What Are Your Children Catching These Days?

I’m the blessed mom of both sons and daughters. There are priceless blessings about having both but when you have seven you’re bound to get at least one of each.

That happened to me with our first two.

Jaime was well known for her smiles!

When Joshua was sixteen months old a baby girl came into our lives. Back then you only had sonograms when there was a potential problem so we didn’t know who was coming that Saturday in the fall of 1979. As Benny drove me to the hospital I cried. First because I was overwhelmed that I was having a baby two weeks early on the very day people were coming to help us load a moving van with boxes I had been s-l-o-w-l-y packing for weeks. But my tears were mostly because my baby would be born on the anniversary of my older brother’s death at age 27 just four years earlier. A very sad day was about to become a happy one and I was especially thrilled for my mom. As we left the house she said, “My mourning is about to be turned to joy.” Wow.

If we had a girl Benny wanted her to share my name so we were both hoping for Jaime Sheree. Because of my longstanding battle with infertility (which we didn’t want to presume were over just because God brought us two children in just over a year) I knew this baby could be my last. A boy and a girl would be just perfect.

You seldom had to wonder what Jaime was thinking — her face usually showed it!

When my daughter was put into my arms I overwhelmed. Dolls. Toenail polish. Earrings. Ruffled socks. Dresses. This mini-me with light hair and slate blue eyes filled me with wonder. I had a little girl to raise; to teach; to train to be a wife and mother herself; to watch Disney movies with. The mixture of responsibility and fun squeezed my heart.

God wasn’t finished giving me babies and Jaime welcomed each with joy. At 3 1/2 she eagerly welcomed baby brother Jesse and by the time Joey came less than two years later she had become an experienced big sister. When another little surprise was coming soon after, God answered her prayers for a baby sister. By the time Jake and Julia came I had to sometimes remind her that I, not she, was the Mom.

If you have a daughter you know the feeling of wanting to do a good job of being mommy to a little girl. As the mother of boys I loved the fun, laughter, antics, rough housing and boy stuff.  I loved how different the boys were from me — and how they competed about everything. But I have to admit that mothering daughters has been more weighty to me. I’ve felt a level of responsibility that has a different “flavor” than raising boys — an awareness that a part of me was being duplicated in my girls for good or not-so-good.

The first of five siblings comes home to a delighted big sister (and brother).

One day I was enjoying what had become a favorite part of my day — eavesdropping on Josh and Jaime playing together. I especially loved it when they were playing Benny and Sheree, so whenever I caught wind of this I dropped what I was doing to listen. “Benny and Sheree” were sitting at a kid’s table (that their children now use at Granma’s) having dinner at a restaurant.

“Benny we need to go now cuz the baby needs to go to bed,” Jaime said. “Okay,” agreed Josh, “but wait! I forgot my wallet! Do you have any money?” “No!” Jaime snapped, cramming her hands onto her hips. “You NEVER leave me any money!”

I had to cover my mouth to silence the chuckles from blowing my cover. They had just role-played an interaction between Benny and me at a family dinner out just days earlier! I got to see and hear myself through my little girl’s eyes and ears. While there was some comic exaggeration in their exchange, it wasn’t that far from what really happened!

Yep, back in the day kids got “dressed up” every Sunday. I loved having an excuse to buy dresses!

That day I learned the next important truth I want to pass along to young moms: when it comes to parenting, more is caught than taught. (That phrase isn’t original; it’s one I heard years ago from a source I can’t remember.) We moms talk a lot to our kids. We correct; warn; instruct; remind; encourage; comfort. But nothing we say will affect our children as much as how we live

During her teen years my awareness of the importance of my motherly example deepened. While I tried to resist the pressure of thinking her maturity was directly related to my effectiveness, I found myself fretful at times. Was I doing a good job raising her in the throes of mothering her five younger siblings? Was I expecting too much help and service from her as the oldest girl in a large family? How affected was she by my struggles and sin patterns? What kind of young woman was she becoming? How would she reflect on our relationship when she looks back as an adult woman? Was she “catching” my preferences or my values?

