We live in the age of fast paced internet, camouflaged evil, quick downloads, quick fixes, weird characters and ever changing scenery in the realm of Peppa Pig and such. Against this background I often wonder how I will raise the two little boys that God has so graciously given me. I am a mum of a nine year old girl, a six year old boy and a two and a half year old boy.
Yes I live a very active life, chasing my kids into the bathroom, supervising homework and refereeing fights that break out for no reason at all. And when I do get time to stretch my feet a little and relax a bit, my thoughts seem to constantly wonder off into, "Lord will I be able to raise these kids right? Lord how will I teach them to love you with all their heart mind and soul?"
I recently lost my mother-in-law on April 7, 2017. She was diagnosed with dementia seven years ago and we lost a little bit of her every year. Out of the twelve years that I have been married to Ranjit, I remember having six very good years with my mother-in-law before the disease took her. I shared a very special relationship with her. She treated me like her own child as opposed to treating me like a daughter-in-law. She gave us the tightest hugs and cooked us the most tasty meals. Our times at her home were always filled with fun and laughter.
Athai (as I will be addressing her in this post, means mother-in-law in Tamil) and I are both extroverted personalities and we would chat together for hours on end. Here are some life lessons that she taught me about raising godly boys in an ungodly generation.
Example - Athai was always up before the crack of dawn. The first thing she did, right after brushing her teeth, was to read the Bible. The few times that I did wake up that early, I would see her sitting on the kitchen floor with her Tamil Bible opened out in front of her, intently reading the word of God. After which she would turn on the radio and listen to the Vishwavani broadcast for the day. Her sons grew up watching her do this day in and day out. She never had to ask them to read the Bible and pray. They followed her godly example of leading a disciplined spiritual life. When she came back home in the evening after school she would again sit with her Bible and a huge concordance, learning new things from it. My husband still has his Bible, which he used during his college days. The pages are well worn with use. He often tells me that his mum never once forced him or his brother to read the Bible. They just naturally followed the example that had been set for them.
Generosity - There were many people who attended my athai's funeral. Her life had touched and impacted people from all walks of life. She always had an extra saree to spare for the needy and was ever willing to feed the hungry. She never once turned away anyone who approached her, whether it was a student who needed extra help with her studies or whether it was the hungry at her doorstep. She had a large and generous heart. Very often I've seen my husband and his brother teach students who are weaker in their studies or help fill out college application forms for the watchman's son. Today, I notice that my kids are constantly watching me. They want to see if I will open my purse for the needy or whether I will feed the hungry. My athai lived a life that spelled generosity. I have learnt that the best way to teach my kids to be generous is for me to live a life that shows them the reality of what it means to be generous. Generosity opens up ways to teach them sharing and kindness, which are best taught when children are little.
Stress-free parenting - This is one thing that still blows my mind. My athai never once lost her cool while dealing with her boys. Even when they threatened to grow their hair long or wear torn jeans and flip flops to a wedding (and they have worn torn jeans and flip flops to weddings), it never frazzled her. Or even when her son cried about going to school everyday (for at least year), it never rattled her. She just dealt with each situation patiently. She was always calm when she dealt with her boys. She parented with immense love and showed immense grace to her boys. This is one area I have failed terribly. I feel like I completely lose it when my boys fight with each other or disobey me. I resort to yelling screaming and threatening, which is something she never did. Her corrections were always based on love so they were more long lasting. They obeyed her because they loved her and not because they were afraid of her. My athai would often tell me, "Don't yell at kids in public, don't belittle them in front of everyone. Correct them in private. A little bit of love goes a long way."
Friends - There was always a group of boys playing at my in-law's place during my husband's growing up years. I have no idea how my athai had the time or energy to take care of other boys after working a full day teaching school, but she did. She always had an open home and entertained her sons' friends, thereby always staying in the loop about who her kids hung out with.
Prayer - After my athai's passing I have thought about her a lot. She truly was my role model and I loved her fiercely. She was extremely efficient, caring, loving, forgiving, and full of life. She was a prayer warrior, winning most of her battles on her knees. The one thing that I do remember that we talked about in detail was raising boys in a godly way. She would often tell me this, "I don't know how I raised these boys, Deepa. But I do remember praying Lord I don't know how to raise these boys, please raise them up for me. And that's what He did!"
My athai fought the good fight and finished the race that was laid out for her. Now I know that there is a victorious crown in store for her! While I still contemplate raising up children in this day and age her timeless advice about praying for them rings clear as a bell. That advice gives me so much hope, because the God I believe in is stronger than me and is more than able to accomplish the plans and purposes he has for my children despite my feeble and less-than-perfect parenting.