Before I became a mother I'm afraid I was rather harsh on the children of others. My child would never cause mayhem like that little boy. If my child has a tantrum in the middle of Myer then I'm just going to leave him. He won't try that on me. She should get some control. My child would always be respectful of her parents. She would never talk back or be rude or smart. She would always say please and thank you. That child's far to old to be speaking to her father that way.
As time has past, of course I've had the wool pulled from my eyes.. My child is not perfect. She does talk back and she often forgets her manners. She is sometimes untidy and lazy and she has lots of other less than desirable habits as well. We're working on them; she's getting better, but there you are. I was wrong. My child would do those things. Most of them. (Okay, she never had a tantrum in the middle of Myer, but the rest. I am far easier on my friends who are parents now as well.
Recently I received a text from a close but childless friend complaining about some behaviour of Jemimah's that she found less than desirable. I cried when I received the text. It seemed so condemning, and was so harsh put in writing like that. I wondered what I was supposed to do with the information. The incident had happened several weeks prior to the text, so it was too late to discipline my daughter, although I would have done so had known about her actions at the time. It appears from the few words of the message that nothing was damaged or broken, so my friend didn't expect compensation. It is not that I don't care - I do. I just don't know what on earth what she wants me to do next. Why did she even tell me about it in the first place? Am I supposed to have done better perhaps? Am I a failure of a mother? Would she have done better if it were her hypothetical child?
When Jemimah was just a little dot her father and I began writing a bucket list. We didn't call it that, of course - the film had not yet been produced - but that is in effect what it was - a list of attainments we wanted for our daughter before...well before it was too late.
Some of the items on the list are obvious. We wanted her to come to know Christ as her Lord and Saviour at an early age. We wanted her to be catechised and to have hidden God's word in her heart. We wanted her to glorify God. Others are skills - to be able to play tennis, a great social sport available in towns and cities of all sizes. We wanted her to be able to swim and to ride a horse. Her ex-champion ballroom dancing father wanted her to be able to tango and foxtrot and waltz, unlike her mother. We wanted her to be able to eat out at a top restaurant and know the correct cutlery and etiquette. We wanted her to feel comfortable and know how to interact with all echelons of society. Some items are specific only to us. We wanted her to have a working knowledge of French - some of our closest friends speak that language. We wanted her to love Asian travel and people of all races and religions. We wanted her to be mission minded. We wanted her to be able to behave appropriately at an Embassy Ball. "Eh what?" you ask, and yet her father in his three years living in Saudi Arabia spent many evenings at such events and saw how important it is to teach your children this stuff early. He was continually grateful that he also had been taught this behaviour while young.
There are many more items on our bucket list as well.
To me, the wonderful thing about this list is that it is not condemning. It is positive - I want her to be able to... rather than negative - She will never do... . To tick an item off the bucket list Jemimah's daddy and I need to work towards making it happen. In order for Jemimah to learn to swim we had to take her to the swimming pool. Regularly. We had to enrol her in swimming lessons. We had to arrange transport. It is up to us. In order that Jemimah feel comfortable at restaurants we had to eat out with her - not at Michelin restaurants, but at places with place settings and napkins. We had to explain what to do with her knife and fork, how to eat with her mouth closed, how to politely interact with the waiter. It is up to us. In order that she know her catechism we had to begin early and we had to persevere and we had to keep going when it got hard. And at some stage when you are learning - and remembering - 107 Questions and Answers it's gonna get hard, believe me. It is up to us.
As Jemimah nears her tenth birthday we are beginning to tick things off her list of attainments. In other areas she has - and therefore we also have - a way to go. On our list of attainments is the behaviour that my friend was so condemning about in her text. We're working on it. Jemimah is improving. One day soon, I hope, I will be able to put a tick next to this item as well. But only if I keep working on it. Only if I persevere. On our list this behaviour is a positive not a negative. It doesn't say she will never do this specific thing. It says she will behave in this way. And one day she will.
I don't know yet quite how I am going to reply to my friend's text. It is taking some time because I am prayerfully working to get the answer to say what it needs to say, but I hope my friend comes to understand that being a parent is wonderful, but it is also hard, and is full of disappointments. I love my daughter completely, but she is not the paragon of virtue I expected and fully intended that she would be. I am not the perfect parent, and sometimes I fail. On the other hand, every so often I get to put a tick on our list. Every so often I do enough right as Jemimah's mother that she is able to achieve something valuable. One day she might just turn out to be alright after all.
By the grace of God.
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1: 4-11 NIV