First Things First

Over the past few months there has been a lot of chatter about Amy Chua’s parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I’ve not read the book, but I’ve seen Ms. Chua’s interviews from several sources and read enough reviews to know that her parenting styles and mine are dramatically different from each other.

For starters, I have about four too many children to be an effective Tiger Mother.

Then, I read this article by Deaconess Pamela Nielsen, and I am finally comforted by the fact that God does not expect me to be a Tiger Mother.

While good grades and success seem admirable, and are helpful in our society, we need to be careful about making academic success an idol.

Deaconess Nielsen points out what should be our “first things”, according to God’s word:

If you are a parent, your children are your vocation and your most important calling. God sets the standard for you: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). To raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is to raise children with God’s Word, in His Church, where His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation are given to all who believe. These are the “first things” for Christian moms, dads and children.

That is a HUGE responsibility. It almost makes homework checking and instrument practice supervising and sports shuttling and private tutoring seem EASY!

In our family it is a given that the children attend worship and Sunday School every week. They even begrudgingly participate in the various choirs. The boys have been active (or at least underfoot) during the renovation project. BUT, do they understand that these are FIRST things?

As in “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)?

Do they really know, or grasp that what goes on at church on Sunday Morning, and Wednesday night Bible Study, and during time spent memorizing scripture for religion class, and time spent in Sunday School, and Confirmation class, and helping our neighbors in God’s name, ALL of these things are more important than Algebra? Or Boy Scouts? Or even sitting still in class?

And if they don’t know (and I suspect that mine don’t); whose fault is it?

Mine.

While I can claim to not be a “Tiger Mother”, I still secretly hope for all As on report cards more than I expect happy service at church. I praise athletic devotion more than daily devotions. I’m even (especially) guilty of making Sunday morning preparation time less than pleasant for my offspring.

And so, I repent.

I’ve been given an awesome and very important vocation in motherhood, and I pray that I do not fail my children.

Chime in! What has been your focus, your “first thing” in parenting? Do you think that you should, or should have changed course? You know I’d love to hear from you!

Bigger Picture Moments: On Vocation

Bigger Picture Moment

A year ago, I was working nearly full time and longing to be a stay at home mom again. I always want what I don’t have. Because, while I am so happy to be home with my kids, I also secretly wish that I got a paycheck every two weeks for what I do.
I worked at a hospital. It was hard work. I worked long hours.
The good thing about working at a hospital is that you feel like you are really helping someone. Even if your “help” is a kind word to a family member, it is still help. So, beyond that paycheck, I came home with the feeling that I was making a difference somehow.
Fast forward to today. I am once again a stay at home mom, to six wonderful children. Some would say I am living the dream, and I am.
I am so happy to be able to drive my kids to and from school every day and I am available to cheer them on at sporting events and concerts. I don’t miss any of our daughters’ firsts. I am able to make nutritious meals for us, and I have the economy of time to save us money  at the grocery store.
At the same time, there is not the automatic feeling that I am making a difference.
I feel selfish.
I am doing something that I want to do.
I enjoy meal planning and baby cuddling, and reading to kids, and even diaper changing.
Certainly then, my vocation now is less honorable than it was less year when I was at a hospital 36 hours a week actually helping people.
Wrong!

Even though I step outside my home a lot less today then I did a year ago, I am still serving my neighbor.
My family is my closest neighbor.
I care for the seven neighbors who live under my roof, and the world is a better place for it.
I care for the Rev. and meet his needs for food, and clothing and comfort, and then he can devote more of his time to serving our neighbors in North Bismarck.
I care for our six children, and they can go about their daily lives and fulfill their vocations as sons, and daughters, and students and friends.
These people need me to make their landings softer!
Sure, if I did not make them dinner, they would be able to manage somehow. Eventually they may even find a way to make sure those meals are nutritious. But that would take away from the vocations they are already fulfilling. If they have to forage for food, they have less time for homework and rest.
Yes, mother, your job is important. Even when you feel invisible. Even when you feel that  your life is a version of the movie Groundhog Day.
Everyone has a mother, for better or for worse. I want to live to be the better mother. Some days I will fail, but my goal is to have more good days than bad, so that when my children are grown, they too appreciate the vocation of motherhood.
We invite you to join us in finding the Bigger Picture amidst the hectic, everyday craziness in your week.  Share your link and spread the love by viewing and commenting on other Bigger Picture Moments. Next week we’ll begin hosting Bigger Picture Moments atBigger Picture Blogs, and we hope you’ll join us again!