9 Dec 2011

The Bucket List

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


  1. Don't take your friend's silly omments to heart. All kids misbehave and your "friend " who is such an expert not should take the beam out of her own eyes regarding her own behaviour for being judgmental and gossiping. Your little girl s that a little girl whereas your "friend " is an adult and should know better. Both of these can be grave sins in adults. If you take all the comments by such experts who never have kids to heart you would be paranoid.

    Karnak tied of such experts

  2. Another point is that you should defend your child against such negativity by an adult because if you do not look after Jemimah not one else will. Is your "friend " worth keeping on as a friend if she criticizes a little girl and your parenting as from your blog you seem to be a very good role model and do your very best as a mother. Hasn't the silly woman got better things to do with her time as well.

  3. {{{}}} A friend tearfully shared recently that her family criticizes her child raising, I strongly suggested she should retort; "Until you walk a mile in my shoes..." My friend the same advice for you{{{}}} Oh how wise are those who are not in the situation, particularly those without children;)

    I'd love to hear more of your list.. I'm so intrigued. Actually we also have a list, it is an ongoing work though with children. I'd also love my children to be able to dance, I danced a little myself when younger. Mmm Embassy ball, fascinating.

    {{{}}}Only He can give us true comfort{{}}

  4. lol Jeanne. I will tell you a sad but true tale. When my oldest was young & the only granchild, my parents moved to a new home; one that had a lock on the toilet door. Yes, indeed he did! ☺ It necessitated the total removal of said door from the outside to rescue my child!!! Loud were the condemnations from my childless siblings because naturally I am waaay too relaxed a parent. One by one each had their own little boy & yeppity yep. Every single little boy did exactly the same thing ubtil my parents grew wise & removed the lock! Maybe someone should lend your friend their twins? Male of course. I can tell waaay hairy stories but they have turned out rather nicely.

  5. Words are like daggers and I have had lot's of them from parents with children and without about how we raise our children. It effected me for years until I just learnt to let the words roll off my back, completely trust the Lord and seek His pure wisdom daily. You both are amazing parents and Jemimah is a gorgeous young lady. xxx

  6. I feel that it wasn't very polite of your 'friend' to relate this incident to you by text message. Perhaps she just needed to get it off her chest, and rightly felt that you were the person to tell (rather than gossip), but to do so by message, that wasn't considerate.

    As in all things, pray for wisdom in how to respond or handle it. I love your positive goals for Jemimah, what a lovely gift you've given her :)

  7. And the more kids you have, the more humbled you grow. Had I stopped at 2, I would have thought I knew the answers. Had I stopped at 3, I would have been stretched. #4 leaves me daily questioning whether I know what I'm doing, and well meant advice ties me in knots. God, I think, wants me to depend on Him for moment-to-moment guidance here.

  8. Of course each situation is different, but in trying to look at the positive side of things, it's a good thing that your friend told you about this incident. I know she could have done it better but I guess there's not much point in looking at that.

    I had a dear friend tell me once, about something one of my children did. Oh my, I was SO embarrassed. I went through EVERY emotions imaginable- shame, embarrassed, anger, guilt, etc. I even wondered what her motive might have been in it all! After all, her child wasn't perfect either, y'know!

    However, [eventually] I chose to see this friend as truly helping me in my parenting role. She was the ears and eyes when I couldn't be.

    So, I gently addressed the issue with my child. And yes, after discussion and whatnot she was disciplined in love. I am thankful that the mother had the courage to talk to me about it - in fact, I realise now that it would NOT have been an easy thing to do. But I appreciate her care and concern.

    Whenever I receive any feedback in any form (criticism, etc) I try really hard to examine it because I believe that all feedback has some validity. It may only have 1% of validity to it- but there is always something I can take from it and learn.

    Hehee, I remember growing up in a mining town where everybody knew everybody. Man, a kid couldn't do anything without a parent finding out, lol. The town had ears and eyes everywhere. But this is a good thing, I think.

    These things do hurt us and they're hard to deal with on many levels but asking God for humility to hear and see is the best course of action. :)

  9. Oh Jeanne, that's quite a list! Fascinated too by the idea of an Embassy Ball - sounds divine!

    I agree with Kathy, the more children you have the more humble you become...and the less you espouse to know! LOL. Out of my 6 children I have two that especially keep me on my toes, and make me laugh the hardest!

    Mel x

  10. Hmm, actually what I meant to say is that having a large family has quickly caused me to give up on any supermum'/perfect children idea! Life is slightly too noisy, chaotic, (oh yes and fun) around here. My youngest has taught me to laugh at things that once would have bothered me! I don't think humble was the right word to use - sorry! Mel x

  11. That's okay. I am often brought to my knees with only one!

  12. Ha! Yes, goes hand in hand with being a parent I think! x

  13. Sorry to hear this Jeanne:( what can I say that's not already been said by others comments. Texting was probablyy not the best way to handle the situation but perhaps she was not confident enough to do it in person. No one is going to be a perfect parent and neither is any child.....but ......knowing you and your family in real life I can say that you both are doing a fantastic job in raising a delightful and lovely child:)

  14. Jeanne.
    I've been recently in a similar yet different situation. The fact is that one of my daughters behaved really bad in front of all of us, her parents and family. We disciplined her and it was the right thing to do, but at the moment I was very distressed, because others bring up her bad behavior or personality weaknesses in the wrong way, such as texting you about the incident.

    As some time passes, I then do two things. One is to pray and thank quietly or openly the person for correcting or bringing up the issues that need attention. Another thing is to also try to 'teach' them about how to more compassionately and lovingly address children when they misbehave.

    You see, I am wrong many many times also in how I correct them, or what I tell them when I'm totally upset by their disobedience. But I'm their mom, and I tend to believe they will oversee that, and I know they have to be corrected and they don't mind if I do it less than respectfully at times, I know they know that I love them. But others have less hours with them, no knowledge of children (they may not have any), or they are at an age where they have not dealt with children our kids' ages in a long time. They also have their faulty behavior, and when I look at mine I'm very humbled by how I mess up again and again and how I'm not critical about that in most instances but I JUMP if I see unfair treatment from others. At times that treatment makes me suspect of their true love. But then I need to coldly and objectively assess if they have it or not, or if they wish to have it or not.

    At the end of the day, it also is a matter of love. Does your friend mainly love your daughter? Is she trying to establish a relationship with her? Does she want to learn? Is this the way she mostly relates to you?

  15. oh for grace, jeanne :)

    it is SO difficult to be criticised (rightly or not) about something that comes so delicately close to the tenderest spots.

    we have been there. and actually, my friend and i spoke about the concerns, me rather tearfully, and even though it is still a painful spot in our friendship, our friendship has grown. (at the time, they only had one perfect daughter and we two incredibly rambunctious boys)

    in times like these, i think we must remember Christ who was badly spoken of, wrongfully accused, crucified. yet He gushes grace and truth. we do our best to take our pin pricks to Him, He fully understands :)

    love you.
    i think you're doing an admirable job with your Jemimah!



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