A Mother’s Influence

At the opening of our church’s mother/daughter banquet, the mom who was the banquet coordinator shared with us her love for gardening. This enjoyment of gardening began when she was just a little girl and would be included in her grandmother’s daily garden time. Her grandmother talked to her and gave her appropriate tasks to do. All of this was the beginning of a lifelong pleasure in many aspects of gardening.

When I was a little girl, we frequently visited my grandparents for periods of time during the summer. Those summer days at their house were filled with pleasant memories. Beside my grandparents’ driveway was a bed of flowers they called moss rose. These flowers bloomed with a variety of colors all summer long. Can you guess what my favorite summer flower is? Yes, every year I ask Sarah, our gardener, to please plant me a crop of moss rose.

I don’t like to garden. For me, working in a garden is hot, dirty, and backbreaking—totally devoid of any pleasure. Perhaps, though, if my grandmother had been a gardener who loved her gardening, I would have picked up from her that same feeling toward gardening.

While my grandma, with her hay fever and asthma, could not garden, she did love to bake cookies. We never visited her home without finding several containers of freshly baked cookies in the pantry. Meme passed that same enjoyment of baking on to my mother. My mother has passed it on to me, and now it is effortlessly being handed down to my girls. When there is a quiet, rainy day, one of my first thoughts is, “What a great cookie baking day!”

The purpose of these stories is to encourage us to consider how critical it is that we cultivate good memories in our children’s minds. Consider my delight in moss rose flowers. My grandparents didn’t even know that the flowers they liked so much would become my favorite as well. This simply happened because of the love and sweet memories from those summer visits with my grandparents. I believe these are valuable lessons for us as Christian mothers and homeschooling moms as well. We have the incredible ability to influence some of our children’s likes and perhaps their dislikes too.

I remember when my seventh-grade son was beginning kindergarten. We had a half hour set aside each afternoon to do math together. Almost before we started our first day, he had decided he didn’t like math. Each day he would complain that he didn’t like school and didn’t want to do the work. This was the beginning of my fourth child’s homeschool career!

I must admit to feeling rather powerless against this early level of grumbling. We were not doing difficult work. He was using manipulatives in addition to do one workbook page each day, plus I was sitting right with him. Math just didn’t get any better than that!

I knew I could give him consequences for his murmuring that would cause him to stop. However, I also realized his feelings would probably still be there; he just would not be vocalizing them. I saw this as an opportunity to influence his attitudes toward his school time.

When Joseph would start griping as we began our math work, I counterattacked. “Joseph, I want you to know this is one of the best parts of Mommy’s day. I love doing school with you. I like to have some time for just you and Mommy to be together. You know math is very important, and you will use the math you are learning in some way or other almost every single day. I am so happy that I can be the one to teach you how to add and subtract. This is a special time each day for Mommy.”

It wasn’t the first day I looked Joseph in the eye during math and said those words to him, nor was it after a week, but very gradually, I began to see a change in his spirit. He complained less and less about joining me for math. He perked up and put forth more effort into his work. Finally, there was our day of triumph. After once again sharing with Joseph my joy in spending math time with him, he responded with, “Mommy, I really like this time, too!”

Steve shares with our children how his mother taught him to like to work. She would tell her children over and over that they would be working all of their lives so they might as well learn to enjoy it. Those words may not sound terribly profound, but they were said often enough and pleasantly enough that they impacted Steve’s life. He is a man who learned to enjoy his work—in all the various forms it takes.

Moms, our attitude toward homeschooling is going to affect our children’s attitudes toward their studies now and toward homeschooling their own children. If we grumble and complain about the burden of homeschooling, are short-tempered and irritable with them during school, and look forward to school time being over, what attitudes will they pick up from us?

I believe our children will acquire many attitudes from us toward not only homeschooling but also the daily routines of life. Scripture says, “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). When we have a smile on our faces, a happy lilt to our voices, and pleasant words coming from our mouths, our children will automatically be drawn to having good memories of their days in our home. It is likely these memories will actually determine some of their future likes and dislikes.

I know how easy it is for me to fall into the habit of focusing on myself and my workload. Sometimes with being a wife, mother of eight children, homeschooling, homemaking, and other ministering, my tasks can look overwhelming. If I start to complain and murmur about my jobs, my children quickly pick up on my negative attitudes. It is entirely possible that if these attitudes were the habit of my life, my own children could decide not to homeschool their children because of the burden Mom portrayed homeschooling to be in her life.

Are we being hypocrites to act pleasantly and cheerfully toward daily tasks we really don’t care to have to do? Philippians 2:14 tells us to “Do all things without murmurings and disputings. . . .” I see making the choice to have a good attitude toward what we don’t like as choosing obedience to God’s Word. We should certainly pray for the Lord to work in our hearts so that our positive attitude comes from a heart that is truly pleased to do what we are called to do. However, if that heart is still struggling, choose not to let it show on the outside.

Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” We moms have such tremendous potential for positive influence on our children’s future. I want to challenge us to consider the importance of our words toward each area for which the Lord has given us responsibility. We would do well to see to it that those words are, as Proverbs says, “fitly spoken.”

As you think about how your own likes and dislikes have been shaped by your childhood memories, consider the influence you want to have on your children. May we not become so caught up in ourselves that we lose sight of the impact our words will have on our children’s attitudes. May we build pleasant memories of every aspect of daily life for our children by guarding our own attitudes and by keeping them pleasant and positive.