I was pretty certain I knew him.
I was on the other side of the store, choosing a vegetable to cook later in the week. As I stood and debated between asparagus and brussels sprouts (neither of which my children would eat), I saw a man I knew from several church functions.
I was out on a rare trip to the grocery store by myself, and I assumed he was alone as well. The store was quiet and serene (well, as serene as frozen foods and canned goods under harsh lighting can actually be). There was hardly a sound as people went about their shopping.
He rounded the corner and I realized he had both of his children with him. He noticed me, and we struck up a nice, ten-minute conversation. Throughout the entire conversation, neither his toddler nor his preschooler spoke. They sat quietly in the cart, taking in the scene around them. They smiled sweetly at shoppers who passed by.
As our adult conversation wrapped up, I realized this acquaintance of mine would soon forget about our grocery store encounter, but it was bound to weigh heavily on me for weeks.
I made my vegetable selection (asparagus) and headed towards the cashier. The clerk, who has gotten to know my family through our weekly shopping trips, looked shocked to see me. I knew I wasn’t shopping on my normal day, but I couldn’t decipher her alarm.
“I had no idea you were in the store!” she exclaimed. She went on, “I always know when you are here. I recognize the noise of your kids from the moment you enter the building!”
Later that day, I mentioned my grocery store experience during a therapy session. I’ve been seeing a counselor since last November, and while this wonderful woman has never met any of my children, she has gained a great sense of who they truly are.
Loud. Boisterous. Ornery. Social. Rowdy. But all the while happy and cheerful. Invasive. And never shy.
While sitting on the love seat in my counselor’s office, I cried, “Why can’t my kids be calm and quiet like my acquaintance’s children? What am I doing wrong?”
My therapist, in her godly wisdom, looked at me, and without answering my questions, she asked her own:
“Ginger, what do you want your children to look like? Who do you want them to grow up to be? Tell me the characteristics you desire for your kids.”
Drowning in a pool of self-pity, I tried to clear my mind and picture my children in ten to fifteen years.
I sat in the shock of the mental image momentarily, but then I knew I desired for my boys to be independent; there ain’t nobody who wants long-legged, bottomless-pits living at home forever! But because I have kids with special needs, I view independence differently in each of my children. Overall though, I want them to possess an independent mindset – they CAN do hard things. They can overcome obstacles. They can conquer fear. The can persevere, no matter if I am the one still cooking their meals and washing their extra-long-legged jeans when they are 25.
In conjunction with being independent, I pictured my kids as passionate. It’s one thing to live on your own, pay your own bills, and take care of yourself; it’s a whole other thing to do it with passion. I want my kids to find something that lights a fire in them, and then pursue it. I want them to love what they do, and do what they love.
But finally, my mental image took me to the realization that anything worth doing with passion should be tied to Jesus. Jesus and the people he created are the only good reasons to get passionate. I want my children to be Jesus-followers.
At this point, I answered my therapist.
“I want my kids to be independent, passionate, Jesus-followers. Why? What does that have to do with my acquaintance’s kids?”
Instead of answering my question, my counselor responded with another question (therapists are THE worst):
“Well Ginger, are you raising your children to be independent, passionate, Jesus-followers?”
You know what? I am.
I encourage my children to hold conversations with people they don’t know. I model intentional and meaningful relationships, even with the cashier at my local grocery store. I allow my kids to help me make decisions as we shop. I encourage them to put items in the cart (one time we came home with canned salmon. I didn’t even know you could buy canned salmon). I push my children to grow in areas that interest them. I allow them to have a voice and an opinion (even if they still have to try the asparagus after they tell me how much they won’t like it). In everything I do, I attempt to point them towards the gospel and a relationship with their Creator. I pray for their salvation and I actively seek God’s counsel in parenting them (some days, every five minutes).
So, yes, I am raising independent, passionate, Jesus-followers.
But in doing so, they get a little loud at the grocery store.