When I was growing up, my dad taught me a few lessons he said over and over again. The first was, “There’s more than one way to get anywhere.” Since I was good at pointing out to him, “This isn’t how you get there!” it was an important first lesson to learn. I’m still pretty good at telling my husband how to drive, so maybe he needs to learn that saying from my dad and use it on me occasionally.
There were four of five maxims he repeated over and over again during the eighteen years I lived under his roof and probably every time I’ve visited him since then. He taught me the power of words over our actions. There were many times in college when I was faced with a decision to make I heard his voice in my head, “You always get hurt when you’re doing something wrong.” Even when he wasn’t around, his lessons were.
Now that I’m the parent myself, I’m learning about the power of words over my kids. They repeat phrases I say, use the same inflections and tone, and sometimes even mimic my volume. I don’t have a list of maxims I’m handing down (at least not yet), but I do have a mantra I repeat every day—”We do hard things.”
My oldest son is in a season of complaining (at least I hope it’s just a season). So when I see those eyes roll, hear a huff coming on, or notice his chest rise as he prepares to give me all the reasons he can’t do what I just asked him to do, I remind him “We do hard things.” Sometimes the hard thing is taking out the trash. Sometimes the hard thing is math. Sometimes the hard thing is having self-control. Whatever is happening in the moment, I remind him we are strong, brave, and resilient by simply saying, “We do hard things.”
Lee and I use it with each other too. When we head to James’s IEP meeting. When he’s on his way to a tough counseling session. “We do hard things” gets repeated over and over again.
Along with pithy sayings that help us, we have a family mission statement. I worked on it years ago, when the boys were young everything was just a theory.
First, I found a verse that represented our goals for raising our kids. Then the rest developed around the verse. I asked myself questions like “What do we value? What are our priorities? What do we want to be known for?” Eventually, the answers came together as this:
As the Peoples Family, we commit to serve and worship God. We will encourage and equip our children to impact their generation for Christ by sharing His love. Our home will be a place of safety, honesty, respect, and love for family members and friends.
“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:4)
I am thankful for the maxims my dad reminded me of again and again. I’m thankful for the mantra we use when faced with difficulties, large or small. And I’m thankful for a verse and mission statement that anchor our family and remind us what’s most important. Words are powerful, and I hope these words spoken over my children will be remembered even when I’m not around to say them anymore.