Every parent I know has a list (either literally or mentally) of things that he or she would like to see changed in their children. We want our children to be more obedient, kinder, more responsible, more helpful, etc. While having goals for our children’s character training is a good thing, we often overlook the fact that many of the things that we want to see changed in our children are things that we, the parents, should change in our own lives first.
The first day of a new year is a good time to examine ourselves—to see if we as parents have expectations of our children that we are not willing to change within us. A good time to focus on our own character, morals, and relationship skills—knowing that as we change ourselves, we are more able to help our children develop into the kinds of people God intends for them to be.
This first day of this year is a good day to start this blog with a poem that I wrote twelve years ago that summarizes this—the year that I learned that “my children learn what they live” and that “it all starts with me.”
I Looked Into the Eyes of My Children
I looked into the eyes of my children, surprised by what I did see,
For I thought I’d see the face of Jesus, staring back at me.
But then when I observed their hearts, what I saw was a big surprise.
For instead, I saw me—their mother—reflected in their eyes.
All that I wish I wasn’t, all that I’d like to change,
Was reflected right there in their eyes, in many different ways.
All the things I wanted them to change, all the things I disliked the most,
Were merely reflections of me—things I should have already known.
I cried to the Lord, “Forgive me, for pressuring them, you see,
To be things that I am not willing—or even able—to be.”
When I heard an older one say, in a very selfish tone, “
I’ll give you my best toy, if you’ll only leave me alone.”
I saw manipulation take place and knew where it was learned,
For I, too, can be the very same way, the conniving way I spurned.
When I saw one of them want the best, I thought, “What a selfish child,”
Then saw myself being selfish in just a very short while.
When I heard one of them talk angrily,
I couldn’t believe my ears,
Until a few minutes later, my own angry voice did I hear.
I saw one of them putting frivolities before the things of the Lord,
And then saw me with my magazines, instead of God’s holy Word.
Day after day, God showed me, my children learn what they live,
And before I can help them to change, I must be willing to give—
Yes, give up the things that hold me from being what God wants me to be—
And willing to be an example—of Jesus—for my children to see.
Now when I see poor character reflected in my children’s eyes,
I look into the mirror, for it’s no longer such a surprise.
Instead of asking them to change, I ask God to work in me,
Day by day, changes in them take place—and Christ I am able to see.