For the past five posts I’ve written about my experience at SLS18 in Chicago. I’ve written about the mission of FOCUS and how that mission became an invitation to evangelize in my own parish.
But here’s the real truth: If I spend all of my time bringing Jesus to OTHERS and neglect those in my home, then I will go straight to hell.
Okay, I don’t think I will go to hell, but you get my point.
My first responsibility is to bring Jesus to my family.
And I actually like the win/build/send FOCUS model for my family.
The challenge? Most of us mothers don’t think we need to “win” our family. After all, our kids should already be on our side. They should cling to our every word. They should respect us.
I guess I’d just ask the questions: Do your children respect you? Do they look at you with love and joy? Do they cling to your every word?
If so, you are golden. Proceed.
If not, then grow a bit in this area.
Now, our home is a little unusual because we brought in one of our children through adoption when she was four.
I learned -from my reading and from that unique personal experience- that a child’s trust and respect is something to be earned.
Our new daughter, angry and defiant, was not going to just give us her trust. We had to become trustworthy.
We had to win her.
To be honest, we are still winning her, just as we are still winning our other children.
And that’s okay. Winning a child’s heart is a process. It doesn’t happen in a day or a week or a month OR EVEN A YEAR.
See, I thought for some reason that parenting would be about me speaking truth, them stroking their beards and nodding, and then them going out and changing the world.
Nope. That is not even sort of how it happens.
It’s about heart work.
Heart work? Wait a minute, Lori, heart work?
Yes. Heart work. Loving all of these babies, with all of their strong personalities, is not easy for me. See, I am not patient. I am not kind. I want things to go as they are supposed to go (meaning MY WAY) and all of these people keep doing their thing. Ugh. You could say that I am a teeny weeny bit controlling. Or you could just say that I am a woman.
- It’s about me waking up and getting quiet. It’s about me getting regulated.
- It’s about me being balanced so when I see my children I can love on them.
- It’s not beautiful.
- It’s incredibly ordinary.
- It is about me seeing my four teenagers (yes, four!) in the morning, groggy and out of sorts. It is me viewing a big white zit yet not mentioning it but hugging them.
- It is about me just being there for them, simply and without an agenda. Asking how they slept. Smiling at them.
- Giving love.
- Giving way more love than is reasonable.
Wait, you say, you must tell them about the whitehead. Yes. But here is the deal. That sort of thing must come after hugs and breakfast and coffee, not before. No kid wants to be told about a whitehead the moment they enter the kitchen. They just want to be seen for you they really are. They are not a zit. They want to be loved. They want to be enjoyed.
I should write a book entitled, “How my Children’s Pimples have Formed Me.”
The point I am trying to make: teaching your child HOW to be a Christian, the “how” (or the build) is not first.
It cannot be first.
You must start with the WIN.
Win your child’s heart.
This part is actually the joy of parenting. Once I realized it was about the win, then all of my pieces fell into place.
Then, over time, this incredible magic happens. When a child feels the solid, unconditional love of their parents, then they can believe that God loves them. As they are.
Then they can take in the Gospel message.
For our family, the “build” has happened somewhat in our home, but it seems like it has happened and continues to happen in places like Totus Tuus camp, and through Prayer and Action. It has happened through Knights of the Holy Queen and through Angels and Fellowship of Christian Athletes and through friendships. It has been modeled through strong mentors, interesting teachers, cool priests and joy-filled religious.
I am super glad I went to SLS18. I loved it all. I loved the training.
But as a mom, my job is within this home, within these walls. I know the WIN of my babies must be my first priority.
I must win my child’s heart. THAT, more than anything else, will prepare them to be built into and eventually sent out into our world as strong Christians.