It’s that time of year here where everyone ventures into the sunshine, blinks, and smiles. The rain is gone, the weather is warm, and the windows are thrown open. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we celebrate our beautiful, short summer by living outside to the best of our ability.
It’s also the time of year that parenting is on display. There are parents at the water park, at the zoo, on the hiking trails, and in every house surrounding mine. More often than I’d like, I hear things said to children that make my heart wince like it’s taken a big old bite of persimmon. Things that should never be said to children, or ordinary things said in ways that they should never be said.
It’s the time of year that I’m especially aware of the things that spring forth from my own mouth. After all, my neighbors can all hear me. I’m parenting with the windows open.
The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction. Proverbs 16:21
Funny, isn’t it, that I’m especially aware of my own conduct when I know it’s audible to those around me? After all, Jesus sees me each and every day. He hears every word that issues forth from my mouth. My children are truly His children. Their little hearts are mine to shepherd only… I am only a steward. So, in these summer months, I’m always especially aware of whether or not my conduct changes based on who can hear me.
I wrote about parenting in anger in The Ghost of Childhood Past ~ Anatomy of an Angry Parent. Let’s just level with each other: parenting has a way of raising every emotion humanly possible. Parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Parenting can cause long-hidden anger to surface like a vengeful hippo (now, those are some mean creatures!). However, parenting in anger isn’t just something we should avoid. Parenting in anger is detrimental; we should run from it like we would run from a rat carrying the plague.
That said, I’m talking about raising the bar on my parenting. This summer, I’m asking myself for more. Am I parenting as if the Gospel is really real? Am I parenting as if I really believe that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again for my little people? Do I remember that I have done nothing on my own to earn the grace that He has extended me? Am I remembering that He loves me even in my foolishness and sin? That He loves my children … no matter what? In my summer parenting, am I displaying the fruits of the Spirit? (You know, those pesky character traits listed in Galatians 5:22-23 like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…) Are the words of my mouth gracious?
This is the time of year that I contemplate my heart. When I speak, no matter what I’m saying, I want my kids to hear: I love you. Jesus loves you. Your life is valuable. God has designed you for a purpose. If that’s not what they’re hearing, then absolutely nothing else I say matters. Nothing.
It can be a challenge to discipline, instruct, and herd (what, you never have to herd kids?) and communicate love, grace, and discerning counsel all at the same time. In fact, on my own, I am incapable of any of that. Thankfully, I’m not doing this super-hard-oh-so-challenging gig on my own. Nope. I’m doing it in the strength of the Lord. All that fruit I’m supposed to be bearing? Jesus said I can only bear fruit if I remain in Him: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4).
If my fruit isn’t standing the test of parenting with the windows open, it’s time to get back to the Word, back to praying. It’s time to focus my eyes on HIM.
How do you live out Proverbs 16:21?
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is a freelance children’s writer with a love for God’s Word, history, wisdom and small people. Her work has appeared in magazines including Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr.; Upper Room Ministries’ Pockets and Devozine; CBH Ministries’ Keys for Kids, and Cobblestone Group’s FACES and Odyssey. Her work also appears in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters.