This picture was posted on FB this morning, and it reminded me of perhaps my favorite quote from The Help, said by Aibilene Clark to Mae Mobley in a loving and sincere attempt to counter the criticism and lack of love Mae Mobley received constantly from her mother. I thought this was some of the best advice — especially parenting advice — that anyone could get. If we could remember only the last point – to speak kindly – we would be far, far ahead of the game in almost every circumstance.
The biggest disservice any parent can perpetrate on their children is the act of criticizing them, vilifying them, relentlessly point out their faults, speaking to them disrespectfully and unkindly, in the name of love. The attitude that “I only say this to you because I love you” is a poor excuse for deliberately hurting our kids with our words. To ask “Who will tell you if I don’t” presupposes that even as young people, we are not our own worst critics. It assumes that even as children, we do not hear and internalize the unkind words directed at us in the name of love.
How can we believe that?? How can we forget how we were ourselves as children…hurting when spoken to unkindly, believing what we were told because a person in authority had said it, thinking our faults are huge and glaring because they have been pointed out so often, gradually learning that a raised voice and harsh words are part of what love is? How can I forget this and perpetrate these behaviors on my own child?
I am choked with remorse at the thought that I might have done these very things, because I became short-tempered and annoyed with my child’s failure to listen until I yell. I have taught him that. I have, by my own words and actions, let him know that he can ignore me repeatedly until I finally raise my voice. It’s my fault. I am the parent. I am the adult. I am the one that is supposed to love him, guide him, train him, and mold him into a responsible member of society, and more importantly, into a man who loves God and puts Him at the center of his life.
I don’t want to be that person, that kind of parent. Not only am I failing myself, I am failing my son, and I am failing to fulfill the most important job of my life, to train up my child “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” I don’t know how to parent in a way that will show Christ to my child…every day. I don’t know how to reflect Him properly, and it grieves me…desperately.
I feel like a lazy, shiftless, poor excuse for a parent. I am not qualified for this job…this responsibility. I thank the Lord that he has gifted me with a husband who is a wonderful and involved father, who buoys me up when I fail, and who encourages me to strive to be the person God created me to be, not only as a woman, but particularly as a wife and mother. That is the greatest calling of my life…the calling to which I come willingly…the calling at which I fail repeatedly and magnificently…but my calling nonetheless, and God has promised to faithfully provide the ability and the means to fulfill it. I know that in the twilight of my life, I will be able to look back and see that he has been faithful to that promise. It is my job now to (with God’s help) commit to being the wife and mother He has envisioned. I know I can’t do this adequately…not even close…but even through the gigantic failures that are sure to propagate my attempt, I hope to (once in a while) be the reflection of Christ that my son needs to see.