I distinctly remember the first time my husband, then boyfriend at the time, came out of the gas station with a Coke, a REAL Coke, like the old advertisement, “The Real Thing”! Yes, people, you are reading this correctly — I was just as shocked as I am sure you are right now. Well, he got into the car, and I just stared at him as he guzzled it down, not a care in the world. Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “What am I getting myself into?!? This guy is educated, but is he going to tell me next that he smokes cigarettes and eats red meat more than two times a week?!?” Well, let me tell ya somethin’ — he does not smoke, but he does eat red meat every day and would for every meal if I would let him. The point is, he blew my mind by this simple thing — drinking a coke. See, my parents never really allowed much soda in the house, and if they did, it was “diet” soda. If we had tea, it was unsweetened most of the time, and the lemonade was Crystal Light. Then I went to high school where diet coke was not only the drink of choice, it was the drink of champions. So somewhere along the way, I sort of equated Coca Cola as being just as bad as real cocaine, which made total sense to me. So, as we were driving along I started questioning him, “I mean, are you going to give Coke to our kids?” Oh, did I tell you that we had only been dating for a month, not even thinking about that topic, but somehow I turned this conversation into a huge argument, and needless to say, the rest of our trip was pretty much ruined. Honestly, was I really that upset over the Coke — not really — but I was already starting to think about my future children and how we would rear them. But foremost, at the age of 23, I was really wondering what people would THINK of me and my children as we drove to a Clemson football game that day — perfectly sane, right?!?
Of course, time has passed since that “event,” and, well, we got married, and guess what? I stopped drinking diet Coke altogether, but from time to time I would actually drink REAL coke, even two a day when I was pregnant because it was the only thing that settled my stomach and just tasted like a little slice of heaven! However, when my oldest was about 18 months, my mother-in-law gave her a few sips of Coke, and I went nuts, like CRAZY TOWN nuts! I am pretty sure that I did not let her see my daughter again for about a month because I was so mad. Again, I was not really that mad about the drink, but what if my daughter drank a coke in front of people — what would people think — obviously, that we are a bunch of rednecks who don’t love our children!?! I mean, what else is there to think?!? Glad to say that with a lot of prayer and some mellowing out, and, oh yeah, and a second child, I began to realize there are “bigger fish to fry.” More importantly, I ceased caring about what other people thought about how I rear my children. I know I am not the only one out there who struggles with worrying what people think about my parenting skills. In fact, I got a good laugh the other day while at a child’s birthday party. (Side note — you are not a true parent until you have done three kiddie parties in one day with a “threenager” and a one year old who has discovered she can now walk anywhere she wants — just throwing that out there.) We were packing up to leave, and in front of a few people I said to my oldest, ” Okay, do you want Coke or Sprite?” (Then I remembered a friend of mine who once told me, “Oh, I am so happy to hear you offer Coke to your daughter; now I do not feel like such a bad mom.”) Well, I did not say anything more to the adults nearby; neither did I not offer up the fact that my daughter had 20 ounces of water since we got there, or that I told her earlier that if she were obedient and mannerly at the party, she could have a coke at the end as a “reward.” Later, I started thinking . . . yes, yes, I offer incentives to my children, not all of the time, but sometimes. Remember, I am in sales, so I love a good incentive — I was making well over three figures, but if my boss offered a $50 pedicure for the most sales meetings scheduled during a week, darned if I did not stay late every night to win that gift card! So, yes, I think they have a time and a place, and while I do not always want my child to think she receives special treats for doing what is expected (like not making me run her down while I have sweat dripping into my high wasted granny panties that I am desperately trying not to flash to people as I grab her sister from the kiddie pool for the 5th time in 5 minutes), she can have a coke as a reward from time to time, if she follows the rules. Well, that had me thinking, “Why as parents, do we care so much about what people think, and most importantly, why do we need to know that others are doing the same thing that we are doing (and visa versa), to make us feel better about our decisions”?
