When we first started our family, I dreamed of what being a mom would be like. In my head it was maybe more of those dream sequences of running through a field and holding hands. Okay so maybe not quite that cinematic, but you know, something a little more idealistic than reality.
But as time goes on and our children grow, reality becomes a little more clear. Those visions of snugglefests start fading away and it becomes more evident that "growing up" happens faster than you think - and how you parent is vastly important to how they turn out.
And our world today pressures us to be the "all-mom." You must make sure your kids have all natural, all organic, food. You must make sure your kids are really cute and look like the Kids of Instagram at all times. And then somehow after you get your kids looking like models, you need to look like you just stepped out of a photo shoot, even in the car drop off-line. You need a great house and a great car and the perfect school for your kids to turn out correctly. Even better, you need to put them in sports and/or dance - and they need to be really good by the time they are 3.
Wow, that is much more pressure than your kid just liking you!
And I have chased these things - and unfortunately sometimes still do. I mean, who doesn't want to be some or all of these! But it's time-consuming and can even be soul crushing to chase these ideals day-in and day-out. And it really strips the joy of parenthood and family that we were chasing in the first place.
One-day it just kind of hit me that my kids' attitudes, manners and their heart-of-hearts was so much more important - and so much harder to obtain.
Man I love this picture for SO many reasons! Me with my boys, my family emblem, and my verse for me as mom. This was us also preparing for our adoption announcement - not knowing exactly when we would get a court date! As stressful and unknown as this season was at the time - I definitely look back at it with a special fondness and place in my heart.
I also wanted to include in our announcement picture - this special picture that we would keep for years to come - kind of my goal as a mom and a motto for our family.
"Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court."
Our legacy we leave behind is NOT the quality of our Instagram feed. It's not about how cute we are. Or how perfectly decorated our house is. And I certainly do not want to raise my children teaching them that our worth is found in those kind of things. Yet, I sometimes live my life like that is what is important to me!
I want my legacy to be that I loved other people more than myself. I want to raise my boys (and any future children that I might have) as arrows for the Lord. Our decision to adopt put what my priorities should be in crystal clear focus for me.
So I decided to change how I parent. Here are a few things I have changed and continue to work on:
1) Have undivided family time at the dinner table. This is so huge and has been such a game changer for us and has become something for us to look forward to. We talk about each of our days, we play games, we pray, we laugh, and we have quality one-on-one time together.
2) Read the Bible as a family every night before bed. Again, game changer. We have never made it an actual priority to do this consistently as a family. We listened to Air-1 and go to church and read the little devotions afterwards, but it was never in-depth or consistent. It's especially hard with littles to find something interesting. But now that we have made it fun and consistent, even if we are running so late, the boys can't go to bed without reading the Bible story of the day. They love it - and I am learning stuff with them! Here is the Bible we are going through with the boys that is age appropriate and engaging with beautiful pictures (fun fact: we actually have the one I had as a kid!).
3) Serve the community as a family. This is something that I admittedly have not done enough of and want to do more. Our church does an amazing job partnering with our community and we have had a couple of opportunities to serve at Friends of North Richmond. I can't tell you how amazing, how eye-opening and how absolutely humbling it is. If you truly want to change your perspective and get the attention off of yourself, the best way to do that is to focus on other people. While I want to make a difference and I want to help, I really want my boys to have a servants heart and be world changers.
These are just a few things that I have found that have slowly changed our family and our focus. I am always learning and growing. Even though trying to raise arrows is hard and I don't always hit the mark, I pray I continue to shape my little boys into men of God who make this world a better place.
Holly Nicole James