There are times — when we eat cookies for breakfast because we’re too lazy to cook (they had oatmeal in them? )
or when we wave Drew’s sock across Aidah’s face to see if she’ll react to the smell (she cried)
— when Drew and I wonder why we’re allowed to have a child.
Who authorized this?
When are the real adults stepping in to relieve us?
I’m not qualified to parent, much less to blog about parenting.
Between cutting the tiny food dreadlocks out of Aidah’s hair and wiping the poop out of her armpits (how??) it will occasionally hit me that not only am I tasked with her health and safety (nbd) but that somewhere in the Bible, God told me to train her up in the way she should go. I know this because my parents had that Proverb hanging at the top of our stairs on a whimsical train painting.
My parents became Christians when I was 5 and took our training very seriously. We changed our language and our weekends and our priorities. It was a whole thing. I wrote a book about it, remember?
But I don’t have their experience — I don’t have that objectivity of seeing the before and after, of learning the simple truths. I have to train Aidah in something that feels second nature. And ugh, this is what keeps me up at night. More than the teething and the vaccines and the weird bump behind her ear. I stay up and obsess over the awful and wonderful weight of being the person to teach her about Jesus.
How do I help her see the beauty and significance in Someone so dear to me?
How do I break down and conceptualize something that is such a part of me?
Is there some sort of trick to balancing my actual (imperfect, not adulty enough, always failing) example with plain old instruction?
Aidah is on the verge of walking and I’ve been nerding out lately on the science behind this milestone.
I’ve learned that babies can’t learn to walk through mere instruction – you couldn’t teach them “this is your leg, move your leg, etc” — they learn through something called body mapping. A precursor to imitation. Babies are actually subconsciously downloading maps of the movements they see from the adults around them. Before they can even identify what a foot is, the area of their brain that controls the foot will light up when they see an adult kick a ball. They are constantly downloading these body maps and creating permanent muscle memory and their movements (naturally) end up looking like that of the adults around them.
This is fascinating to me. It’s made me so aware of how I move. I stand up straighter. I do more yoga. I throw and catch even if she isn’t watching. I crump with purpose. I’m paying attention to the maps that I’m putting out there.
And I guess this is where I’m at with the whole Jesus thing too. I’m starting with that mom in the mirror. I’m asking her to get her act together. Because it’s not enough to just instruct – to tell Aidah “this is your heart, use it to love, etc.” — she’s going to learn by watching.
So I want her to see and download a mom who prays diligently (instead of my standard HELPTHANKSWOW minimum) I want her to see her dad reading his Bible. Parents who forgive and repent and praise. Parents who humble themselves and engage in hard things. Parents who tell the truth. Parents who choose kindness and mercy and courage. Parents who serve.
Because my parents didn’t just put a train poster at the top of the stairs. They were reading their Bibles when I came down the stairs every morning. They bowed their heads before we ate every night. They moved with intention.
And I need to do so.
Drew watches telenovelas with Aidah because he wants her to be bilingual. I worry that they’re teaching her to be shrill and to wear too much eyeshadow. But he hopes the words will sink into her little brain before she even has the ability to understand them.
And I guess it’s like that.
I can’t force Aidah to love Jesus and serve Him. She will grow up and she will make her choices. But this body mapping – it’s a thing. This is biology. I can be faithful and in doing so, train her tiny muscles to carry her into postures of worship. And when she inevitably stumbles into seasons of darkness, I can pray that these early, primal muscle maps will kick in and she will fall on her knees or raise her hands or reach for her Bible – before her mind can trick her back into that awful adultiness of pride and amnesia.
I am not a person to whom discipline comes naturally. I’m as close to Type B as they come. I thrive on looseness and abhor structure or routine. But we’re adulting now, whether we like it or not. Somehow, we’re the ones being imitated. So I’m going to do as Ghandi said and
BE THE ADULT YOU FRANTICALLY SEARCH THE ROOM FOR.
BE THE CHRIST YOU WANT TO SEE IN YOUR CHILD.
JUST BE BETTER.
On my worst days, this terrifies me. I’m not ready to be the example. I’m not smart enough or good enough or whole enough or ____ enough.
And that’s the trickiest part about this whole parenting thing – this whole life thing, actually. I want to do more and try more and be more. But I’ll never be the perfect parent or perfect example.
I’ll never be enough.
…but that’s not the goal here. I don’t want Aidah to imitate maps of striving. I want her to download maps of worship. I want her to see me living faithfully in that tension between my efforts and His Grace. I want her to kneel and bow and lift her hands — not because it makes her good but because it acknowledges that HE IS.
**A huge thank you to everyone who has shared this post. Not only is it just a heartening “me too”, but it’s also extremely helpful in the most practical way. I plan to resume some publishing leads in the coming months and my social media following is always my weak link. So thanks for the likes and shares and comments – it may not seem like much but it means a lot to me.