Being a Gracious Parent

I may have mentioned before two mom friends of mine, called K&K. I’ve been thinking today about something K said – she’s full of wisdom, as is K. In fact both of them are far wiser than I am.

I was thinking about how gracious K is and how ungracious I can be sometimes. Once, K prayed for a pregnant friend that she would find parenthood “as easy as she thinks it’s going to be.” Other people – I’m naming no names – watch optimistic pregnant women with a sense of glee, thinking “Just you wait! You have all these ideas about how your baby’s going to behave but just you wait! It ain’t so easy!”

OK, I’m naming names. It’s me. I do that. ALL the time.

But K is a far better woman than I. She might think those things but she brings those thoughts to God and he leads her to pray graciously for those people.

Me? Not so much.

You see, parenthood has been…a journey for me. I’m not a parent that other parents envy. No one ever wants to swap kids with me. Even a dad who told me that Eva was cuter than his baby gave up any ideas of switching once he’d spent a few hours with her.

My kids are the ones that put even broody people off starting their families. We went to a lovely wedding last year of two people who had each – at different times – lodged with us. They want kids but not any time soon. Their reason? They’d lived with my son Reuben. And they’d seen parenthood close up.

So, when I see perfectly behaved children or parents who say “ooh, my child will never do that”, I feel inclined to sit back and wait for them to slip up. Call it spite, call it jealousy…I’m pretty sure it’s not godly. After all, we’re called to be “kind and compassionate to one another” (Ephesians 4:32). Not snidey and judgemental.

That’s why I want to be more like K. That’s why I want to be a gracious parent. Not a competitive, jealous one. But gosh, it’s hard.

What would being a gracious parent look like? Maybe it’s being happy for other people – congratulating someone on getting pregnant when you’re struggling to do so yourself or sharing someone’s joy at their baby’s first steps when secretly you’d been hoping yours would walk before theirs. The tenth commandment is pretty clear about not coveting someone else’s life, and jealousy only leads to bitterness. Look at Joseph’s brothers in Genesis – they were so jealous of their brother that they sold him into slavery. Did those brothers live a happier life, knowing that they had ruined Joseph’s? I doubt it.

So, maybe graciousness comes from being grateful for what you have. Not eternally wishing your children were like K’s children, but accepting them as the slightly mad kids that God has sent to live with you. I sometimes struggle to be grateful for my kids when they’re climbing all over me as I’m trying to write. But then I remember again how we prayed to have them and how smooth the pregnancies and births were and how perfect they are, physically. It doesn’t matter that the baby is eating dirt. It doesn’t matter that the 3-year-old is whining because you don’t know where he can buy a deep sea suit (do they make them in 3-year-old size?). All that matters is that I have them. I need to be grateful.

Because being grateful will lead to being more gracious. And that’s what we should be aiming for – the character of God is gracious and we should strive to be more like him. The gracious character of the Father is illustrated perfectly in the Prodigal Son. The Father welcomes us back to him again and again after we’ve strayed. For some people in that position, it would be tempting to revel in the son’s downfall and use it forever against him. But that’s not God – he is┬áloving and forgiving, not spiteful and resentful. As Corinthians 13 famously says: “Love keeps no record of wrongs”.

So, next time I’m listening to someone talking about how wonderfully their baby sleeps after I’ve been awake all night, I’ll remember to look to God. I don’t want to be the older son, sulking as everyone else’s parties. I don’t want to be Joseph’s brothers, ruining someone else’s happiness in an envious rage. I want to be like Joseph, delighting in seeing his brothers again. Or like the Father, delighting in having his son back.

Choose your mood today – who are you going to model yourself after? Join me on this journey towards (I hope) more of God’s gracious character.