Friday, November 9, 2012

The Heart of a Teacher

Do you remember how to choose good lettuce?" 
"Yes, you look for one that is firm and heavy."
"Good!  Can you get me a head of lettuce?"
"Yes, Mom"
"Thank you."

I was near this mother and daughter for much of my Aldi shopping trip today.  Their venture was peppered with lessons on how to choose good produce, how to price check, and how they would be using various ingredients.  The mother  was patient in teaching, and the daughter was cheerful in obeying.  She was a real help to her mother.  I'd guess her age to be about ten, and I was impressed.  I wish I had told them how much I admired both of them before they checked out.  

While I watched them, I couldn't help but be reminded of Helene and her oldest.  They even looked a little alike, with both mom and girl wearing glasses.  Helene is one of the best mothers I have ever had the privilege to watch.  Some of my favorite memories are of watching her cook with her oldest girl.  Helene uses every part of a cooking task to teach in some way, and it has really paid off.  Her eleven year old daughter often cooks full meals for them!  I know her daughters aren't perfect, but whenever I've seen them, they are more likely obeying cheerfully than resentfully.

Helene and I keep in frequent contact because of the blog, but I am only able to observe her parenting once a year.  While they are in America, her family spends a week with us between visiting their respective families.  While they are here, I occasionally feel a bit embarrassed when my children act disrespectfully, or I lose my temper.  However, when they leave us, I never feel depressed about my parenting.  Instead, I feel inspired.  I see her patience and think, "I can do that!" I note the way she and her husband work together, and I resolve to treat my husband with the same respect.  I don't compare my children with hers, but I am able to learn from her about how to be a better mom.

I think the best relationships between women are characterized with this kind of learning.  "Older women* likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored" (Titus 2:3-5).  Helene teaches me by her very actions.  If she had said, "Melissa, you are parenting all wrong.  You are not consistent with your discipline like I am, and your children's behavior shows it," she would have been absolutely right.  However, that kind of attitude would have caused me to put my back up, close my ears, and refuse to heed even her example.  

Instead, Helene parents well in front of me.  She inspires me to ask her questions.  A few months back, I was having a lot of trouble with my son.  I skyped Helene in desperation.  I knew she might have had similar times with her youngest daughter who is about my son's age.  They are both messers.  You know the kind, right?  The child who will put a whole roll of toilet paper in the sink and let it disintegrate (Helene's), or the child who will pull every bit of paper off an entire box of crayons and leave little bits of paper all over the floor (mine).  Since I had watched Helene parent, I knew she might have some advice or could at least commiserate with me.  She did both.  I received some great advice, and I felt better about my son's actions knowing I was not alone.  

Helene's attitude is one I need to emulate.  I tend to give too much unsolicited advice.  I am too blunt, and tact is often the last thing on my mind.  Teaching by inspiration works much better than teaching by nagging.  If I am to be sensible and pure, as I am commanded, I need to learn how to teach in a sensible and pure manner, without judgment but with kindness and by example.  Do any of you have a woman in your life who has the heart of a teacher?

*Helene is not an "older woman," but she does have more experience with marriage and parenting than I do.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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