Last year, in that year we will forever remember as the year of Covid -19, I turned 60 years old. As strange as that year was, this year – 2021, has not become much more normal. When I turned 60, for some reason, I couldn’t help but specifically reflect on the day I turned 30. And now, this month, in this continuing Covid-clouded year, my oldest daughter reaches that same age – 30. Because I remember the day I turned 30 so vividly, I can see in my mind’s eye myself at her exact age. That will certainly give rise to some pondering and reflecting.
When I became pregnant with her – I was at that infamous age of 30 – I don’t know that I could readily define and list any “goals” I would have in parenting her. As I look back and reflect on how our parenting – specifically, my mothering – may have influenced or guided her (as well as our other daughters) I can better delineate the characteristics and attributes I most admire and respect in them. Whether my parenting had any real impact on their outcome, it is rewarding to see them exhibit these “goals” that I can now capture in words more than I could at the outset of our child-rearing. Somewhat akin to the concept of “asking forgiveness rather than permission,” these goals portray how I now see them as young women. I guess I could better-describe them as “end-games” more than goals. It’s a bit like trying to guess and recreate a recipe for something delicious you’ve eaten at a restaurant. It’s the “hindsight is 20/20” view. Had I been more astute 30+ years ago – I may have set them as goals. But then – maybe I would have completely missed the mark.
Years ago, as a mom of young children, I finally figured out (after much frustration) any “goal” I might have for any given day might not go as smoothly as planned. Most days I ended up feeling that, not only had I failed to attain any goal, but I couldn’t seem to figure out anything at all that I had actually, truly accomplished. At the end of a long, often busy and tiring day, I would look around and realize tomorrow would be yet another opportunity for me to attempt to undertake my goal, or project, or plan, or purpose, or achievement. I had a great many days and tomorrows that ended with weary exasperation. What in the world was I accomplishing with my life?
All these years later, there are still many days that I wonder what I truly accomplish. But now, at the adult-side of child-rearing, I have tried to better define what I did, in fact, accomplish over these many years. Though not precisely planned out, written and purposefully carried through – there were general, overarching aspirations we had for our girls.
I wonder what we would have felt we were actually accomplishing if we had these stated goals or missions at the outset of our parenting. We may have been even more frustrated with the prospect that, try as we might, we were failing to see the imminent results of our prayers, parenting, plans and purposeful living!
But take heart! The day will actually come when you are able to see, enjoy, share-in and acknowledge the accomplishments. The fruit of your labors will bloom and grow and fall at your feet so you can pick it up and offer it up in humble gratitude to the Lord who has been and will continue to be the ultimate definer and implementer of your goals. That is, if you have asked Him into the process – daily, urgently, lovingly, humbly, gratefully and expectantly.
As I’ve looked back at my, sometimes obscure, parenting objectives, I’ve realized there are five “vague” goals that we had for our girls. Even somewhat unintentionally and involuntarily, these were the character traits we most asked, prayed for, taught, and at times, pleaded they garner as their own. These five “G” goals are more gracious results than a planned itinerary. They are thoughts we pursued without much of a plan, usually unwittingly – maybe just simply knowing they were what God had placed before us for that phase of the journey. Even as we were just ambling down the parenting road without a certain destination – taking life step by step. Sometimes faltering, sometimes sprinting, sometimes blindly following – but ultimately persevering in faith and trust that our girls’ Heavenly Father had them in His sights and hands, even when we had not a single clue.
So here they are – in spite of ourselves, our frustrations and failures! Our five “Goals” for our girls:
That they be Genuine:
Being yourself is not always easy. Usually it isn’t easy at all! There are too many expectations, “role models,” social media means of comparison, and your own self-awareness of inadequacies, feelings of not being “all that,” and much, much more. Add to that the perceived, if not real, expectations and hopes of others.
Our children are each uniquely created. They have a designed look, purpose, palette of gifts and talents, insufficiencies (yes!), personality and intellect that is perfectly fashioned for them by a Creator who loves them immensely.
As moms it is our task to continually remind them of this. It is important for them to understand they need not fit into any specific pattern, look, activity, group, etc. That is a message that we must fight for them to understand, remember, retain and respect – a message that will be beaten up by opposing forces.
Often that may mean a lonely walk. We must gird them with the truth that they are exactly as they should be. It is important to always try to stress the importance of who they ARE – not simply what they DO! We all fail at the “doing” at some point. That failure need not signal THEY are not being who they are designed to be, doing the right thing or accomplishing our goals for them. Character reigns supreme over any accomplishment.
Keep all lines of communication as open as possible. Encourage and reencourage them. Model and teach contentment. Being content in who they are will help assuage a great many feelings of failure or frustration. Affirm and reaffirm. You can never tell them enough how much you and their Creator love and appreciate their own special place in your life and their world.
There is no better observation than to know your child is the same at school, at work, with their friends, teachers, coaches and teammates as they are at home. They are safe in being who they are meant to be. They are truly genuine in their view of themselves and the world.
They need to know – from you – and from you again – that there is no other one, no other way, you would have them be.
That they be Grateful:
From the time our girls could speak we tried to teach them to be grateful. To verbally say thank you. To acknowledge not only gifts, but generosities of time, place and service. That lesson didn’t set in perfectly the first, second or fiftieth time. It needed constant reminding and guiding.
