Parenting, for me, has been about learning to paint inside the lines. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times that I have gone outside the day to day routines, mixed it up a bit, and we’ve spent the day in our pajamas watching tv and eating treats (here’s to hoping my pediatrician isn’t reading this 🙂 But by nature, I am not what you would call an organized person. My favorite line (that I tend to overuse) is that I like to make chaos look classy. So learning to help my two little boys stay on schedule, eat healthy, and not spend every second in front of the tv has not been easy. Let’s just say it would be easy for me to be a great friend to my kids, but it’s work for me to be a leader, teacher, guider of little hearts. My gut says – give them everything and hold back nothing because my love for them just overflows, but I’m learning that isn’t what love looks like in parenting. They need boundaries, they need to hear no, they need me to hold back sometimes and give in others, they need lines to be drawn so they can paint inside of them.
My four year old recently looked up at me and said, “mommy, you’re my best friend!”
I instantly melted! What momma doesn’t want their kid to think of them as their best friend! But I was convicted that maybe that’s not what God called me to be. Being a friend to your kids seems easy, but being a parent at times can be just plain hard.
When I was in high school one of my closest friends was a couple years older than me. Her mom was the kind of mom that acts as a surrogate momma to her kids’ friends. She always treated me and our other friends like we were one of her own. She spoke into my life and to this day has left a definite imprint on who I am as a woman and mother. When my friend graduated from high school, I still had a couple years left to finish. I remember having a conversation with her about her daughter graduating and moving on to college. She was so excited about this new chapter in her daughter’s life. She said getting to be a friend to her daughter and take a more supportive role as a mother was the icing on the cake in her journey as a parent. That was over 15 years ago. And although I have watched it from a far, I’ve seen a tiny bit of their relationship and it’s beautiful. My friend’s mom is now fighting a battle with her health, but she’s walking this road with the same classiness as she lived her everyday life when she was in perfect health. And now her daughter has come alongside her, holding her hand in this season. Their relationship looks different today as now she’s caring for her sweet momma in a lot of the same ways her mom took care of her when she was growing up. It’s a beautiful relationship even to watch it unfold miles away through Facebook and over email and texts and I feel honored to have been loved and included by this family.
I’ll always remember that conversation with her all of those years ago and I am challenged by her wisdom in hopes that I will love my children well through each of the seasons of their life. There will be times when they will need me to care for their needs and times they will need me to care for their hearts. I hope someday they will look back and say maybe sometimes I wasn’t much of a friend to them because that is just what they needed and then I hope when they’re older they pick up the phone and want to call me and connect because that’s what friends do.
In the end, when I am nearing the completion of my journey, I hope my kids look back and see a beautiful picture of our relationship; one that includes all kinds of colors.
Fortunately, my sweet friends’ mom is a beautiful artist who has painted some of the prettiest watercolors you’ve ever seen. How appropriate for her life. She will leave behind tangible evidence of a life well lived, balanced, and perfectly imperfect paintings reminding us all to know when to color outside the lines.
What season are you in with your children? Are you loving them where they are? Are you praying now for God to guide you through the parenting years or are you in the “icing on the cake” years and enjoying a friendship with your adult children?
Painting by Georganna Calfee – also known as “Mom C” to many!