I have some really good news for moms of daughters. How you live your life day in and day out is making a difference in your little girl’s life. You are weak and flawed. You don’t always set the kind of example you want for her. But you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t value motherhood and strive to be a really good mom.

I still see this face in my grown up daughter. Now she has a daughter this age!

Jaime and I went through our share of hard times. I didn’t make it easy for her to share her struggles and temptations. In fact, I assumed that how we were raising our kids meant they probably wouldn’t have the same kinds of struggles we did as teens. (What were we thinking??? If you have thought that, too, please reconsider. Temptations are common from one generation to the next, no matter how you are raised.) I didn’t ask enough gentle, compassionate and probing questions…then ask them again as the Holy Spirit led next week or the week after and the month after!…that would have helped our relationship and provided her with a come-alongside-me Mom to empathize with her struggles.

But God has been faithful.

In spite of my mothering weaknesses Jaime not only survived but flourished. She is the mother of four adorable children who are a joy to have around. She and her husband, PJ, are raising their children to love God and His church — and to enjoy their relationships as a family. My “I don’t wanna homeschool” teenaged daughter has become a vibrant homeschooling mom who is being used to serve and help other homeschooling families in our area. How wonderful it is to me to have a daughter who humbly acknowledges her temptations and struggles. I get to empathize with her, remind her of my own struggles and point her to the God who redeemed my own flawed motherhood for good in her life.

And He will do the same for her.

Jaime and the soldier boy who won her heart.

Please don’t interpret my homeschooling example wrongly. The point isn’t that I homeschooled and now she does. She and her husband could have chosen another educational route for their children that was best for their family. The point is this: more really is caught than taught. My little girl caught that being a wife, mother and homemaker is valuable even in a culture that salutes achievement outside the home over the daily grind of rearing children. What that looks like in her life isn’t exactly the same as it did in mine — but there are enough similarities for me to regularly stop and thank God for the incredible woman she is and that she did catch some good stuff from the mom who sarcastically chastised her daddy for never leaving me any money.

My daughter studying the beautiful face of her own just-born daughter. What a moment.

With God’s supernatural help, keep doing what you’re doing with your kids. Through countless baths, peanut butter sandwiches, reminders to be kind, requests for forgiveness for being harsh, diaper changes, bedtime prayers and corrections for doing wrong you are modeling for your daughter what godly womanhood is all about. And if you have boys, you are teaching them what to look for in a wife someday as your example creates in them an appetite to love someone that’s kinda like Mom.

Think about it. It’s likely that the little girl you’re reminding not to take the clothes off her dolly because you know she’ll lose them will have a real baby of her own someday. Until then, day by day you are demonstrating for her how to love and care for that little one she will someday hold in her arms. Oh, what a day that will be.

My Jaime Sheree has a Kayla Sheree with three younger siblings who are being raised by a mom whose mom is watching. You see, I’m still kind of eavesdropping on her. What I’m seeing and hearing still makes me chuckle at times — but it mostly makes me grateful to God for giving my grandchildren such an incredible mother.

Jaime and I are different in many ways. I don’t have a tattoo, never played basketball when I was 8 months pregnant, didn’t birth any of my kids in the tub at home and didn’t allow her to watch Star Wars movies till she was 14. Yet I’m grateful for what we have in common: saving faith in God; love for our husbands and children; affection for and involvement in a wonderful church; joy in our family; and a life of often exhausting and sin-tainted service to others. Only God could do that.

Happy Birthday, sweetie! The day you were born changed me — and watching you become the incredible, godly woman you are today reminds me that in the midst of the ups and downs of motherhood God makes sure that more is caught than taught.

PJ and Jaime with Kayla, Wyatt, Anniston and Danae. (Photo by Megan Kauflin)