The first moment I realized I could never home-school my children was when I was wrangling with our oldest daughter over the writing of a thank you note. Yes, wrangling! Thankfully, there was less squabbling over the task as the years passed – but expressions of gratitude aren’t always packed in our natural tool box – or so it seems.
Correct, timely and appropriate expressions of gratitude are only one aspect of being grateful. Truly, a grateful heart is the ultimate goal. For our children to understand and actually “feel” the gifting, sometimes sacrificial, of anything toward them will lead to the outward expression. It is a sweet trait for things not to be expected, taken for granted or received because they think something is due them.
I would say a great many of us feel un – or under – appreciated from time to time. For your children to feel, show and express gratitude and appreciation to others is a sweet characteristic that not only helps throughout their lives – but encourages and uplifts those who seek to “do” for or “give” to them.
A heart of thanksgiving is a gift to all involved.
That they be Generous:
What overflows from a grateful heart? The desire to seek to give to others. Whether to give of time, money, talents, assistance or even gratitude – when your children truly understand what it is to be grateful – the next natural step is for them to seek to give to others. Giving doesn’t always mean monetary or tangible gifts. Some of the best “giving” is shown in serving others.
Not much delights me more than when I see my girls serving – serving in their church; serving in their job; serving those in need; serving their friends; serving in many capacities. Giving of their time, talents, and yes, money, to better those around them.
Giving and serving require them to look outside of their own needs, their own time, their own bank accounts. It demands a sensitivity to others – less of self.
Developing a generous heart is a process. It necessitates acquiring even a bit of an understanding of the needs of others. It requires empathy. It needs a growing desire to see the fulfillment, happiness and betterment of others. As parents we can lead the way in training our children to be generous.
What a blessing when you realize your kids get as much joy in giving as getting! Goal indeed!
That they be Gracious:
What does being “gracious” look like?
Being kind, respectful, thoughtful, courteous, considerate, nice, compassionate, accepting, grateful, unassuming. Sometimes calm and quiet; sometimes joyful and chatty. Gracious encompasses many positive qualities.
Being gracious is being full of grace. Grace is a gift – to the person having it and to those they encounter.
These goals that I can now, somewhat, delineate, can only have one source. And it is not me, my husband or our parenting. The source can only be our children’s love and faith in the Lord Jesus.
Grace is surely only flowing if Christ is at the center of their lives. Thus, the ultimate goal – is that our children know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And only that can lead to the final item on the list . . .. . . .
That they be Godly:
The attainment of these goals is not perfection. It is not to say our children, or we for that matter, have arrived at the final goal post. They are goals to move toward as we journey through life – as individuals and as parents. To say we have attained, or that our children have attained them, is to deny the continuous need to learn and grow, revamp, forgive, teach, guide, reassess – you know – live life!
I’ve always liked the quote – “the journey is the destination.” However, for purposes of this pondering, I would rewrite it to say – “the destination is the journey.” A daily living out of faith in the Lord that leads us to our eternal home.
I could say nothing about this final goal – or I could write a thousand pages. Ultimately, the choice to be godly can only be the individual choice of each of our children.
Our “job” as mommas is to be an example: to love, lead, guide, teach, train, tell, remind, forgive and pray. Then pray. Then pray some more. Continuously, usually imperfectly, with as much faith and trust as we can muster from day to day.
Make Jesus irresistible to your children. The rest is up to the Holy Spirit and your child.
I formulated this list of goals when on a walk with our family last year. I was trying to tell them how proud I was of who they are. I am so blessed and grateful for the young women they have become. I understand this list is an assessment of their current status. It is a “looking back,” not a “planning ahead.”
Maybe you are more organized or forward-thinking than me and already have your objectives, goals, mission, plan and purposes outlined for your children. Or, maybe like me, you are merely seeking to do the best you can, often failing, and sometimes not even realizing there is One who is leading and guiding, teaching and molding, safeguarding and securing our children much better than we ever could. Just make sure you don’t leave Him out of the process. He, in fact, created our children for a purpose before we were even a speck in our parents’ eye – much less our children in ours.
Goals encapsulating happiness, education, success, wealth, comfort, safety, security and productivity are wonderful. But these are goals that depend greatly on circumstances, choices, outside influences and often random events and occurrences. As you consider your ultimate parenting-mission goals, consider those that will endure despite changes, events and circumstances beyond our control.
If 2020 showed us anything, with 2021 continuing the lesson – we are not in control – life can be uncertain, unpredictable and frustrating.
So, trust your child-rearing goals to the One who has the ultimate and final control. Seek Him for your daily objectives. Choose the next, right step – even if it is difficult. Your goals (even unknown and unstated) may seem elusive – but oh, the day, you get to enjoy the sweet fruit the Lord has grown!
Thought to Ponder: Are you trusting your child-rearing goals to the standards of everyone and everything around you or to the One who uniquely created each of your sons and daughters? When you are tired and weary and not seeing the fruits of your dedication and devotion to your children, do you take heart that God is ultimately in control of their purpose and their end-game? Do you remind them He is their ultimate goal and guide? Are you pointing them to Him and His Word as you seek to parent them toward their life goals? Are you trusting, that as you take one step at a time, the Lord is faithfully guiding you all?