The greatest gift I ever gave my children….

The greatest gift I ever gave my children came from the deepest wound I had as a child.

I want to clarify that I have spent many years of my adult life working through my personal story, and learning about myself. I share this blog post to inspire you to use your areas of brokenness to create avenues of blessing in your family.

I have a really good relationship with my mom but it wasn’t always that way. I struggled with how her parenting, of me, often led me to feel unseen and unknown. She was struggling, as a mom, to provide for me, and to juggle life with four children, and a husband who was diagnosed later in life as bipolar. My dad’s depressive episodes were hard on all of us, but she was often left to do everything for us. As a child, I just wanted to feel like I was more than just “one of the children”. I can recount countless incidences when my mom bought the wrong “favorite candy bar”, for me, on a grocery run or would buy me clothes that I would never wear. I would often fake gratitude and then complain to one of my siblings.

“Why would she buy me a butterfinger? I have told her time and time again that I hate them.”

“Did she seriously buy me a sweatshirt with a cat on it? I hate cats and I tell her all the time.”

“Why did she tell Mrs. ____________ that I would volunteer? I specifically told her that I don’t want to spend any more time with those girls in that group.”

Why doesn’t she listen to me?

Later, in my teenage years, I remember coming to her with issues with my friends, and she would always dismiss my concerns or hurts, announcing that I shouldn’t let those things “get to me”. As an adult, I can see that her intent was to relieve my worry, but as a child what I gathered was that she did not have time for my problems nor did she want to waste her time on what concerned me.

These events led me down a path of struggling with expressing any emotions as I felt they were not valued or safe guarded. The lie that I fed myself was that she didn’t care to get to know me. She liked who she thought I was better than who I really was. I shared little of my feelings, or what I loved. I safeguarded my dreams, aspirations, and desires.

Why doesn’t she listen to me?

As an adult, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how much happier the younger me would have been if my mom had been a better listener. How much more confidence and pride would I have in my gifts and talents if I felt that I was worth her time?

As parents, we all want to give our kids the best, so I used this truth about my childhood to help me raise my own children.

I make sure that I provide opportunities in our home for open communication. My husband and I welcome good conversations about what the children are struggling with and how they feel like we can help.

We listen more than we advise.

We teach our children that making mistakes only teaches them to try harder. We want our children to always come to us when they need direction or help.

When they show interest in something, we try to look for ways to support them in their endeavors.

In addition to offering family conversations over dinner, we also spend several hours a month one-on-one with each of our children “catching up” with them about where they are, and how they are doing. These encounters come as quick errands that we run, or set up dates.

Scripture tells us that ” A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his/her opinion.”– Proverbs 18:2

My children need their foundation to be built on understanding, being seen for who they are, and what they bring to our family.

My goal is not for my children to value my opinion over theirs but to teach them to seek counsel from others in order to form their opinions.

This is no easy task but neither is any virtue that we are trying to instill in our children and our home life.

We sacrifice time, money, and sleep to give our children everything we can.

We spend time scrutinizing over Christmas and Birthday presents….looking for presents that fit their personality and interests.

We love the joy that envelops their face when we get just the right gift.

“Oh mom!!!! How did you remember that?” “Dad…I LOVE this!”

A few Christmases ago, My mom and dad sat with us as the children opened their presents and several times I heard my mom say, “Wow. What a great gift! I wouldn’t have thought to get that.”

It’s no coincidence that I know what to get them.

I spend so much time listening and then taking notes.

During the year, I take notes on my children. I create a Christmas list around the summer in my phone. As we shop, I listen to what they talk about, what they wish they had, or what latest gift their friends got that they loved. I’m always impressed by their knowledge of self.

What we have learned is that the time and attention that we put into our young children will bear fruit in the lives of our teenagers. I know that the time my husband and I spent listening, and being attentive to every talent show, music performance, or funny friend story has earned us late night time with our teens where they seek us out for counsel and direction.

My prayer is that we will always be a safe place where they know they are loved and cherished……and seen.

The greatest gift I ever gave my child was the gift of being known. To express to them how much I care about the person who they are by listening carefully to the words that they speak. I want to spend my life listening and learning what speaks life over them, and what they love.

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