Loving your children: Making memories
Before having children and even when our babies are small, most of us think phileo love comes naturally. And in many ways it does. However, as the children grow up and their sin natures exhibit themselves, we find our affection for them waxing and waning based on their performance. This reveals our own love deficiency, exposing the fact that our "love" is not really love at all but rather a self-centered desire for others to do what we want and to make us feel good. If our phileo love came naturally, God would not need to tell older women to teach younger women how to do it. Love is something we have to grow in, even for our husbands and children for whom we feel the most natural love.
We grow in love for our children and they grow in love for us as we build memories together. Building memories is a way we can serve our children and bind our hearts together with cords of love. Here are a few memory-building ideas:
Travel together. Take your children places. Help them see the world. I always felt sorry for families/children who had never been outside their own small sphere. My parents took their vacation time and hard-earned money to take us to see the beauties and wonders of our own country. What great memories those are even today. Our immediate family had the privilege of traveling to many places. Since we lived in Texas and my husband's family lived in Washington State, we used the travel opportunity to stop at various places along the way—and built some great memories. Some are memories we now laugh about, like driving out of our way to see the Joshua Tree National Park; others were wonderful adventurous surprises, like hiking and climbing in Zion National Park. Our travels broadened all of us and gave us a greater appreciation for the amazing, beautiful world God has created for us to enjoy.
Go on "field trips." We've been able to take in a lot of interesting events and places, learning so many things by intentionally scheduling field trips. We've gone to the opera, to the symphony, to pop concerts, to the theater; we've toured bread-making operations, the post office, an automobile manufacturing plant, a candy-making factory, etc. etc. We've gone on hikes, seen oceans and waterfalls, lighthouses and mammoth trees. We've gone to museums of all kinds. All these things add to our learning and enjoyment of the world. The world is a wonderful place, and God has gifted mankind with so many different skills and talents. Teach your children to marvel at the gifts God has given to man.
Do special seasonal family outings. This summer my two youngest daughters and I with some of their friends had the opportunity to go kayaking on the Hood Canal—a wonderful afternoon that lingers pleasantly in my memory. Now with my grown children and the grandchildren, we've been able to meet up at a pumpkin patch/corn maze in the fall. Such fun, happy memories of crisp blue-sky days, running through 7-foot tall corn stalks, sliding down haystacks, choosing pumpkins. One year, it was splashing through puddles in the pouring rain, and squishing through a muddy bog of a pumpkin patch. We wound up with muddy water in our shoes just so we could get the perfect pumpkin! That was a memory of a different sort! But fun just the same. Though we didn't get to do it every year, our family tried to take one ski trip every winter. Yes, it's a bit pricey, but the family memories are priceless. I'll never regret all the hassle of getting ready, packing up all the gear, the long drive to the mountain, the cold, and my own ineptness on the slopes. Watching the children come down the mountain with such ease and grace, seeing their red-cheeked enthusiasm is a scene I can replay just by closing my eyes. I love watching their happiness and their developing skills!
Read to your children. You can travel the world and beyond through books. We've read so many stellar books and learned so many things. Books enable us to think more deeply about life, to consider character qualities, to analyze right and wrong responses, to empathize with others, to evaluate our own lives, to learn discernment, to open our hearts and minds to new ideas. Our evening family time was largely gathering together in the living room or in our bedroom to read aloud together. I still read aloud to our two youngest daughters at night even though they are now in their twenties. I love that time together, to experience and discuss a good book.
Play games. I mentioned this in last week's blog. We've had lots of good family time together playing games. Playing games teach many good things: waiting your turn, staying focused, strategizing, thinking ahead, good sportsmanship, rejoicing with those who rejoice (i.e., those who win!), dealing with disappointment, circumspection, team work, and anticipating the moves of others. There are many good games on the market now that have just the right amount of chance vs. strategy, that involve teams, or that teach some area of knowledge.
Being the last day of October (Reformation Day!), this will be the last blog on "loving your children" for a while. There is much more that could be written, but I will save that for another time and go on next week to the next topic in Titus 2. Just remember this, phileo love is something we grow in, woven together strand by strand through the daily choices and daily activities of life. The more you give of yourself, the more you will receive back. At times it may feel like a strain, a stretch—both time-wise and financially; it may feel like you are losing yourself. Let the words of Jesus guide you when those thoughts come: "Whoever loses his life will find it." I can certainly say "amen!" to that. With the holidays coming up, there will be lots of opportunities to build happy family memories, to extend yourself to serve up happy memories to your family. So light a fire in the fireplace (if you have one!), mix up some steaming hot chocolate topped with spray cream and little sprinkles, pull out a good book, cozy up together in housecoats, slippers, and blankets and . . . make a memory.