Two weeks ago, the school called and asked if we would host him.
"Sure! We love hosting people," I told them. I thought it would be fun and maybe even insightful to have him here in the mix of our family.
But he arrives tonight and now I'm having second thoughts.
Basically, I have a couple of hours to get my parenting/pastoring act together. This may not be possible. For some reason, in my life, the words "my", "act", and "together" have never found a good rhythm.
I decided to list out my best parenting tips- you know, kind of a crash course review in case I get stumped when he asks me something like, "What makes you a good parent?", or assigns me something like, "Define the term 'unconditional love' in 500 words or fewer."
Because he totally could, you know.
And if I don't have a decent answer ready, then I might choke and respond with something lame like, "I buy organic milk to offset our Oreo addiction."
That's true love, right?
So just in case he gives me a pop quiz, here is the list of my 10 best parenting tips:
10. Say "I love you" generously and as often as possible, with words, tones, and actions. A child's heart needs to be plastered with love, buried in loving tones, and overwhelmed with loving acts. Sometimes that means a note in a lunch box. Other times it means ten minutes alone to rethink a bad attitude and decide to apologize with a kind heart. Occasionally it means you put your needs last, last, last and your child's first, first, first. But generous love is never regretted, so lavish it with joy on your children. They will pour it back your way one day, no doubt about it.
9. Play with them. Play Barbies. Play UNO. Throw a frisbee. Walk around the block backwards just for fun. Teach them how to sing funny songs you sang as a kid. Have a race to the mailbox and back. Put them in a big cardboard box and pretend to open them like a present. Dance in the kitchen, march up the stairs, jump off a big rock, climb a tree. Do it all before they decide you are too old or too busy to want to do any of it.
8. Say yes to "one more time" whenever it is humanly possible. One more book? Yes. One more song at bedtime? Yes. One more cookie? Yes. One more kiss? YES! One more minute at the park? Yes. We have to say no too often. Say yes whenever you can.
7. Read the best books together on the sofa, under a cozy blanket. Readers are people who know that books are happy places. Not all books are, of course, but we all have books that are happy memories we love to relive. The Hobbit, Knuffle Bunny, Pippi Longstocking, Amelia Bedelia, Fancy Nancy, Where the Wild Things Are, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, are a some that have brought our family closer together. Show them the books you loved as a child. Find new books together at the library. If you want some ideas, here are a few of our favorite books.
6. Don't let media become an escape from the family. Facebook beckons to you. Minecraft and Madden sing their siren song to your kids. But when phones and computers and game systems become a way to escape one another we lose the best part of life. Turn on a timer- no more than thirty minutes, and then turn it all off and engage in life, lived out to the fullest.
5. Sing to them in their beds. I don't have a fantastic singing voice, and neither does Mr. Fantastic. Our children don't seem to care about that, though. They love for us to sing over them, to them, for them. Deep in my heart I think it has something more to do with God, and how He rejoices over us with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17).
4. Give them work to do. Despite the fact that none of us really loves to work, we seem to wish our kids would find it intoxicatingly full of joy. I used to get so frustrated by their bad attitudes about cleaning up, making their beds, doing dishes, and putting away their laundry. Then I realized that I still hate to do that stuff, too, but I have embraced the reality that a good life requires lots of work. Let them be fussy while they rake the leaves, vacuum the living room, or clear the table. Thank them and praise them for their faithful effort. Make it fun with music or by setting a goal to be finished by a certain time. Work hard together and then celebrate a job well done.
3. Apologize well. If you lose your temper, don't justify it by pointing out their disobedience. If you are wrong, don't blame being tired or distracted by work. If you break a promise, ask for forgiveness and promise to do better next time. Tell them that no matter what, love is the highest goal in relationship, and ask them for another chance to love them better next time. Say you're sorry and mean it. They will love you even more for your humility, because it makes space for them to be humble, too.
2. Teach them that God loves them even more than you do. If they feel loved, this fact will blow their minds. God loved them before they even existed. When you or someone else they love messes up, this truth will give them hope. When their friends fail, or their enemies are cruel, they need to know God's love will never fail them. Read them Bible stories, pray with them for miracles, memorize scriptures with them, talk about how you choose the way of Jesus even when you want to choose your own way.
1. Never give up. Love them when they fail. Try to explain the lesson to them again when they don't understand the first time. Forgive them when they apologize. Pray for them when they are struggling. Believe in them when they try hard things. Encourage them with your own stories. If they blow it, let them feel the weight of their consequences, but remind them that they never have to make the same mistake twice. Cheer for them when they give life their all. Be in it for the long haul, no matter what, because everyone needs someone who is always on their team.
Well, that's it. That's all I've got. I'll let you know how the hosting goes, and what kind of grade I make on the essay portion of the pop quiz. But the truth is, it doesn't matter so much what the parenting/pastoring expert thinks of me.
There are four up-and-coming experts running around this house, and they get to decide if I pass or fail at loving them. So far, I think I'm a little ahead of the curve. But there's always room for improvement....