Thursday, October 26, 2006

More thoughts on reaching out

Just a few more thoughts here about making my home a place of acceptance. I liked what Wendy commented, about having children over to her house, and not letting her kids go to someone’s home where the behavior or supervision was questionable. We have the same policy here. We are extremely careful where our kids go and who is going to be supervising. Many times that means we will be the hosts.

Our kids know my standard line: We are "inviters."

On the other hand, while I want to be accepting of others, especially of kids who might not otherwise get to see a Christian family, we do not have what I would call a completely “open door” policy. The family is always first. Coming from a missionary family, I could tell you stories of ministers who were very effective in their fields of ministry, but who overlooked their own children, some of whom are bitter against God to this day. My parents always made it known that family was not an acceptable sacrifice in the name of ministry. That was a great comfort to me as a kid, and now as a mom, it helps me not feel compelled to be involved in every need/ministry opportunity that would tug at my heartstrings. My family is my first and most important ministry.

So what does this look like for us? Well, for the younger kids it’s pretty easy. We just invite kids to play. When the church has a play or fall festival, we try to bring someone along. We're involved at their school and in the neighborhood. I’m pretty much in control of the schedule and who comes and goes around here.

But now that we have middle schoolers, things get a little trickier, when peer pressure becomes an issue. We do a lot of inviting, too, but last year a couple of the kids we wanted to “show Christ” to had more negative influence on our own kids than we were comfortable with. We experienced exactly what Susanne commented in an email: “Sometimes we struggle with how to show God's love yet protect our children.”

We do, too. And if I have to choose, I’m going to protect my child. This means having reasonable boundaries, like letting certain kids only come to our house (our kids don’t go there), limiting the amount of time spent with them, or finding a neutral place to meet. This can still be handled gracefully. As Joshua Harris says, "Every relationship is an opportunity to reflect Christ."

But it also means teaching kids about friendships. We tell our kids they can have friends from lots of backgrounds, but they may only have one or two “soulmates” in a lifetime. Those should be special friends who will encourage them in their walk with the Lord, and who will be there for them, no matter what. These friends need to be chosen carefully and fiercely protected. As a mom, this means I have to do everything I can to make sure this type of friendship is sought and nurtured, too. This is not the time to be passive. I’ve made phone calls to other moms, arranged mother/daughter dates and get-togethers at times that were inconvenient, just to make it work. More work for me? Yes, but it is worth it.

When it comes to peers (I feel like I’m a broken record here) I like what Dennis Rainey says, “The quality of the relationship with our child is the determining factor in how significant peer influence will be." So even though we want to reach out, it all needs to be in balance. My goal is to pour everything I can into the last years I have with my kids, and make the most of the relationship. They have to know they are loved, accepted, and that they belong at home - or they will look elsewhere to fill this in. I want them to have so much confidence in God’s love and in our love that they will have “extra” to spill over into their own friendships.

We’re not totally there yet, but it gives me something to shoot for. It keeps me on my knees.


Stacey said...

Wow, I see where you're coming from. This was a big issue when I was growing up. We always had other kids over but we rarely went to thier homes. It was a struggle for me when I was a kid but now looking back and being a mother myself... I totally understand and agree! My parent's had our best interest at heart and I really appreciate that!!

Christine said...

This is so true. It hits to the heart of some things in our family too. It's amazing that negative influences can start as young as Kindergarten, but we must protect our family while reaching out to others. Thanks for the great post!

Andrea said...

Oh, Katherine, yet once again I wish we were next door neighbors!
I just love the way you give wisdom, yet you are humble in heart. Thank you for sharing your own journey and words of wisdom for this mama who is on her well-worn knees as well. :)

Beck said...

Really great post. I've written before, I think, about my daughter's friends who are not allowed to play at houses of people who are not in their church congregation? We are a church-going, religious family, but not a member of their church - so their kids can't play at our house. It's hurtful.
I do let my daughter play at her friends' houses, with a whole lot of caveats and so on. We do prefer her to have her friends over here, but their feelings matter too, of course. If there was a question of our daughter's safety or well-being in some way, of course we wouldn't allow her.

Code Yellow Mom said...

