maybe written on my forehead, on every calendar notification and on my bathroom mirror, simply so I don’t forget! These things have worked so far, and so I logically extrapolate that these will work in the future. We shall see! (Oh and I do not profess to have it all together…all of the below happening all at once would be a miracle…it is more some of the below happens some of the time, and by the grace of God, it all comes together!)
Social development – Spend time with people. I know, a bit obvious…but get out there with the kids (yes even you introverts…make the effort every now and then). Church sometimes gets a bad rep for being boring, or whatever excuse one can come up with to stay in bed for the morning! However the nurture and love, spiritual & social development I see happening in my kids during church lunch, or after church when they chat to their favourite adopted nanas and poppas is fabulous! My children are surrounded by mentors of all ages, and to know that someone prayed for us during the week is humbling. I would love to make it a habit to pray with my kids for those in our church who need it, and those who don’t…just because. At our church, kids are encouraged to serve and are simply loved. It is a village and an extended whanau (family), and that village is certainly helping us raise our tamariki (children).
We need to guide our kids in conversations about appropriate social interactions. We often debrief after a day…and to do that we have dinner at the table. Every. Single. Night (where possible of course). We debrief about the day. A lot of learning happens around the table. Along with people interactions, there is the growing need to talk about online social relationships, the do’s and don’ts of internet safety. Again a good round table convo to have over stew and dumplings! We sometimes call a ‘family meeting’ and our kids know that they are to come and listen, and talk. They know these are extra special conversations when something needs sorting out. Sometimes they see us as parents setting the example by apologising!
Spiritual development – Along with the spiritual nurture kids get from a church community, study the Bible as a family, discovering treasures and sharing what is meaningful to each other. Model to them how scripture can be read and interpreted, talk over concepts and especially how the beautiful recurring theme of Grace is present in every story.
Pray. Pray. Pray! On your own, together as a family, pray over your children in an open, honest way. Pray as a couple, soak your home in prayer. Since our children were born, one of us has prayed with each child before that last kiss, tuck in and turning out the light (sometimes the extra drink of water is needed, and toilet stop, and…and…but you get the idea!). I noticed just recently that without really discussing it, we both lay our hands on our children when we pray for them. I pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into my children every time, I pray that they would have wisdom and loving, kind interactions, and that God would keep them safe from the devil. I pray that they would see Jesus the following day and learn to love Him more. The laying on of hands is important as it is tangible, the Bible encourages us to do it, and it symbolises a deep spiritual connection between two people.
Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Physical development – Be outdoors, love outdoors, love the sun, play, play, play for exercise. The development I see in kids when we take them camping or hiking in the bush is huge! So much is learned in nature, away from civilisation. Goodness me…we might even have to talk about…stuff. Go for a walk, sit under a tree, visit the beach…anything to be outdoors running off some steam. Eat a range of balanced food. Our mantra in our family is…’we try things in our family’, and we now find that they are courageous to try new flavours, to give it a go, and most of the time enjoy it! They have even used the line on me, when I have turned my nose up at something. Thanks guys.
Don’t forget water, lots of water. And sleep. Even now the kids are older, I am a stickler for a decent bedtime routine. My girl needs extra care to help fall asleep, so often a hot milo, banana, clean teeth, brush hair, read a book in bed, (no screens 1 hour before bed), etc etc (yes it is a long winded routine), helps sleep to come. Sometimes some drops of lavender on the pillow helps too. But I am still figuring out how to help her when she wakes in the night and can’t get back to sleep. Any tips would be wonderfully received! They are still needing sometimes 10 hours sleep, and of course we all know the best sleep comes before midnight. A beautiful image I had recently was picking up our girl from my parents house after a school meeting, to see her curled up on the couch in front of the fire with a blanket (neatly tucked in by nana), fast asleep and at total peace. Nana was very pleased indeed. Daughter wasn’t so pleased however to be woken up for a car ride! She doesn’t nap often so when she does I know she is probably growing!
Mental development – Read, read, read! I like the mantra of friends of ours…that their children don’t see a movie until they have read the book. Mmmm books. Oh the love of an old second hand book store, the smell of books. Kids – you need to read! Allow time for thinking…real thinking. The type of thinking that is outside of the box. Imagination, drawing, cartoons, role play, soduku, crosswords, building something, solving problems, riddles, are all good exercises for the brain. But with the mental development one must drink enough water, eat right to fuel the brain and get enough sleep. So they are all hand in hand.
I embrace this next chapter, actually I cling on for dear life! I hug more these days, knowing the hugs will change, when I pray before my kids go to sleep, I relish the little snuggle times. I actually tell them that mummy won’t stop doing this, and when they are fully grown, I will probably still creep into their room to pray over them and give them a kiss. That might sound creepy, but hey, it’s a mother’s prerogative! Like I said before, I pray for the indwelling of the spirit in my children, that they may have peace in their souls and wisdom and protection from the devil. I pray that they will make wise decisions, and choose happiness and kindness as a way of life. I pray for their relationships, for their playground interactions and I pray and openly thank God for our family. I see prayer as the glue for our family. I hope that I can model how prayer is an ongoing conversation with our great God, and that there is power in the name of Jesus. I will pray my way through the teenage years.
James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
So whatever the teenage years bring, I am ready for it…together with God. God will be my strength so I can be strong when my children need it. God will enable us to set boundaries and stick by them. God will allow us to fully and truly love our kids even when they have messed up. It is the power and love of God that we are going to be able to be the parents our children need.
And when our kids leave home I pray that they will be fully equipped to journey this life with a full backpack of tools, totally embedded and overflowing with the Holy Spirit. Love you to the moon and back, my tamariki!
Matthew 7:11 – If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Proverbs 22:6 – Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Father in Heaven, tonight we as parents humbly come before you and give our worries to you. Thankyou for blessing us with children, thank you for the experience of seeing little people grow into big people. Lord we pray that you would bless us as parents with your Spirit that we may have wisdom and discernment in this rollercoaster ride. Please be our strength and words when we have none. Please keep us grounded on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. Father, bless our children with your Holy Spirit that they may be equipped to make good decisions as they learn lessons of life. Please give them wisdom and discernment, and grow them into loving and kind people who will be powerful witnesses for you. Keep them safe, keep them close, protect their hearts. Thankyou, Amen!