It’s been awhile since my then young children and I had that talk on the old bedspread quilt under the brilliant blue sky. But I am reminded of it every so often when a refresher course is needed in my family.
Or in my heart.
It was a warm fall afternoon, the kind that felt like a carry-over from summer. The long branches of our backyard sweet gum tree stretch protectively over us as we sit down on the quilt to play the game Sorry!.
A few minutes into the game, one child makes a savvy play. I compliment him on his smart move, and then another child looks up, blue eyes under furrowed brows,
“But what about me, Mama? Am I doing a good job too?”
I smile her way and start to apologize, but I stop myself. I simply reply of course, of course you are. The game continues on and before long, the same scenerio makes a repeat performance. I praise one for a job well done, and another wants praise, too.
I sigh, ask one to put down the dice and all three to look at me. They need to know this.
“Listen, you each must learn to be okay with hearing another person praised. You must also learn to be okay hearing another person praised and not demanding your own praise too. Don’t assume that a ‘good job!‘ for one person somehow means you’re doing a bad job, okay?”
Three heads nod, and one child says what we all think from time to time,
“I guess it just feels good to hear nice things said about me, and when someone else gets the nice things, I want to take them for myself.”
And I smile, because yes, the grown-up me knows this too well. I also smile because the words I’ve read in more than one parenting book are true: many bigger lessons are taught over small moments like family games.
“You’re right,” I say. “And I know what that feels like. But it’s wrong to take anything that belongs to someone else, even if it’s a simple good job! during a game. The Bible says we are to build each other up and speak encouraging words to one another. One reason for that is because God knows that it can feel good to praise others, too. Always remember that if I or someone else sings the praises of another, that doesn’t mean your own song sounds out of tune. It just means that right now it’s time for another person’s song to be heard.”
They don’t get it all then, but now we are a few more miles down the parenting road, and they understand better. It’s a courageous lesson in humility, and a hard one to learn too.
But it’s one we’ll never be sorry to know.