There is so much wisdom here...I love how you articulate things. You have such a wonderful perspective on the family and so thoughtfully keep your priorities in check - thanks for always sharing your thoughts and including what you've learned along the way as you polish your parenting philosophy and strategies.

Susanne said...

Katherine, I'm so glad you continued this post! I'm sure you could write a book once you get a couple past the teen years. I loved your very last sentence. That is the key, isn't it.

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Great post, Katherine, and full of wisdom. Thanks for these thoughts.

Chris @ Come to the Table said...

I am writing the quote by Dennis Rainey down and keeping it. One of those precious keys to raising children that can be easily overlooked. Our relationship with our child does determine how significant peer influence will be.
My husband has always been in full time ministry and we work really hard to put our family first. We are servants to the church, but servants to these children first.
And yet we also desire to be a home and a place of acceptance to others.
My oldest daughter is a freshman in high school and I am entering a new season of many more opportunities to be that place.

Pray! Trust! Pray! is all I can think of right now.

Stephanie said...

Your posts make me think. :) Thank you so much for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm so grateful for you. Your words are not only true, they're so helpful and encouraging. It solidifies our thoughts about raising our children in a minister's home.
Thanks for the Titus 2 work! I hold you up as a mentor model of what I would like to be.

Tammy said...

Wonderful post, Katherine! Great words filled with balance and wisdom!

Gwen Sirmans (Ivey's Mom) said...

Well, knowing that my three are just in the beginnings of the friendship ring, I find you have a great perspective. Already, I am picky about playdates. Right now I am being pushed to let others care for my children - because I can't be there. Lots of apprehension here - have I done a good job of letting them know how much I love them, even when I am away? Will they, as my three year old puts it, "find their manners" and show respect? I love to read your blog...
Now about your junk drawer, we moved over this past weekend. We moved from our cozy (small) starter home to a place with room for five. I wish I was limited to just a 'no-no' drawer. The best part of the whole packing - The MEMORIES. So I agree, optimism is what you find in your junk drawer. Little memories that have remain tucked away, just appear.
Have a great weekend...,..
Say a little prayer for Ivey when you are down on your knees today.

Jennifer said...

Katherine- De-lurking briefly to let you knwo how much I LOVE reading your wisdom in mothering. I rarely comment, because I feel like there is not much to add except Amen and Amen! :-)

Chilihead2 said...

I'm interested to know how you handle the mom who says, "Why can't Wild Thing come to my house?" when she finally figures out that you always host. This is the problem I am running into. We, too, are "inviters", but I find that sometimes people are a little offended that we don't let the kids go to their house.

BTW, it was lovely to meet you and your sister last night.

Anonymous said...

Love this post! I like the concept of being "inviters". It enables you to keep an eye on things, while meeting and reaching out to your kids' friends and parents.

Great blog. Beautiful family!

Katherine@Raising Five said...

To answer Chilihead and Beck - Honestly, we have only had a couple of occasions where we've said "absolutely not." One was a case where the girl's parents were obviously negligent (ended up being investigated by CPS). Another was where the dad is a SAHD. It is for both my child's protection and to avoid the appearance of evil for the dad. Our kids are allowed to play there occasionally when the mom is home.

All other cases we've managed to either keep it short, have a sibling come along, or make it at a neutral location (going to park or something). Keeping it short is usually my M.O. and that seems to satisfy both parties (my kids LOVE to see other kids' rooms!).

Incredibly, some of the absolute best conversations I've had with my kids have been after they've been to someone else's house, one I was nervous about letting them go to. They're so aware of differences, mostly in how the kids are allowed to talk to their parents or if they are downright disobedient and the parents don't do anything. It's given us those golden opportunities to talk about why we do things differently around here.

Again, wisdom is the order of the day. Unless I feel some major harm is going to come to my child, I have no problem letting my kids go play elsewhere for an afternoon *IF* I know the parents. And I tell my kids that at any time they feel uncomfortable, they can call me and I will come get them.

Family O'Foxes said...

I found this under your favorites!
WOW! I love what you had to say. You put into words what we do.
Have you written a post on neighbor kids? This neighbor hood is filled with boys. So, my girls don't have any girls to play with around here but my son is always wanting to play with the neighborhood boys. It is hard when they are right infront of your house.
Anyway, thanks! Can't wait to read more of what you have written.