What we teach when we show kindness to our children / by Carey Pace

It shouldn't surprise me, but it always does. I have one goal in mind, I think I understand what God is doing or going to do, and something totally different happens. He was working all along in a way I didn't anticipate. I missed an opportunity today at Girls Inc., and I was shown another component I hadn't considered in my serving there this summer.

As we were setting up, one of the girls asked "where are your kids?" I don't even know which girl asked. I was busy trying to get everything out and ready to go for cooking class... I know I looked up, looked her in the eye, and answered her, but I honestly can't remember which girl asked now that I think back on it. I explained that The Boy and The Lady wouldn't be there today, because they were spending a few days with their grandparents. 

Whichever girl it was then asked me, "Are you glad?"

I was so totally taken aback by the question that I think I stuttered. I answered "No, I'm not glad! I mean, I'm glad they are having fun, but I'm not glad they're gone." I'm sure the expression on my face was completely incredulous. The question completely baffled me. I was semi speechless. And I let it go at that and went on with class. Didn't think about it again, until I was almost home in the car. Her question came back to me, and I felt so foolish for not realizing what she was really asking me at the time. 

Am I glad that my kids are away from me... 

Why would she ask that? Why would it occur to her that that would be my expected response to the absence of my children? I can only speculate that she's been shown by those who care for her that they sometimes wish she were gone, or that they'd be happy if she were to go away for a bit. That hurts my heart. Maybe I'm going down a wrong path with that line of thinking. I don't know. But I can't help but wonder how a 7-9 year old girl would know to even ask that. 

I had already promised myself that I couldn't take on one more thing right now when the invitation to be part of my church's serving Girls Inc for the summer. With motherhood, being a wife, trying to do a good job maintaining our house, renovating the treehouse, and the huge contribution I do for Young Life, there is just no more time. I miss margin. I need margin. So I was primed and ready to decline more invitations. Yet the request came and said that our kids were welcome to come with us. That was the part that pushed me over my predetermined "no". An area of parenting that I struggle with is trying to instill a sense of gratitude in my children. They have no concept just how good they have it. They don't understand that many in this world don't have the material things they have. They don't understand that many in this world don't have parents who love them, encourage them, and teach them. So I agreed to be part of this summer outreach for MY CHILDREN. 

Fast forward five or six weeks into this, and I'd felt the whole thing a big failure in regards to my initial goal in participating. The Boy and The Lady haven't wanted anything to do with the cooking. Their innocent eyes don't see the hurt in some of the girls eyes that sit next to them at those tables. Their innocent eyes don't notice things like uncombed hair or holes in shoes. Their innocent eyes don't see the cattiness and hateful attitudes of the girls towards one another, as if they are always fighting to survive. Their little 5 and 6 year old hearts cannot comprehend it yet. 

I have enjoyed doing the cooking class so much. It has most certainly ministered to my heart, and it fills me with joy to be able to show these girls some love, a kind word, a kind touch, and expose them to my LOVE of cooking, foods, ingredients. I believe that has been a great success. 

What I wasn't expecting was that I would be ministering to the girls' hearts, not about cooking, or that God loves them, but in my own PARENTING of my OWN children. 

There has most absolutely been conflict with me and my kids. They've argued with each other. They've been bored. Hot (in the un air conditioned kitchen). Thirsty. They've interrupted me and nagged me while I was trying to teach the girls. There was a learning curve, and they've done better the last couple times. But I certainly had to get stern with them because they were not behaving how I expected them to, while we were there. I know I was incredibly frustrated with them... and certainly spoke to them in a more hateful way than I should have, on several occasions. 

But the place that God was working, that I wasn't aware of at all, was in the girls' observations of ME as a parent towards my children who were with me. I have not made full use of this opportunity this summer, at all. I took them because I wanted to make an impression on The Boy and The Lady. Instead, God used their presence in a completely different way. 

I remember, so so strongly, witnessing parents who LOVED their children, who were NICE to their children, when I was growing up. It made such an impression on me. I can only hope that I've made a good impression on the girls who may not be in loving homes themselves. Planted a seed of encouragement in their hearts. A seed that a cycle CAN be broken. That you CAN treat your children in a loving way, even when disciplining them. 

When asked if I was glad that I was without my children for a couple days.... I could have been much more lengthy in my explanation than I was. There I missed the ball. I can only pray that I've answered it without words, all this time, in the next week's final class. 

I thought I'd be teaching them cooking and that God loves them. I've also taught what it means to be a mom.