This morning my five year old and I had the opportunity to run a one mile race together. Since I’ve been running off and on between pregnancies all of our kids have seen me compete in weekend races on several occasions. One of my favorite sights is their eager faces cheering me on moments before I cross the line. Today though, I was thrilled additionally to share the adventure side by side with daughter.
It was no surprise that she took off immediately after the horn with a straight and accelerated dash. I jogged directly behind her, encouraging her “Way to go speedy Sakura! You go girl!” She took these compliments with the smile of a champion and continued galloping along for about thirty seconds until instant fatigue hit her. “My legs are tired mommy!” I grinned, “Of course they are silly girl! You don’t need to sprint, just jog like I am! Slowly just keep running and we’ll get there…”
We finished the one mile race with several swift intense sprints followed by quick walks to catch our breath before sprinting again. Pace isn’t mastered by five year olds– which is to be reasonably expected. Throughout the course I often held her hand as we ran side by side, encouraged her with loaded compliments about what a winner she was, and reminded her that if she wants to run fast like I do….she just has to keep moving because running is supposed to leave you tired!
I couldn’t help but notice as we ran how often she actually would look at me while she ran instead of the actual pavement in front of her. Quite literally, she’d stare at me as if studying how my legs moved. She is old enough to grasp that running is one of the things that I do quite successfully and figured perhaps by watching her own running would be easier. Curtis snapped the above picture as we were both dashing into the finish line and it dearly touched my heart.
You see, every parent has heard at least one hundred times that our children are constantly watching us. Often it’s unsolicited advice given by well meaning seasoned parents or grandparents that seemingly goes in one ear and out the next. For the most part, we try to be good examples and pray and hope that the noteworthy things we do make much more of an impression then our failures and meltdown moments.
I’ve even heard it said more accurately that our children mirror us! As I ponder this thought, I am first humbled– and second–concerned. I’m not quite sure I want to be mirrored because often that reflection would be disappointing and even humiliating. The momentous reality is if my daughter will watch me run and fervently try to mimic my strides how much more-so will she attempt to copy the daily day/in and day/out mannerisms I exhibit.
If I want her to be kind– I must demonstrate kindness. If I want her to be concerned for the well being of others– I must exhibit self sacrifice and an attitude that considers others needs above my own. If I want her to be humble– I must walk in humility. If I want her to be patient– I must communicate that life is not always instantaneous and sometimes waiting is a necessity we must accommodate.
I cannot impart these attributes on my daughter (or my other three children) without personally demonstrating them! Children are visual learners, they must watch someone. By default, as a stay at home mom, the person they see the most is me. Whether I like it or ask for it: my kids will watch me.
As I let this soak in, I am fully acquainted with a great list of honorable qualities that I hope my children see in me. Sometimes I exhibit them well, but most of the time I find the “work in progress” qualities are on display. The imperfections. The striving to have a better attitude– and failing miserably short.
As a parent–I too, must watch someone. Just as you must. Will I take my cues from TV? Other moms? Parenting books, magazines or media? While none of these are necessarily bad things, I am reminded that the qualities I really wish to exhibit and pass on to my children are those of Christ. The fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, forbearance, goodness, faithfulness, , and self control.
1 Follow God’s example in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him.
You cannot imitate someone you do not know! You cannot mimic what you do not see! One cannot show any resemblance to Christ until they are intimately acquainted with Him. The only way to absorb the lifestyle, patterns, and ways of Jesus is to spend time in the Word. I find as I spend more time in the bible myself– my heart changes. Not instantaneous, and certainly not perfect– but daily I am learning how to be a better copycat of the One worth copying. Hopefully as I learn how to better imitate Him– in time, my children will do the same!