Parenting tips: Don’t underestimate the impact you have

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At 55, I often struggle with myriad, self-analytical questions. Have I been faithful to God’s call? Do I share The Good News with others? Will I live to see my great grand-children? Does anything I say or do make a difference in my children’s lives? Am I failing as a mother? I’m not sure why, but people often ask me for parenting tips, as if being a mother of 10 somehow qualifies me to offer some. Meanwhile, I’m over here thinking that being a mother of 10 merely means I have more questions than they do. ::winks::

One of my daughters recently completed the first semester of her sophomore year in college. I consider it a great blessing and privilege that she keeps in close touch with me when she’s away. She shares her heart and mind, even if she knows that she and I will disagree on a particular matter. I love that. During her time in college, my daughter has come to me on several occasions to thank me. Each time, her words humble me. I thank God, for I believe He speaks to me through my child. He has answered some of the questions that trouble my 55-year-old mind. If you’re looking for parenting tips, I have this one to offer: Never for a moment think that what you do for your children doesn’t matter.

Gifts of thanksgiving

Some of the things that my daughter has thanked me for deeply resonate in my soul. Is it a coincidence that each topic of thanksgiving has to do with crucial issues that I worry about as a mother? I’m definitely one of those people who believe there are no mere coincidences in life. This is why I know that a loving Father in heaven can speak to a weary parent through a child. He soothes our souls and encourages us, and showers us in mercy.

I doubt there is a busy mom out there who has not served PBJs or cereal for supper at some point. If you have never done so, I salute you. Wish I could say the same, but I can’t. For the most part, however, I have diligently tried to provide my family with healthy, homemade, often times homegrown meals. I enjoy cooking for them. If you wonder if anyone appreciates your efforts, I assure you, they do.

How do I know? One of the things my daughter thanked me for was cooking and serving healthy, tasty foods. She says she misses it so much when she’s away. My daughter also expressed gratefulness that I taught her how to cook because that is apparently not a thing in many households. She often cooks for her friends at school because they barely know how to boil water.

Family life matters

Every family is unique. Most of us have had times of happiness, as well as times of great trial and sorrow in our households. I’ve always been quite confident that God called my husband and I to homeschooling. Even so, like most homeschooling moms, I’ve definitely had my share of doubt through the years, wondering if we somehow “deprived” our kids. If I were writing a list of parenting tips, I’d add this: Be confident and trust in your prayerful decisions on how to raise your family.

My kids have highly active social lives and are athletes at our local high school. That’s part of why I know that when those moments of doubt hit, it’s just the enemy trying to get the better of me. When my daughter went to college, she began to observe and learn a lot about fellow students.

On numerous occasions, she has thanked me for how my husband and I have raised our family. Many college kids have reportedly had absolutely awful home lives. My daughter also says many have been fed from “silver spoons.” She is grateful that we inculcated a strong work ethic in our children’s hearts. This young woman is glad our home has rules and she was held to certain standards, and held accountable for her choices and actions.

Keeping a marriage together

Good parenting tips should always include a word about marriage. Try to keep yours intact. I was surprised when my daughter thanked me for that. She told me that she greatly appreciates the fact that my husband and I have honored our vows. At age 19, she definitely understands that there have indeed been serious struggles in our marital relationship in 30+ years. However, she rarely meets someone at school who is not from a broken home, meaning where parents have divorced.

My daughter said she is thankful that she knows she will always come home to the same two parents. She doesn’t have to travel between households or deal with problems involving step-parents. Many of her college classmates frequently lament over such issues. When I heard, “Thanks for staying married,” I smiled, said, “You’re welcome,” then went to my room and cried. Her quiet gesture of gratitude meant so much to me.

You’re best is enough

Maybe you’re reading this and you happen to be divorced. Perhaps, your kids eat a lot of fast food. I don’t want you to compare your life to mine. That’s a big no-no. (It happens to be one of my own greatest faults, so I’m trying to spare you from making the same mistakes.) The parenting tips I do want you to cling to are these: What you do matters; don’t be so hard on yourself. Your children may not always say so, but they notice your efforts; never give up. The older they get, the more they will appreciate what you have done for them.

When you get to be my age, you might start looking back on life, wondering if you’ve done anything right. Trust me. You have. If you get out of bed every day (Okay, most days.) and love your family, it matters. All God asks is that we love Him and keep His commandments, and try our best to teach our children to do the same. I’ve always learned a lot from my kids. My daughter’s gratitude has taught me that what we say and do as parents has an impact on our children’s lives. When they leave your home, they carry what you have given them in their hearts.

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