One of those conclusions is something I have become very passionate about - being intentional in all that Michael and I do as parents. We no longer live in a culturally Christian culture - a culture that used to affirm the Christian values being taught at home, a culture that, in a sense, could pick up the slack if a parent failed to train their child in the ways of the Lord. The complete opposite is now true. Instead of building up and supporting family values, the world is waiting to devour our children at every step by teaching things like greed, false notions of happiness and freedom, and that authority is somehow bad. These cultural "virtues" show up everywhere (mostly in children's media - cartoons, supposedly kid-friendly movies, music, and advertisements) and, as parents, if we are not careful and discerning about everything our children are exposed to, the battle for our children's souls will become very difficult.
Not only is "being intentional" found in the things we don't expose our kids to, but it is also found in the things we do expose our kids to. Children are naturally inclined to things that are true, good, and aesthetically beautiful, and it is our job to nurture these things in our home. Character building takes place in the most simple and mundane things that our children deal with (at least it is simple and mundane to us as adults - to them it is discovering a whole new world). From learning how to deal with frustrations in building a puzzle to learning from the exciting world exposed through literature, children are forming who they are - especially during the early childhood years.
As parents, realizing the power in a simple moment can often be a daunting thing. We may already be overwhelmed with the dishes and the laundry, not to mention the teaching moments that occur a hundred times a day. But, again, being a parent is not about being perfect. Being a parent is about being intentional with everything we say and do.
How has this being intentional manifested itself inside our home? Well, first off the TV stays off. I used to watch a little "news" in the morning along with a show here or there while I nursed Max. Avila got to watch a few shows during the day and in the evening, more "news." But I put news in quotes because all news has become is tales of sex predators and death and destruction. All of that is scary to me, not to mention a little child who may hear bits and pieces and not really understand what is going on. Even if Avila could put into context everything she hears, I don't want her to know the world as a dark and sometimes scary place - at least not quite yet. She still gets to watch something educational or holy (like a few PBS shows with no commercials, or her bible shows, or non-fiction documentaries) but only for about an hour a day. Occasionally she gets to watch Charlotte's Web or Finding Nemo (2 of her favs) and we will introduce other classic children's movies as we discern their content to be something worthwhile for her to be exposed to.
Next off, we are intentional about the toys we let our kids play with. Toys that build creativity and vocabulary, encourage imaginative play, and foster independence, concentration, and self-control are at the top of the list. We certainly don't have every new gadget, but when a 2 1/2 year old can occupy herself with a sink full of bubbles and 2 measuring cups for 45 minutes, we really don't need all that other stuff. Books are in every corner of every room and my current goal is to read at least 5 books to Max and 10 books to Avila everyday, for reading and words are the best thing kids can be exposed to. I attempt to keep our home a sanctuary for Michael and our children so that when they are here, we can all find joy and peace no matter the world around us.
We are also becoming more intentional about all the other areas in our life - areas that don't directly have anything to do with our children. Areas such as our personal prayer time, leisure time, money, etc. My new motto is, "if it doesn't help me achieve my goal to be a holy and loving wife and mother, put it away, turn it off, root it out, etc..." As a result, I've found myself spending more time reading and praying and at peace.
To some, this "being intentional" may come off as being overly-controlling or over-protective. But I have found that in the current world we live in, there is no such thing as being over-protective. Yes, we will expose our children to the ways of the world (for although we attempt not to be of the world we do still live in the world), but we will expose them on our terms and according to what is developmentally appropriate for them.
Despite Michael and I not being perfect at this parent thing, we do still hope that God will bless our desires to be intentional. I pray he will bless the goals we have made for our little family and I pray he will bear fruit in our marriage and in our children from all the hard work we put in. And if Proverbs has anything to say about it, I am confident that God will do all of the above.
"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."