Seriously, I think the above question is an honest one about most areas of our lives. We want to feel that we are both validated and vindicated by our choices (or so I have heard — my husband says I could actually ask for a little more advice, but what does he know? 🙂 Do not read into this that I do not think it is good or healthy to ask other people their opinions or to talk out issues and struggles with good friends. First, I believe that we need to be mindful with whom we discuss serious topics in our lives, that they are fellow believers, and secondly, we need to make sure to not use advice as ammunition against our spouses. I am sure you have never called a friend, then later told your husband, “Well, so and so does it this way, so I am not crazy.” Yeah, me neither. Lately, my husband I have been wrestling with some issues regarding how we think people are rearing their kids — not the way we think they should — key being “the way WE think.” After a few recent incidents involving parenting approaches, which were not handled “the way WE thought” best, we had to do a deep dive into our hearts, the Bible, and ultimately, come together to decide what our stance would be no matter what anyone else thought. One of the things we decided is that we had to stop judging people around us. We are striving to determine if what other parents are doing (or not doing) is truly “un” Christlike or just not “the way WE think.” Christian parents, this world is going to be tough on our children. It always has been for believers, but it is getting worse. In a society where homosexuality is the norm, sports on Sunday takes priority over church, and many mothers and fathers live a part from each other and their children, it’s important that we support each other on things that have really matter instead of knit picking about stuff like what parents give their kids to drink. Many times we pass over the great truth of the verse Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Goodness knows, I took a winding path to arrive where I am today — I even told my mom one time, “I don’t believe there is a God,” just to hurt and upset her! (Teenagers — yeah, I am sure the teen years will be a doozy at our house.) The point is that my parents focused on the fundamentals: I was in church when the doors opened; I was surrounded by Christian friends, and my parents KNEW their parents and what they believed; but most importantly, my parents were Christlike examples by their commitment to their marriage vows. (Oh, and my mom’s reaction to my rebellion — she ramped up her own prayers for my spiritual welfare, solicited additional prayers of godly friends and family, and trusted in God’s promises. Draw your own conclusions. . . ) Too many times we focus on the check lists of what we should or should not do as parents, but we neglect the most important item, our marriage, and how that foundation, how wives and husbands treat each other, is the greatest example of not only Christ’s love for us, but our love for others. I get so wrapped up in making sure that the girls use their manners, they share, they have ample outdoor time, limited TV time, that often I fail miserably at how I treat my husband in front of my girls. We hear these verses from Ephesians many times at weddings, but are we living them day to day? “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:22-33
My mom often says, “It is not what is taught but what is caught,” that makes the difference in children’s lives. Isn’t that the truth? I mean, how often do you hear your child repeat something you, yourself, said, and you just cringe? I choose not to live my life by the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do.” I can only hope and pray that my children will say that they grew up with an example of a marriage based on love, respect, and commitment between my husband and me. The bottom line is this: couples who stay together and don’t fight every day in front of their children and have a uniformed approach to parenting speak volumes to how their children turn out — goodness knows, that is tough enough to accomplish in a marriage! But do I still stress about how much screen time they get — um, yes, every day! I actually asked my husband to have weekly reviews with me on how I was doing at my “job” with the kids. (Yeah, that lasted one week, but you get my point. I actually love feedback, positive and negative, simply because it gives me something to work on or a chance to pat myself on the back.) Either way, we cannot let the fact that one mom only dresses her kids in Carter’s while the other only dresses hers in smocked or that one nurses while another uses formula, or how about this one — one works outside the home while another mom stays at home with her children. So what? Let it go! I promise that you will feel better and your relationships will thrive. How about we focus on a really important fact — our kids nap way better after we’ve spent the day with friends at the jump park instead of what their parents gave them for snack? Let me tell ya somethin’ — don’t know about you, but this mom is all for their taking longer afternoon naps so I can enjoy some peace and quiet for a couple of hours!