When Jess was two, I went back to work. Her dad and I decided to put her in school instead of daycare, and my church was the obvious choice. Every time I picked her up I'd hear the staff say: "Bye Jess, make good choices!" They made it a point to distinguish the choices we make from who we are, what our character is. Good people make bad choices sometimes, it doesn't mean the person is bad. I noticed this on multiple occasions, anytime I went to the school or participated in a class activity. It has always stuck with me, but being conscious of the words I use when I speak to my child was a concept I'd been taught my whole life by the example of my grandmother Gladys.
My grandmother always spoke life and affirmation over us. I can't remember her ever calling us names with negative connotations, even jokingly. She'd say we had to believe our children were good and tell them. She hated for her kids and grand-kids to joke that their children were "bad," or "little animals," or "monsters." My grandmother was someone of so much character. She fed the hungry, cared for the elderly, helped raise and care for all her grandchildren, and we were taught to honor and respect her always. She was the perfect example of a Proverbs 31 woman. Isaiah 43:1 says that God has called us by name. The Bible talks about the fact that we are God's children and we are precious to Him. He gives us grace for our mistakes and lovingly corrects our transgressions. God is the perfect parent, so how can I honor Him and follow the example my grandmother set for me?
Honestly, I mess this up all the time. I try to be a thoughtful mom and consider how I speak to and discipline Jess. I miss the mark, but I ask God for His help and try again. Last night though, I had one of those really good parenting moments, the kind that make you feel really confident about the kind of person you're raising. Jess had been making some questionable choices. I corrected her a few times, but ultimately, it was clear she needed a more serious consequence, so I told her we wouldn't be watching her favorite show before bed. Of course she was upset and begged me to change my mind. I'm not going to lie, a very sweet and crying four year old saying "Mami, please" in her cutest little voice is a tough thing not to give in to. We love our kids, so it's easy to crack when they're sad. But she and I sat and we talked and I explained that bad choices have consequences.
Me: Jess, I love you and I have to help you learn to make good choices. You did XYZ, and those were bad choices. Bad choices have consequences, like no TV.
Jess: Mami, I'm so sorry I did those things (gives me big hug)!
Me: I know baby. You're a good girl and everybody makes bad choices sometimes. Now we can go to sleep and try again tomorrow.
Jess: But I don't know how to do those things. You're going to teach me, right? You're going to help me?
Me: (melting into an emotional puddle) Yes, I'm going to teach you and help you learn.
Jess: Okay. I love you. Can we hug?
Ugh, she's so cute it physically hurts! I'm so grateful I get to do this job, that I get to parent this little girl. She makes me look good, but the truth is that God already gave her to me as she's meant to be. My job is to lead and guide her and try my best not to mess up His work. Even when it's hard, even when I have a bad day, I'm going to strive to be conscious of the way I speak, the words I use, and lean on the examples already laid out before me. We don't have to be perfect parents, we just need to be INTENTIONAL parents. If we do our best to learn from our mistakes and make sure our kids feel loved and protected, everything else falls into place.