This morning was my son's and his cousin's birthdays, and one of our family traditions is to have a pancake breakfast before work/school on birthdays and go round and say what we appreciate about each other.
There were 16 of us for breakfast at 6.30 this morning, including some members of the family who have had pretty hard-lived lives. As we ate breakfast and then shared encouragement with our birthday young people, it was one of those God-breathed moments.
On driving to school I was reflecting on how, as a young mum, I hadn't seemed to be doing anything important - basically I was 'just' a mum for 19 years - but I had thought that if I invested well in our kids while they were young, I would have a better chance of them investing in others as they grew.
Dean and I have always talked about how, as a family, we can love God and work with God in the world in the ordinary things of life, with neighbours and friends, at school and in the community. We didn't see this as an adult's job, but as something we could do as individuals and as a family - very imperfectly, but intentionally.
So, this weekend, it has been a joy to see hearts melting as they were embraced into our family, with our kids being at the core of some healing interactions.
I share this because, in the midst of the stuff of parenting, which, let's face it is often a hard grind, a thankless task, it is good to remember that the end of the book of our parenting is not yet written.
We can't control a lot of what happens in our lives, and we can't control what our children do and say. We can, however, learn to shape our own attitudes and behaviour in response to what is thrown at us, and we can try to hold out hope for the future.
"As a parent or a partner or a leader, you are not meant to be perfect, but you are meant to be aware." So said a mentor, Margaret Considine, to me last week.
Basically, parenting is a huge continuation of a 'growing up' phase, a way of us growing in increasing awareness of our own 'stuff' and of the many perspectives of others, in order to respond well. We are the ones who are growing up, in the process of parenting!
Margaret Considine also said last week, "We can't always control our environment. We can only change our own behaviours. But we can shape the world by living well-led lives."
May you also be encouraged by the importance of the small conversations and traditions in your family that help to shape certain dispositions in your children so that they can be a blessing in the world as they grow.
One day, you too will smile and think "the investment was worth it!"