Hi awesome mommies!
If you’ve read my blogs or Facebook posts lately, you know we go to the lake a lot in the summer (at least on sunny days–not guaranteed up here in the Northwest).
The other afternoon we traipsed down to the lake and, as usual, I was impressed with the safe structure the lifeguards gave to a very chaotic world. These teens take their jobs seriously, their voices blasting through megaphones:
“Please stay off the booey line!”
“No running on the dock!”
“No dogs in the swimming area!”
“Get off the lifeguard tower!”
Their commands work. The megaphone-armed lifeguard’s looming presence restrains the wild freedom lurking beneath the surface of the children. But the other night I witnessed an interesting phenomenon. We happened to be there when the lifeguards’ shifts ended.
“Attention,” one megaphoned. “The lake is now officially closed. Lifeguards are no longer on duty and will not return until tomorrow at noon.” And they packed up and left.
Seriously, they weren’t even off the beach before the pandemonium began. Streams of kids gleefully ran over the dock. They climbed the lifeguard tower on the dock and jumped off, plunging into the water. Other kids sprinted to a jump off the other side. Kids playfully pushed each other into the water. People brought their dogs into the water. And let’s not even talk about the booey line. Naughty boys not only hung on it, but pushed it down and tightroped along it.
As I watched, I wasn’t surprised one bit that people tossed good behavior aside as soon as they weren’t being watched. But it made me think. The rules didn’t disappear when the lifeguards went off duty, yet the rules alone didn’t keep the kids in line. I suspect, the fact that jumping off the lifeguard tower was against the rules made them want to do it more. Don’t you think? Rather than suppressing bad behavior, rules enticed them to disobey.
Rules alone didn’t work. It was the presence of the lifeguards that caused them to do the right things. The fear of the lifeguards.
Kind of like mommyhood.
When I burden my kids with a weighty burden of rules–or in biblical terms, the law–it only makes them want to disobey. They need more than rules. They need the presence of an authority. They need me, watching, guiding, showing them how to live and serve God and others. But not as a mean, strict, megaphone-totting lifeguard mom, but as the mom who loves them and wants their best.
Even more than me they need the presence of God. But God’s presence is different than the lifeguard’s. It’s not fear of punishment that makes my kids (and me) want to obey, but His loving presence. The joy of knowing he loves them and paid a great price to make them his child makes them delight to love him. And if they love Him, they’ll want to obey.
I try to show this to my kids. It’s not easy. I often morph into “Law Mommy,” giving them a ton of do’s and don’ts. But hopefully, overall, I shower them with enough grace they’ll obey out of love and not fear.
God bless and keep loving your kids like there’s no tomorrow,
What a great picture of how to parent. I often worry about how my kids obey when I’m not around.
Thanks, Danielle. There’s a catechism question that says, “Can you see God?” The answer is: “I cannot see God but He can always see me.” We love using this to remind our kids to be good when we’re not around. LOL. Hugs to you. 🙂