I read recently the following quote by Tom Peters: "There is no such thing as a minor lapse in integrity."
The same is true for parenting. Being a parent is not something that you clock in and do only during your waking hours. It is much more of the person you are; day in and day out. Not only does it take over your waking hours, but permeates your sleeping hours as well. Parenting rules your work week as well as your weekends; your lazy days and busy days. It determines where you live, how you spend your time, and your thought process throughout each day. Not only does it become who you are twenty-four hours a day, but only when you multiply that by the number of days in the rest of your life, do you begin to get the picture.
And this can be a comforting thought.
Always present, and always aware, your children remain in the shadows, picking up on your good habits as well as your bad ones. They have a front row seat to your tough days in progress, but they are also there to witness your victories. They are the first to detect a bad temper, financial problems, health problems or an upcoming major family change. They are also the first to celebrate with you when you overcome these challenges.
I recently saw an Australian television commercial called "Make Your Influence Positive." It shows scene after scene of a child following in the footsteps of his or her parent. A mom with a cigarette in her hand, and a child doing the same. A father passing by a lady who needs help, and his son does the same. A mother yelling at her infant to stop crying, and her daughter does the same. Though this particular commercial demonstrates the negative side of the influence that a parent holds in the life of a child, the opposite is also true.
Our children recognize how we live, the way that we love, and the times we choose to do what is right, especially when no one else is looking. They sense our motives behind our actions. They recognize the unspoken dreams we still long to pursue. They notice the moments when we rise above our own needs to touch the lives of those around us.
Our kids are influenced much more by our actions than by our words; our hearts more than our habits; by what we do not say as much as by what we do.
It is hard to keep this in mind as a parent. Feeling ignored and tuned out as we try to point our teens in the right directionthe direction that will bring them the greatest amount of success with the least amount of pain--we wonder why it is so difficult to get through to them. It seems that they do the opposite of almost everything we tell them, at times.
But they take note, long before we realize it or they are willing to admit it.
This truth was revealed to me when I opened my Mother's Day cards from my two oldest children. Now 25 and 23, and living 600 miles away, they shared this:
"Everything I value in life, I see in you, and wouldn't have it any other way. You are the most incredible woman I know, and I am so thankful God chose you to be mine." Crystal and Andrew Grimes.
Now, I have waited my entire adult life for that quote, and it was well worth the wait. Neither would I have it any other way.
As it says in Proverbs 22:6 "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."
You see, no one was more unqualified to be a parent than me. Far from perfect, I did manage to show up every day and every night. I was honest, always tried to be myself, and I allowed God to take all of me and somehow make a parent out of what I had to offer.
And with that, thankfully, I learned that there is no such thing as a minor lapse in parenting. Success comes in the everyday-ness of it all, and it all works together for good, if you let it.
Janet Morris Grimes, the author The Parent's Guide to Uncluttering Your Home, released in 2011. She launched Abbandoned Ministries to lead others to seek God, as Abba, during abandonment. For more information, visit http://janetmorrisgrimes.com or http://abbandondoned.com.
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