Do you ever have those moments in life when the mundane becomes completely extraordinary? When the inconsequential suddenly feels monumental?
I had one of those moments tonight as I unloaded the dishwasher. I turned my back to put away a few spatulas and panicked when I heard the clinking of dishes behind me. "No, N-," I instinctively began as I whirled around. But I didn't finish. I was interrupted by the sight of my 18 month old holding out a hand-stamped vietri cereal bowl and the sound of his tiny voice coming out from behind his beloved paci, "Here go, Mommy."
I'm not entirely sure why, but my eyes filled with tears as I reached to receive that dish and turned to put it away. When I turned back again, he held out another dish enthusiastically. "Here go, Mommy!" "Thank you, Will!" I responded as I gently grasped the bowl and turned again to add it to the stack. This exchange went on until he had emptied the entire rack.
Here's the thing: I didn't teach Will how to unload the dishwasher. I didn't even ask him to help (definitely thought it was a little too early for his tiny fumbling fingers to be gripping my precious dishes). He just did it. He just reached in and pulled out that cereal bowl and started handing and helping. He had seen me do it. He'd seen his daddy do it. So he just did it.
I spend a lot of time researching child development and parenting strategies. I'm mostly motivated by the fear of getting behind or wasting a season. I feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to be a parent who chooses her words carefully and wisely. But the actions of my toddler tonight reminded me that parenting has as much to do with modeling as it does instructing (or correcting). To be honest, the thought of my son imitating me is a little disconcerting. It always made me a little uncomfortable when Paul told the church at Corinth to "be imitators" of him (1 Corinthians 11). How arrogant, right? But the thing that Paul understood is that growth happens as we watch and emulate more mature believers. And this is why the second part of his phrasing is so important: "Be imitators of me," he says "as I am of Christ." Somehow, God uses the faithfulness of his fumbling followers to help those behind them learn what it means to live for him. This is his design for discipleship. More than faithfulness to read and study and put what I learn about parenting strategies into practice, my primary calling as a mother is to remain faithful to Jesus, desiring to be with him, and by the power of the holy spirit becoming like him more and more.
Believe me, I have a long, long, lonnnng way to go in the looking like Jesus department. But Paul, the same man who asked the church at Corinth to imitate him, called himself the chief of sinners. If he didn't feel like he was contradicting himself, then I can go ahead and put my hand way up high to claim the title of chief of mommy sinners and still say that my child can learn from my obedience to Christ. And you know what the beauty of messing up in front of him is? He will see his own need for a savior mirrored in mine. We get to teach our children the heartbeat of the Christian life: repentance.
So be encouraged, mama, if you're not up on the latest research or parenting strategies, if you haven't scoured pinterest for trendy age appropriate activites for your kid, or if "motherhood" doesn't always really feel like your "thing." Parenting is the ultimate form of discipleship... and the design for discipleship is simple. You just keep faithfully seeking and modeling Jesus as you care for your babes. And don't panic at the thought that more is "caught than taught" because repentance and acknowledgement of need is as important a thing to catch as "good works."