Sometimes I worry about messing up my kids. I think about all of the things that I could say or do that would scar them. I think about the little things that my Sunday school teachers said that changed my theology for years. I think about off-handed remarks that teachers made that left a lasting impression on me. And I get concerned.
Then I remember the countless theological discussions that my dad and I had in the car. He would sit through a relentless barrage of questions, trying to answer each one thoughtfully. Many false doctrines met their end during those discussions. I know that it had to be annoying. It was during one of these discussions that I pulled the truth out about Santa Clause. At least that's how dad tells it. The way I remember it, he gave in pretty quickly.
I remember the conversations that my mom and I had sitting in the kitchen floor, and the time that she pulled out her "dream house" floor plans. I don't think that she ever thought she'd get her own home, but it's almost finished now. It's a part of being a pastor's wife, until recently, that there is a peculiar uncertainty. If your husband loses his job, you lose everything. Churches are moving away from the parsonage approach for that reason. I am excited to see my mom moving into the first home she and dad have ever owned. I appreciate her sharing that dream with me when I was nine. It helps me join with her in her joy.
I remember "camping" in the den with the whole family huddled around our gas logs. We would pull all the mattresses in one room, watch a movie, and get something similar to a night of sleep.
I remember the ritual of choosing a Christmas tree from the farm and cutting it down. After that we would watch dad wrestle with the tree until he deemed that it was straight in its stand. Then he would spend way more time than anyone thought necessary putting the lights on in his meticulous way. Finally, we would put each ornament on the tree. Bigger ones toward the bottom, lighter ones toward the top. Well after Christmas, we would go through a similar ritual of taking down each ornament and packing them away carefully for the next year. Edwin doesn't understand the value of such traditions, so I'm hoping that we can find a Latin American tradition that fits our family in a similar way.
I remember all of the camping trips. During some, we thought that we would freeze. Others were so hot that we could barely sleep. Many contained a trip to the ER for Micah. Most included a sunburn for me. All created memories, and (almost) all were fun.
The Christmas before I left home for college, dad framed the page of his prayer journal that he had begun for me when I was an infant. There were lines on the page for various areas, but the margins were filled with random notes as well. I know that his prayer has changed my life, and Edwin's. Dad had been praying for him too, though not by name.
I share all of these memories with the hopes that it will bring comfort to anyone who may find themselves worrying about emotionally scarring their children. Although a momentary slip of the tongue may leave a lasting impression, it's the consistent love and nurturing that really take root. We will make mistakes as parents, but when we strive to raise our children God's way and cover the lives of our children with prayer, good things happen.