Posted by: fatherof11 | January 14, 2006

"Getting to Know You…"

I was going to make a comment on Bob’s post, but it would be too long, so I will just write something separately. As I told Paul, when he asked this question, “I am SO glad you asked!” When we lived in Tulsa, there was a family with eight children who went to our church. I was an Awana helper and was continually amazed that the Mom could bring her child into our classroom and know exactly what was going on with her. I just could not understand how she could know THAT many kids so thoroughly. So, it gives me great pleasure to now share with others just how that has worked in our own lives.

Well, it is facsinating to look back upon those feelings and see how far God has brought us (me). As His love multiplies with each child, so He also multiplies our ability to know these children and understand them. It indeed takes work and planning on our part, but the glory goes all to the Lord.

Right now, I could hold a conversation with someone about my kids and tell them what each one was like. I know their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams, favorite and repugnant foods, etc. I never would have thought that possible, with this many kids.

I have been thinking about this question since Paul posted it and have come to realize at least one thing about how Bob and I approach our parenting duties: We consider our family to be our full time ministry to the Lord. Yes, Bob has a “day job”, but our main focus in life is serving the Lord through these children. Now, do NOT get that confused with having a “child centered home”, however. I don’t think anyone who knows us would accuse us of that injustice. Our focus is not to make the children happy, but to teach them and train them in His righteousness. All parents know that this involves pain, as well as joy.

On a daily basis, how does that look? As Bob said, we talk to our kids a lot. Not just at them, but to them. We look them in the eye and discourse with them. Part of that is listening, of course. Decisions are made with much discussion of the issues surrounding them. We talk about spiritual issues, financial, boy/girl, modesty, dating (or not), makeup (yes, even Dad gets in on this), educational, career, friends, hobbies, to mention a few areas. And, yes, we talk a lot about my illness.

We also hug our kids. Physical touch is important, even with teens. Each child gives us a hug after prayers and before they go to bed – even the teenage boys!! The funny thing is, when we have teen visitors, they usually come around and hug us, too, and seem to enjoy it.

There are lots of unscheduled talks, both long and brief. We try to be there whenever they want to talk, but they do have to understand that we often have other things we are doing and they may have to wait. Interruptions are not tolerated, and respect is expected.

Bob also mentioned humor. This is SO very important, especially with teens. They already take themselves way too seriously. We have lots of “family jokes” and often find the kids groaning an “Oh Mommmmm,” or “Oh, Daddddddd.” Grandma gets in on it, too, as we often find her dancing in line with the kids at mealtime (you have heard of line dancing, haven’t you?) or cracking jokes with them. Humor is a gift from God, and we are so blessed to have that tool to use as we parent this herd of cats.

Being around our kids 24/7 makes a huge difference, too. We know what is going on in their lives because we ARE their lives. Homeschooling allows us that. We have been able to let our kids show us their own strengths and weaknesses through our schooling, and this has helped them to build confidence that many of them have never had before in their lives. Some of them are still working on that, as it is a continual process.

We also do our best to understand who each child really is – as God has made them. When we discover an aptitude or interest, we try to encourage that through research, books, discussion, etc. It is not possible for us to allow each child to actually participate in lots of outside interests, but we do encourage them to develop interests within the parameters that we are able to allow. Sergei is a photographer, Tessa is a writer, Naomi is an entrepeneur… You get the picture (or at least Sergei does). We also allow our kids to see us share their successes with other people outside the family. We love sharing Kathryn’s testimony with folks, for instance.

OK, I have to admit that I am the scheduler in the family. I am the maintainer, Bob is the creator. As we work within those schedules, we are able to allow our kids a great deal of personal freedom too, though. They know their duties, get them done, and then are able to pursue other areas of interest. How does this help us to get to know our kids, though? Well, it actually encourages them to develop their own personalities, so that we CAN get to know them. We have some who like to get up early, some who like to sleep later. This is allowed within limits, and helps us to better see who these persons are that God has placed in our home. Military like scheduling would not allow those freedoms, but “flexible scheduling” does.

Paul, does this help answer your question? If not, please ask it again, from a slightly different perspective and you will once again get lots more than you bargained for. 😉



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