~Say please and thank you.
~Look both ways before crossing the street.
~Stay with your buddy.
~Call me when you get there.
We want them to remember all the things we think are important for being a good person and successfully negotiating the world.
I have a friend who when his kids were teenagers had only one instruction before they left the house. "Remember who you are." I know! Weighty, isn't it?!
He certainly wanted them to remember all the lessons they were taught when they were younger but also to remember their own sense of self and not let that get lost in a moment of peer pressure. Knowing my friend, embedding in that message was a also reminder to remember that they are first and foremost a child of God: they are inherently good and worthy and so do not need to look outward for love or acceptance because they already are perfectly loved.
The tricky part of "remembering who you are" is that you need to have already done some deep thinking about that before you can remember it. We all need to have a sense of self before it can be called up as a resource in life's tough moments.
How do we help our children, not just the ones in our own families but all children, find their sense of self? How do we nurture in them not only a positive self-esteem but also their baptismal identity?
As a mom of a 21 year old and a teacher of all ages in the church for 14 years, I think one of the first places to start is to pay attention and listen. Sometimes we get so caught up in wanting our children to learn the "right" things; we end up doing all the talking. We don't give them a chance to reflect on their day, share their feelings, and ask questions. I would guess the reason those things don't happen is because we don't take the time for them. It takes a lot of self-control on our part to sit quietly (for who knows how long!) and patiently listen. After all we have important things to do. And yet when we remember who we are and what is truly important to us, slowing down and taking time for our children is not hard at all.
Another reason I think we do not patiently listen to our children is that we are afraid their questions might make us uncomfortable. The questions may not have easy answers or they may even challenge our values. As scary as that feels, that is exactly what we want our children to do. Because in asking those tough questions, in a safe space with you, they are discovering who they are.
My advice to you: as you have those listening moments and conversations with your child, remind them they are perfectly loved and accepted by God. Bring God into your conversations, not as the one who makes all the rules for their behavior, but as The One who loves them in the midst of the questions and challenges of life. That is their baptismal identity! They have been claimed and are loved by the one who loves them perfectly. What a great thing for them to know as they go out into the world.
And so…for you too as you go out into the world as parent, friend, godparent, teacher, and neighbor --
remember who you are!