Mondays for Moms: The good kind of contagious
My babies have only been back in school for a few weeks and we’ve already had a few brushes with some sick bugs.
I’m guessing any mommas out there reading this have dealt with these typical school bugs, frequent colds and maybe even the dreaded pink eye …dun dun dun…
Kids tend to pick up sicknesses fairly easily, especially when they are little.
But what if I told you that there is also something else that is highly contagious?!
Turns out our children are watching. Every. Single. Move. We. Make.
Sure, they’re busting down the walls of institutional privacy as they watch us shower and potty, but, more significantly, they are watching how we handle grown-up conversations. How we greet strangers. How we forgive those who hurt us. How we discuss serious issues. How we comfort those who are hurting. How we address disappointing behavior. How we acknowledge successes.
And what they see can either be contagious in a good way or contagious in a bad way.
I started thinking about our “Contagious Character” and how we can be sure we are only passin’ along the “good” character bugs.
When I pull up to a green light and get behind that precious old soul who somehow missed the fact that the light turned green a minute and a half ago I have a choice. I can either lay on the horn and get frustrated, or I can choose to breathe a little deeper and count to 10 until she finally decides to press on the gas.
When someone cuts in front of me in line, I can throw a fit or I can acknowledge that moment as an opportunity to give a little grace.
When a friend disappoints me, I can gossip about the situation to my hubby over dinner, or I can choose to speak with encouraging words.
When my babies cover their faces in my lipstick again as if they are tardy for their circus clown audition, I can jump to judgment and scream in angst, or I can encourage their artistic prowess and gently suggest better contouring next go around.
The moral of the story is we have little eyes staring at us 24/7 whether we like it or not. As moms, we will all stumble at times and provide a not-so-great example.
But, if we keep our little “mini-me’s” in mind, it will begin to transform our character into the “good” kind of contagious rather than the “bad.”
Our pastor, Dr. Gary Fenton, performs the most beautiful and meaningful baby dedications. He personalizes them to each family, but more importantly, he utilizes those moments in time to truly speak to the parents and the church about their responsibilities in the child’s life.
As he gazes into the child’s eyes, he suddenly shifts his focus to the parents and softly speaks these words: “This child will occasionally listen to you, but she will always be watching you.”
Wow. What a powerful reminder!
As moms, we can spend our entire lives reading every baby book, attending every momma class and relentlessly searching the Internet for the answers to being the “Best Mom.” The truth is actually much simpler to discover than all the hassle we exert.
If we wish for our children to be kind, we must be kind to others. Even when we’re tired. Even when the cashier is making us angry. Even when someone slams on their brakes in front of us causing us to veer off the road. We can strive to teach our children that we cannot control others’ actions, we can only work on our own actions and our own reactions. It’s a great reminder for them, too, that our smiles are our greatest free gift to the world. Something as simple as a smile may be the act of kindness that makes someone else’s day.
If we wish for our children to be grateful, we must express gratitude in front of them. We can make it a habit to thank them when they clean their rooms, wash their hands and share with others. We can model for them how to thank God for their food, their clothes and their health. And we can show gratitude to daddy in front of them for all the ways he provides – even when his shoes are strewn about on the floor, the bathroom’s a mess and he was late for dinner.
If we wish for our children to be patient, we should make every effort not to rush them through life. We can give them the extra five minutes to tie their shoes properly (even when we need to be out the door). We can take a few minutes to examine the best way to respond. We should offer them the grace (even in the moments that send us straight to the insane asylum) because God has offered each of us undeserved, indescribable amounts of grace even before our children entered this world and continues to do so on a daily basis.
If we wish for our children to be truthful, we must be cautious to always tell the truth. Even little white lies are easily exposed by our super-sleuth kiddos. If we say we will take them to a friend’s house for a playdate, we can make every effort to make good on that promise. Promises to children are life-and-death. When we utter the words “I will,” “We will” or any version of “I promise,” we must remind ourselves that we have entered into a binding oral contract with our little ones.
If we wish for our children to be giving, we must be charitable with the many blessings God has given us. We can take opportunities to expose our children to the power of giving to another by taking them along for serve days in the community, making Christmas gifts for those in need or baking cookies to gift to the sweet ones in the local nursing home. Consider taking a Saturday to clean out your closets and take the clothing to a women’s shelter or church. Be part of a toy or school supply collection that benefits local children in need. Let’s teach our kids to be the change they wish to see in this world.
If we wish for our children to be responsible, we must follow through with our own commitments. If we take on a role at work, school or church, we should strive to commit ourselves to serving in the best capacity possible. This may require making sacrifices. The example we will be exhibiting in front of our children is by far worth the extra effort.
If we wish for our children to be forgiving, we must give them grace when they make mistakes. No child is perfect, no matter how much we feebly hope they might be. They will disappoint us. They will cause us to lose our patience. And they will even enrage us at times. But, if we wish for them to have the ability to forgive, we must remember to forgive even in their darkest moments, too. When we make mistakes, we can pause for a moment and apologize. By asking them for their forgiveness, we are exemplifying a humble heart.
We could go on and on – the list of cause-and-effect parenting rules is endless. But we get the idea. “The proof is in the pudding,” as we’ve heard it said so many times before. Sometimes it’s easy to let ourselves slack in terms of being kind, grateful, patient, truthful, giving, responsible and forgiving when we are only exercising those traits for ourselves. And truth be told, there is no way for any of us to be perfect all the time. Perfection is a losing game, my friends. (Thank goodness, am I right?)
Children will emulate celebrities, musicians and even Olympians popular today. But, the humbling fact remains that the people they should be looking up to most is their very own mom and dad.
The truth is this: We can tell our children all the right things and we can teach them all the proper “rules” of life. But if they don’t see us living out what we say, we may be missing out on our greatest opportunities to groom our children for greatness.
Praying for all of us to strive to be our best selves each and every day!
“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…”
To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.
Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis