The question I face on a daily basis as a parent is this: Am I having an impact on my children by teaching them what's important and how to grow up to be functioning members of society? Ok, well, this question isn't really a daily basis type question, it's a once-in-a-while type question. The daily questions I face are more along the lines of "will we all survive the day?" and "what are we having for lunch?"
Lately, I've noticed how intensely my oldest daughter (nearly 5 years old) has clung to my words. Two of the lessons I personally have been trying to drive home to her are 1) that beauty is on the inside and 2) that we shouldn't sweat the little things - remember what's really important in life. The beauty thing is probably my fault. From the time she was a baby, I'd put a cute dress on her and make a huge deal about how adorable she looks. "Oh, you look so cute; go show your daddy." It's also exaggerated by her obsession with Disney princesses. The sweating the little things is because she still stresses to tears when she's frustrated at the smallest tasks. She's terribly impatient - I can't figure out where she gets that trait. Either way, I know she's getting it, so I'm feeling pretty good about myself and my amazing parenting skills. That is, until she pulls her sister's hair so hard that it comes out of its ponytails. Ouch.
During the past month or so, my sweet daughter has been the one reminding me of these particular two lessons, and though she understands the concepts perfectly, the lessons might need a little tweaking. Today I told the girls that we were going to go to the grocery store. They were pretty happy because that means a free cookie at the bakery (of which one child lost for pulling her sister's hair). Here's how the conversation went down:
H: Let's go to the store right after breakfast, Mom! Hurry!
Me: Well, I have to take a shower before we go.
H: No, you don't.
Me: Yeah, I really do. I haven't showered for two days.
H: Mom, it doesn't matter what you look like on the outside, it matters how you are on the inside. Like being nice to people and sharing.
Yep, she's absolutely right. But...
I explained to her that it's kind of rude to be around people when you're stinky and dirty. She also said the same thing to me when I was combing her hair. Next lesson: Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
So, lesson number two is about the same tempo. She really is getting it, but the application needs some help. When I was making a cake (the baseball cake) last week, I had a small stressing out moment because something I tried didn't work. She informed me nicely that "it doesn't matter if the cake turns out pretty because it's not really what's important, Mom. The only thing that matters is that you love Jesus."
Well, yes. I can't argue with her on the last part. She has a point. Ultimately, that is what's important in our family. How does one effectively explain, however, that in the short term moments of life, it does matter if the cake turns out pretty because people are relying on me. My best explanation after affirming her knowledge was that God gives us skills and gifts and He wants us to do our best with them. Part of loving Jesus is doing our best work and keeping our promises.
This parenting thing is tough. She's only 4 and already reminding me of what I tell her. I shudder to think of the life lessons she's going to hurl back at me when she's 15 and 18 - when she sees that I'm not as wonderful as I am now. Probably by then, I'll stop being "I love you! You're the best mom in the whole world" and start being "I hate you! You never let me do anything!" But, hey, at least she's listening to us for now, right?