By Tammy Turnage //
Writing this article in the early hours of the morning, I am sitting on my daughter’s bed. Her room looks a little different now. She is grown, married, and a mother of a beautiful baby girl with a smile just like her own.
I often will come into her old bedroom and remember long talks sitting on the bed together, piles of school books and homework, helping her figure out which shoes look the best with which outfit, pompoms, photos… sweet memories.
Then, I’ll walk down the hall and see my college daughter’s room as well. It is often filled with artwork and creative projects she has been working on, as well as costumes and scripts for the next school play, not to mention soccer balls, music and her well-worn guitar. I hold in my heart such sweet memories of raising our two precious daughters.
Yet, I don’t even know when it started. Silly notes and poems for the day, a few words of encouragement sent in a lunch box — probably glanced at quickly in a crowded, noisy lunchroom and tucked away. I guess I never really knew the impact these little notes would have on my children, or if they had one at all. Then one day my oldest daughter handed me a large gift.
As I opened the carefully wrapped present, I lifted out a white scrapbook. It had a little “window” on the front which included not a photo but a little handwritten poem,
“Roses are Red,
Violets are Blue,
It’s Mother’s Day,
and I Love You”
Inside were dozens of tiny scraps of paper, years of handwritten “lunch box notes.” She had kept and treasured them. All these years she had saved them to one day give back to me, a reminder of the joys and struggles of her school days. My mind was filled with memories and my eyes with tears as I read each one again.
We never truly know as we are raising our children if we are making a difference in their lives. As much as I have tried, I know there have been days I have not measured up to being the parent I needed to be. But the one thing I pray my daughters will always know: I love them with all of my heart. “Too much,” as my youngest daughter once said.
When raising children, many days we think, “When you have a child of your own, you’ll understand how much I love you.” And they will. Being a parent is a marathon. From the moment they are born you never stop loving them, worrying about them, thinking of them and praying for them. Even if you are about to have an empty nest, they still need you, and sometimes even more than ever before.
Whether it’s a little “note of love” tucked in a lunchbox or a thought for the day, begin encouraging your children in new and creative ways. You never know the impact it will make on their lives.
TEN WAYS TO ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD
- PRAY FOR THEM. Praying for your child is the single most important thing you can do as a parent. I keep a prayer notebook and have a section for each of my daughters — and now my granddaughter — where I write down things I need to pray for them. Remember, God will watch over them when you can’t be there. Over the years I have jotted “praise” by so many of my prayer requests and “answered” by others. Pray for their spiritual growth, health, protection, peer pressure, teachers, school staff, homework, projects, college and career goals, future mates, friends, talents, and any struggles they are facing. I try to ask my daughters, “Is there anything I can pray about for you”? One of my favorite scriptures to pray for my daughters is Ephesians 3:16-19. Remember, if you aren’t praying for your child, who is?
- ENCOURAGE THEM. Peer pressure, challenging classes and demanding educators can add up to a lot of stress for your child. They need all the encouragement they can get! Fill an old fishing tackle box with school supplies: crayons, markers, pencils, paper, scissors, and tape. Keep it in the kitchen at home so they will have school supplies on hand. Buy poster board and keep it handy for school projects. If they need help in a subject you no longer remember, ask a high school scholar to come by and help them. If they have a project on France, go to the library and check out books and DVDs, and search the Internet for interesting facts. Don’t do the work for them; it’s so important for them to do it on their own, but support them in any way you can. Let them know you care about their schoolwork and want them to succeed.
- BE AVAILABLE. Baking warm cookies, pouring a glass of cold milk, and having them ready when your child comes home can open many doors to what’s going on in their lives. Picking them up from school, I would ask my daughters two questions, “What was the best part of your day?” and “What was the worst part of the day?” Asking questions like these, without easy “yes” or “no” answers, has helped my children to quickly think through the “ups and downs” of their day. Also, this is a time not to give too much advice. Just listen and let them share their joys and struggles with you. My youngest daughter offers this wisdom: “Sometimes you just need someone to listen to you without opinions. Kids need to learn how to solve their own problems and don’t always want a parent’s advice.” I’ve often remembered that the only answer that’s needed might be, “I’m sure you’ll figure out what to do on that one.” After all, they will grow up with the confidence that they can solve many of life’s problems on their own.
- BE OBSERVANT. Pay attention to your child. I know this sounds a little odd, but we all get so involved with our schedules that we sometimes don’t pay the attention to our children that we need to. Some of the most special times with my daughters have been when I’ve said, “I can tell something’s on your mind. Want to talk about it?”
- GET INVOLVED. Join the parent-teacher group; be a soccer mom; volunteer for school events; attend homeschool conferences; and do anything else you can to get involved in your child’s education. I enjoyed being a reading mentor in my child’s school and helping struggling students to improve their reading skills.
- BE THEIR BIGGEST CHEERLEADER. Attend their games, plays, concerts, field day events — everything. Wear school colors, pack some snacks and cheer them on. Remember that no one is as important for them to see in the stands or the audience as you are. Seeing a parent’s loving support is extremely important to a chid’s self esteem.
- ALWAYS GRAB YOUR CAMERA AND VIDEO RECORDER. The videos and pictures that I took when my girls were growing up are priceless now that they’re grown. When our family evacuated for Hurricane Katrina, I had limited time to grab what was irreplaceable to us. Photos and videos were near the top of the list.
- LEAVE NOTES FOR THEM – in their schoolbook, sports bag or car; on the bathroom mirror; and by their beds. Text them when you know something special is coming up, and let them know you are praying for them. I’ve even set the alarm on my phone to go off as a reminder to pray for them when they are having a test or a special project at school. It’s important and encouraging for them to know you are praying at that moment. Even now, I text both my married daughter and college daughter often to let them know I’m thinking about and praying for them.
- GET TO KNOW THEIR FRIENDS. Find out about their hobbies, activities, classes, and families. I still keep up with some of my daughter’s friends now that they are grown, and I have really enjoyed getting to know them through the years.
- LOVE THEM UNCONDITIONALLY. No matter what they say or do, love them. They need to feel that in this crazy world, someone will be there for them when they fall down. Love them; never give up on them; pray for them; and encourage them. Do it unconditionally without expecting anything in return. Tell them often, “I love you.”
DO SOMETHING EVERY DAY to let your children know you love them and that their goals and dreams really are important in this world. Help them to seek God’s will for their lives and look to Him for guidance and direction.
Note: Since this article was written, this year on Mother’s Day, my youngest daughter, Maria, handed me a little wooden box with the following words painted on the top “I Saved Them Too…” I opened the lid, and there were the lunch box notes I had written for her too.
This article was originally published in the WHOA Magazine for Women, Volume 4, Issue 3, Summer 2014. This work has changed since into original publication in the WHOA magazine for Women for editorial purposes.