This morning I opened the door to my shower and turned the hot water all the way up. I stood there in my fuzzy robe, bleary-eyed and weary before the day had even really started and sighed deeply, wishing that I could go back to bed for a couple of hours. Then something undeniably cheery caught my eye from the corner of the steamy shower. It was three tiny bright yellow rubber ducks. Sawyer came across these ducks at some point in the past month or so, and since then every night when he takes a shower, he places them in some funny spot for me to find the next morning. Today they were perched atop three different bottles of soap and shampoo, facing each other as if they were conducting a board meeting. When I saw them I had to giggle a little bit. And wasn’t that Sawyer’s goal? To amuse me in some way? To brighten my morning with a cheerful little surprise?
Kids get the bad reputation of being completely self-focused. We tend to think of them as little creatures who think only of themselves and how they are affected by things. And there is no doubt that children do have the luxury of being a little bit self-centered at times. But as parents we should never make the mistake of believing that our kids don’t think about us. Actually, our children are constantly thinking about us, about how we react to things. About how we feel and what will make us happy or sad. Our kids are probably more in tune with our moods and wants and needs more than most people in our lives. And, as Sawyer’s ducks testify in their board meeting, our kids are often seeking ways to get our attention, meet our approval, or get a reaction from us.
As Christian parents, we should be especially aware of this way that our kids are tuned in to our actions and feelings. We can’t fool ourselves into thinking that our kids aren’t affected when we let our anger rule us. Or when we say something hurtful that can’t be unsaid. We can’t lull ourselves into believing that our kids don’t notice what we watch and listen to, what we say to our spouse or our friend, what we are posting on social media or how we react to those who are different from us. In many ways, my children are experts in who I am as a person. They know my favorite candy, which songs I’m most likely to belt out in the car, which colors I try to avoid because of my red hair. What would ever make me think that anything that I do escapes their notice? The truth is that every move I make informs them about who I am and what a Christian should be like, and they are watching me, always, to see what I will show them about following Christ.
It’s a terribly convicting thought because I know I am such a flawed example to them. Yet, I am an example nonetheless, and at this stage in their lives I am probably their most important example, apart from their dad. Sawyer’s ducks were a reminder to me: he is thinking about me. He cares how I interact with him and how I respond to him, both in fun and serious situations. He is watching me, considering me, wondering about me, and learning from me. Instead of assuming that our children are in their own world, wrapped up in kid things, we should stop and think about the many ways that they are showing us how perceptive they are of our attitudes and actions, and how often they are reaching out in their own ways for connection with us.
In all of this my prayer is that my own selfishness will be replaced by godliness. That when my kids watch me live this life, when they think about me and try to gauge my reactions, when they wonder how I feel or what I am thinking, that they will settle into a peaceful confidence. Their mother will not be perfect. But I pray they will see me seeking Christ and leaning on Him in the best times and the worst times.
With delight, Sawyer asked me if I liked the ducks. He smiled at me, and I wondered how much longer I will have the honor of being regularly on his mind. I reached out for a hug, and we grinned together about the three little ducks, discussing where they might turn up next. Just one flawed mother and her sweet son, learning each other and relying on the love of Christ when our own love proves imperfect. Tomorrow morning when I shuffle into my bathroom with a yawn, I expect I will again be surprised by three little yellow ducks. Maybe they will be standing on their heads. Maybe they will be marching up stairs made of shampoo bottles. I will smile in spite of the early hour because those little ducks will remind me once again that I sometimes occupy the thoughts of three children who have been entrusted to my care and discipleship. God’s mercies are new every morning, and so is the opportunity to show my kids what an authentic Christian life really looks like. They don’t need perfection. But they do need a Savior. And I am the mother who can point them to Him. What an honor. What a Savior.