Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children. ~William Makepeace Thackeray
Much has already been said in cyberspace about a recent article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. In her newest book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua, professor at Yale Law School and 48-year old mother of two teenagers, claims that Chinese mothers are superior because they drive their children to greatness through techniques such as calling them names, demanding perfection and overriding their children’s preferences in favor of their own.
I’m sure there have been plenty of impassioned blogs already written refuting her methods in detail in defense of kinder parenting. So my purpose here is not to address her statements and ideals directly, but rather make a case for something different. In my home, I’ve heard a call from the Lord to follow Him. And that call is leading me, slowly though it seems, into being not a Tiger Mother, but a Grace-full Mama.
Yes, I realize the word is generally spelled “graceful.” But I make the distinction because when we hear the term “graceful” we usually think of the way someone carries themselves physically. I want to consider, rather, the way we as mothers conduct ourselves spiritually and emotionally, especially as we relate to our families. In a world full of people who seem driven in every possible way, grace is hard to come by. Even in the Christian realm, there are many who would tell you that your children need to be disciplined constantly and rebuked at every turn–that you should never miss an opportunity to show your child where they are outside the line of what you consider appropriate behavior.
Children do respond to “consistent discipline.” They respond by eventually giving up crying when you train them to sleep alone at two months because someone told you to, by lashing out physically at their siblings only when you’re not looking if they know a spanking would ensue, and to hide the fact that they’re indulging in self-destructive behavior as teenagers if they know your reaction would be anger and rejection.
I think our world is tired. Tired of striving, tired of being driven, tired of never measuring up. When our children venture out they come under the same pressure to perform as everyone else–they’re compared to others and judged to be either excelling or wanting. It should be different in our homes! Home should be where we all know we are loved and accepted, where there are no measuring sticks hanging on the wall for comparison. Our children have been created by God with unique giftings, personalities, and purposes. They need mothers who recognize the special beauty God has placed within them. They need us to believe in their potential and in their ability to hear God’s voice for themselves. They need us to know grace so we can pass it on.
And perhaps that’s where we most often miss it. We have accepted the standards of others which state, “Do thus and so, and your child will turn out thus and so” because it’s the easy way out. We love our children, and we want the best for them. We want more than anything to do everything “right.” But because we are all individuals, and so are our children, a list of rules is bound to be lacking! Our relationships with our children must be just that–relationships. And relationships are living things, in need of time and understanding and nurturing, of room for growth and change. In need of grace.
If we don’t understand God’s grace as it is offered to us, we are in turn unable to offer it to our children. As mothers, we need to be in prayer! We must ask God to show us what grace means, what it’s all about. We need to slow down and really take in the grace He’s exhibiting in our world; to see all the wonderful gifts He’s given us, the beauty He’s surrounded us with. We need to read and study and meditate upon His Word. Because it’s there He’s given us the ultimate example. It’s there He’s revealed how He parents us.
The Word says in Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is “the radiance of His (God the Father’s) glory and the exact representation of His nature.” His rag-tag band of disciples are thought by most scholars to have been mostly under twenty years old. How did He lead them? He spent time with them–let them live with Him. He instructed them constantly. He let them lean on His shoulder as they ate; He invited them to come along as He performed miracles; He modeled prayer for them. On the night He was betrayed, He washed 120 toes, and bid them do the same. And He followed that up with the ultimate sacrifice–laying down His life for them. What does that look like in my own life?
Paul says of himself and his fellow workers in I Thess. 2:7, “but we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.” Gentle. Tenderly caring. Beautiful words, and not easy to come by as a character description. They are qualities we only acquire as we spend time with the great Grace-giver and allow Him to change our hearts to look more and more like His. Those are adjectives I long to know my children would ascribe to me.
And so I pray. And pray. And pray some more. I pray that God will let me see more of the riches of His grace. Then I can offer grace to my children, and they can offer it to the world.
Because I’m pretty sure that’s what the world is longing to see. And it could all start with one Grace-Full Mama.
A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. ~Washington Irving