Open Letter To My Daughter (3)

by Judy Bowles

Dear Daughter,

Glad to hear the morning sickness is a thing of the past, and now it’s just the on-going tiredness that’s the problem. Life at home with a 3-year old is no easy option! Sometimes being a mum can seem like all hard work, but you know, when we were at the ante-natal clinic the other week, and we heard the new baby’s heartbeat for the first time, I found myself wishing we could swop places and I could start my family all over again. (But I’d have to be a lot younger than I am now!)

Looking back over the past 25-odd years of child-rearing, I see so many things that I wish I’d done in a different way, things I’d most definitely not do again, and other things I didn’t do that I’d most certainly implement - if I could have those years again. Of course, that’s not possible. It’s been said that ‘if only’ are two of the saddest words in the English language, and the answer is to think ‘next time…’ At least as a mother and grandmother I have the opportunity to pass on to another generation what I have learnt to be most important in that vital aspect of how to love your children.

First and foremost in importance is for you to be a God-centered family. While you are talking, walking and playing with your children, bring God into the picture as a natural part of life. He made it all to start off with, and He is sustaining it now, and He has an incredible plan in which our young children have a very important part. Talk about the Kingdom often, and what their jobs might be, what kind of house would they like, what once-wild animals would they like to keep, what people from the Bible are they most looking forward to meeting? Establish a solid foundation for them before they have to go out into the world on their own. From a very early age, make morning prayer and asking God’s blessing on their food as much of a habit as brushing their teeth - something that they would miss if they didn’t do. Its a thrill for your Dad and me to see that you are continuing with the tradition of the special Sabbath meal - keep that going too, so the Sabbath is always a special time for them. Let them see you studying the Bible, praying on occasion, requesting anointing when ill.. Then it will seem only natural for them to do the same. Remember - your example speaks volumes.

Secondly, another way of showing real love for your children is to love their father, i.e. have a very stable family unit. It’s all too easy for the husband to get pushed into the background as the children come along - tiny children are so time-consuming and demanding, but for your children’s sake, you need to keep your relationship with Andrew as a top priority. If the two of you are not happy together, they will sense it all too easily and it will be a source of great unease and unhappiness for them. The two of you are their whole world. Hopefully my previous letter will have given you some workable advice on this score. Being a young mother and wife is certainly no easy task! It can be an exhausting, juggling act, but if you have a clear list of priorities and stick to them, you will cope. Remember - they are as much Andrew’s children as yours. Don’t crowd him out, and make sure there’s some hugging left over for him at the end of the day.

At the moment, I know that being pregnant and coping with an energetic toddler can be very wearing, frustrating and even lonely at times.. You find yourself yearning for some peace and quiet and a clear space on the floor - and can’t contemplate ever experiencing the problems of the “empty nest”. Neither could I - but it has happened, and now our house is devoid of children, and endless packed lunches, school-runs and over flowing laundry baskets are a thing of the past. Where on earth did those years go? Time goes by so very quickly and looking back, I can see that what seemed so very important 10 or 20 years ago was really of no consequence whatsoever. Teething troubles, toilet-training, tripping over toys - all a distant memory.

So thirdly, one of the most important things you can do for your children is to give them your TIME. Make the most of each day you have with them, because all too soon they will be grown up and gone. In fact, after only 3 or 4 years they are spending a considerable time at nursery or at school, and your parental influence is much diluted. (But Mum, my teacher says….) That doesn’t give you much time to lay a solid life-long foundation with each child. Don’t ever be tempted to get a job so you can buy more “things”. A roof over your head is one thing - new toys, clothes and holidays are something else. In a gift catalogue recently I saw a picture of a father and his son playing football, and the caption was ; ‘Rule #1 in Child Rearing : Spend Half as much Money and Twice as much Time.’ A rule well worth remembering!

I’m sure you have heard it said ‘The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world’. We mothers do wield an enormous influence over our children’s upbringing and consequent behaviour. That is, if we are around. If we have chosen not to spend those formative years with them, then it will be the baby-sitter’s hand that will shape our child’s future.

Dad and I moved to Wales originally because we wanted to raise our family in the countryside - lots of fresh air and home-grown food. You can probably remember the cows, hens, goats and ducks that we had, along with the vegetable garden. But you may not remember the time when you were about 6 or 7 when you came up to me and asked for help with your homework. I told you I couldn’t - because I had to weed the carrots.

It was then that I realised that we had our priorities mixed up. Time spend helping you with your homework was of far greater value than any organic vegetable we would ever grow.

Don’t believe the propaganda in the media about buying the best (and usually expensive) educational toys for your children. A child with just a pad of paper, some crayons and an involved parent has a distinct advantage over a child with a room full of toys - on his own. No video or interactive toy can replace Mum or Dad and the bedtime story. Apparently my favourite as a child was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and I’d correct my Dad if he tried to skip a bit- I was word-perfect!

Sadly most fathers have to go out to work today, and see less of their children than is desirable. One way to help forge the bonds between fathers and children is to make the evening meal each day a special time for a family gathering. Believe me, this gets harder as the children get older and have after-school activities, but if you work at making this family-gathering time a ritual, it will pay huge dividends. Sharing a meal together is a very bonding experience. Many important events in the Bible took place around a meal table, and one of the first things we’ll do when resurrected is to have a place at the Wedding Feast! But on a mundane day-to-day basis, make meal times opportunities to talk and enjoy one another’s company, to share the good and not-so-good happenings of the day. Another quote you may have heard that hold a great deal of truth is ‘The family that eats together, stays together’!

As a parent, we really do lay down our lives for our children, and it can seem burdensome sometimes. But times passes so quickly - make the most of the time God gives you with your children. You will never regret it. There are some things that we fail to do that we can catch up on - some elements of wasted time that we can redeem. But once your children are grown, you will never again have that golden opportunity of influencing young, trusting, impressionable minds. Treasure that time.

I think the best way I can conclude these first 3 letters to you, Estelle, is to remind you of an incident that took place over fifteen years ago. All 3 of you, aged 2, 6 and 9, were staying with me at Grandma’s for a few days holiday. Whilst out shopping in a local town, we bumped into one of my mum’s friends, Ann, who she hadn’t seen for quite a while. Naturally they chatted about what life had held for them and their families over those years, and my mum first of all told Ann about my sister – your aunt Joy - and her family and how well they were all doing and prospering, and then of course it was our turn. My mum paused. You could almost hear her thinking, as at that time, Dad and I had been having quite a struggle financially. I will never forget the introduction my Mum did eventually give. She said “and here’s Judith - she’s rich in family”. I treasure that comment - I can hardly think of a nicer accolade. And that, dear Estelle, is what I wish for you too.