Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sobering Preparations

Paul and I can't wait to meet our children.  In some ways, I already know the kind of father Paul will be: he will be very protective over our children, especially if we have little girls (some of his friends may be grinning as you read this, because you regularly remind him of how much you want us to have a little girl... a-hem, Chris!); he will strongly emphasize the importance of receiving a solid education; he will teach them to work hard- something I'm certain they will learn from his example; he will teach them to enjoy life as they see how silly he is; and he will teach them to be active and play outside as much as is humanly possible. Oh, and he'll teach them to enjoy Clemson athletics. 

As for me, I have no idea what kind of mom I will be.  But a lot of time these days is spent reading and getting as prepared as possible for being a mom.  And in an effort to help me in this endeavor, my good friend Mariah recently donated a few parenting books our way.  One in particular that the American Academy of Pediatrics published, titled Your Baby's First Year, has been helpfully informative, and I was recently struck at its mentioning of the significance of the child's first few years of life:

"Research shows that during the first three years of a baby's life, the brain grows and develops significantly and patterns of thinking and responding are established.  What does this mean for you as a parent?  It means that you have a very special opportunity to help your baby develop appropriately and thrive socially, physically, and cognitively throughout her life..."

"While genetics does play a role in determining your child's skills and abilities, new research highlights the equally significant role that environment plays.  Recently neuroscientists realized that the experiences that fill a baby's first days, months, and years have a great impact on how the brain develops.  Both nature and nurture work hand in hand in the development of young children."

"Studies have shown that children need certain elements in the early stages of life to grow and develop to their full potential:
- A child needs to feel special, loved, and valued.
- She needs to feel safe.
- She needs to feel confident about what to expect from her environment.
- She needs guidance.
- She needs a balanced experience of freedom and limits.
- She needs to be exposed to a diverse environment filled with language, play, exploration, books, music, and appropriate toys."

So our children begin learning from us before they're even able to understand the English language?  So even from the first "days and months" our children are influenced more by us than by anyone else? To many this may seem intuitive, but I was recently introduced to this reality through the excellent biblical counseling education I received at Southern Seminary, specifically under the influence of Dr. Eric Johnson, where I learned how significantly our familial environment can shape the way we eventually tend to relate to God.  And fortunately for us, God's Word provides plentiful guidance on how we can create a familial environment that is "safe" and where our children feels "special, loved, and valued."  On one hand, God calls us to verbally instruct our children: "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates," (Deuteronomy 6:7-9).  On the other hand, God instructs us to teach our children through our actions: "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children," (Ephesians 5:1), and Jesus Himself speaks of this significance:  "Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds," Matthew 11:19.  As if marriage itself has not been enough of a reminder that our words are cheap if not "justified by deeds," I'm frightfully aware that parenthood will also challenge us to be genuine "doers of the Word," (James 1:22).  

So though I'm thankful to have such confidence in the kind of father God will enable my husband to be, I'm most hopeful for what will be most important to us about being parents- namely, that our words as well as our actions will be instruments God uses to draw them into saving faith that comes through Christ.  We hope that they will know and love the God who created them, who lived a sinless life that our kids could never live, who died for sin, who rose to defeat its power, and who is now drawing people to Himself.  Why do we want this most? We want this most because God created them in the first place to bring glory to Himself.  Because just like us, our kids will never be fully satisfied until they taste and see the goodness of God through Christ.  And because even now, their little hearts have eternity set within them (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Until next time,

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