I was teaching middle school at my kids’ private Christian school. Molly was eight, Micah was five.
They loved having their mom teach at their school. They bragged about it. They visited my classroom every chance they got. They’d call out and wave frantically to me from the playground as I walked by.
Molly would beg me repeatedly, “Please don’t quit teaching at my school until after I’m out of middle school. I want you to be my teacher!”
Back then, they both wanted my instruction. Craved it. I was in a league all my own. Friends, texting, Twitter and social activity weren’t yet fierce competitors for their minds and hearts. The window of mom influence was wide open.
Fast forward five years to 2008. Molly is in 7th grade. And I’m in the fight of my life for any shred of a voice in her life. The thought of me being her teacher (I wasn’t) completely horrifies her. I’m in a league of my own now, alright. I’m a pariah — at least for a little while.
The same phenomenon occurs a few years later when her brother hits 7th grade.
No one warned me. I didn’t know. Overnight, the window seemed to slam shut.
It’s not really closed. Molly’s in high school now and the window has opened a bit wider than it was in middle school. But it’s definitely much narrower than it was back then in those carefree “Hi, Mom!” on the playground days.
So, young mamas, benefit from my hindsight. I implore you to maximize your influence in your children’s lives in the following areas:
Faith. Lay as strong of a foundation as you possibly can. Pray with them often. I said prayers all the time throughout the day. Things like, “Mom lost her keys! Pray I’ll find them!” (I prayed that one alot). Or, when one of my children would lose something: “Let’s stop and pray we’ll find it.” God answered again and again. And it built their faith. Read the Bible with them. Talk about how it applies to their lives. Live it out in your own. Make that wall as strong as possible. The world will waste no time trying to tear it down as they get older.
Academics. Oh, how I wish I had set better patterns for my children when they were young. My friend and blogging partner Kathy was great at this. From the time the kids were small, she established a routine. She set up a homework station with all the necessary materials. They would come in, unwind for a few minutes and talk about their day. Then, they went to work. Nothing else happened until it was done. I’m not saying we can control our kids’ academic success. It is ultimately up to them. But laying some groundwork and good habits can go a long way and save you many future battles.
Routines. Being on time for school, chores and picking up after themselves: Before they hit middle school is when we’ll have the most success with instilling these patterns, mamas. I’ve paid a price for not setting better boundaries and consistently enforcing consequences in these areas. It can seem exhausting to try to keep on top of these things when they’re young. But you’ll be far more exhausted when they’re teenagers and you’re still not getting much help in these areas. Trust me.
Influence with our children is a precious — and not unlimited — commodity.
Make the most of it while the window is still open wide.