Last night, I was making lemon curd to put on some shortbread. Bethel came in, wanting to help. I told her no. I was in the kitchen with Lee, and I didn’t want to be bothered. Then I decided that I didn’t want my children growing up with memories of their mom always in the kitchen but never paying attention to them [hyperbole, I know], so I called her back.
We had a good time. I told her that making custard is a lot like tending one’s mind. You have to keep the custard busy or it turns to scrambled eggs. Bethel stirred busily and thought that was uproariously funny. She wanted to know what stirring custard had to do with thinking.
Well, sometimes we women tend to worry when our minds are not busy. Ahh, she understood this. And we talked about boldness and patience– the first time I made custard I was so afraid of curdling it that I didn’t cook it long enough. We tested and tasted, and finally the mixture thickened just right.
Here’s why I share this story. Somewhere in my mind, I had developed a picture of the “ideal mom” activity. I used to think that I should have all my children in the kitchen all at once. I felt guilty if I sent them away. I’ve since learned that one at a time is much more profitable for them and my sanity. That’s not the only misconception. I have been guilty of thinking that spiritual conversations with my children consist of them telling me all their innermost thoughts, and me telling them sage advice to help them. I’m learning that conversations more often are words and sentences long, not paragraphs, and that my children are learning more from watching me and hearing me apply God’s Word than I realize.
Sometimes we see a mom we admire and pay attention to how she interacts with her children. We want to imitate her, but we are discouraged because we don’t LIKE the same things our hero does. Then we feel guilty as though something like cooking with children is the spiritual thing to do. Or we concoct a picture of the perfect mom (we never imagine her flaws), and wonder why we never measure up.
Spending time with our children looks different for each family, and often for each child. What they need today might look different in a month. Often, spending time with our children is a sacrifice, a deliberate choice. But it does not follow that the sacrifice must be filled with misery or always contrary to our personality.
If you’re a night person, then bedtime might be the best time for chatting with your children. If you don’t think coherently at night, then talking at that time might be less than profitable. There will always be times when love causes us to choose someone else’s comfort first (like when my child is a night owl and likes to talk then more than any other time). But it’s a helpful exercise to pay attention to not just how our heroes accomplish good things, but what they’re actually accomplishing and why.
We need to be careful when constructing a mental picture of a godly mom. For example, incidental teaching is a part of life. We’re told that God’s Word and ways should be loved and remembered and a part of our whole lives. That is what we should be aiming for. Not whether we make our bread from scratch, or chat with each child every night before they drift off to sleep, or read our toddlers lengthy chapters from Leviticus (while they ask intelligent questions and sit studiously for longer than 10 seconds).
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8