“Use kind words, gentle hands and find someone who needs a friend today,” I said to my son as I dropped him off at the gym daycare.
“I will mommy, I will be kind today. I will share.” He replied as he bounced away gleefully.
It is so important to me that my kids are kind; in fact, sometimes I think I place a little too much emphasis on it. In a world that so desperately needs more kindness, I want to make sure I’m raising boys who love God and love others unconditionally.
For as much as I give verbal reminders, true kindness is shown by modeling the behavior; seeing kindness in action. So when my son reminded ME that I should be choosing kinder words when I was asking him to do something (“You need to be kind, mommy!”), it made me stop in my tracks.
How often am I *really* modeling kindness for my sons?
“Don’t do that.”
“Get your shoes on, NOW!”
Phrases that are often heard throughout our day blare like sirens in my brain when I lay down at night and wonder if my boys’ hearts are filled as they fall asleep. I mean, don’t get me wrong, kids are resilient, they know unconditional love like adults can only dream up, so I know they feel loved and safe, but are their hearts filled? Am I nurturing them and showing them kindness?
Recently my husband and I went out on our first date (just the two of us) in over 8 months. Ironically, we have an 8 month old baby at home so I’ll let you do the math (sigh) and, to be honest, it felt like a chore to get that date planned. It seems the longer you don’t give a relationship proper nurturing, the harder it is to get back to that baseline foundation. Once we were out we had a blast, but it’s the getting out that is hard right now.
At one point during our date I found myself apologizing to my husband for not expressing gratitude enough. The truth is he works really, really hard so that I can stay home with our boys. We both work hard to make our home what it is, but stress can take it’s toll on each of us.
Matthew 19:5 says, “a man will leave his father and mother and be untied to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
When is the last time we felt we were a united front or on the same exact page? When is the last time we were truly “one”?, I wondered.
Like most couples with young kids, we are sleep deprived and over-scheduled. Many evenings and weekends are jam packed with obligations, home-improvement projects and then the usual errands of grocery shopping, cleaning, bathing our children and keeping them alive. I admitted honestly to him, “you know, I wonder what our marriage would be like if I spent as much time working on being a better wife as I do trying to be a better parent.”
Just like my kids feel they can be sassy and defiant to me, I often feel I can be sarcastic and harsh with my husband. That’s never easy to admit, but the more and more I think about the example I want to set for my children, I recognize that I need to start with me.
This admission may seem like I’m airing out a vulnerable weakness, and if that’s how you see it, you’d be correct. The truth is there are many days I wonder if God picked the right woman for the job: this raising kids in a sinful world is no joke!
In her book, You Are Free, Rebekah Lyons says this “God demonstrates his power through our frailty. In fact, this is the only thing we can boast in: His power is made perfect and on full display in our never-enough-ness. When we are weak, we are actually made strong in Christ Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
God nurtures us in the most perfect way, HE sets the example of kindness and love and when I’m falling short, full admission of my weakness and asking for forgiveness (from God, my husband, my kids or anyone else I’ve wronged) sets me back on the path He created for me.
Lyons also writes, “God delights in us. He doesn’t want us to live in bondage. When we invite him into our places of weakness, he comes and says, “Let’s nail this thing. Let’s not dance around it, perform around it, or seek validation to make it feel better. Let’s just go after it.”
So, while modeling kind words, gentleness and love is extremely important in raising empathetic and God-fearing boys, so is admission of sin and forgiveness. Recognizing that I’m not a perfect wife and mother doesn’t make me want to give up it, but rather helps me recognize that I need God more than ever and makes me want to try better next time.
She goes on to write, “This is why it is critical to keep declaring the truth: God has promised that when we are dependent on him, he walks with us. Then we can ask whatever we will, and he will lavish us with his power, his goodness, his grace, his kindness, and his mercy. He doesn’t want to keep us where we are. When we are brave enough to ask him to meet us in our weakness, he comes.”
It’s not always easy to admit weakness (sometimes the list feels so long that I don’t know where to even begin) but I’ve regularly been asking God to show me areas of my life that I need to work on; areas that could use a little nurturing. My son pointing out that I wasn’t using kind words could have made me angry, but it didn’t. I believe God was using that sweet boy to kindly point out that mommy needs to remember that the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45).
So now, instead of just repeating my mantra when I drop my son off to play with other children, we speak it every morning, together, as a reminder for us both: “Today we will try our hardest to use kind words, gentle hands and to be a good friend. With God’s help we can do it!”
God’s calling to nurture and love my husband and these boys doesn’t mean that every day will be easy, but he has fully equipped me with Christ’s example and His promise that we are in this together.