One of the ways I believe I have grown as a parent is learning that relationship is the foundation to discipling, discipline, and mentoring. Feel the strength in the hug of child the morning after you took the time to get to know their heart and hear their stories the night before. See how eager they are to spend time with you after you have spent a simple half hour of your day reading them stories and asking about their family. Always care to know how they are and see how quickly they soon care to ask "how are you?" in return. With relationship they will want to listen to you because you have taken the time to listen to them. You know them. They will then desire your wisdom and advice and even your correcting.
This tour I have been more intentional about being relational. I have started writing down everything I am learning about each child in a little notebook much sooner than the idea came to me last time. I feel like getting to know them has just been accelerated. That is the best part of being here, and in my opinion the very heart of parenthood. A wise friend, Vic, came back to church one morning to tell me about the great male bonding time he'd had that night with the boys. I asked him what he meant, and he told me that on some of our early nights to bed he stays up an extra half hour with the children and gives them the time to just talk with him- to be candid, ask all the questions that wonder themselves away in their mind, the silly ideas that make their dimples show when they laugh, the chance at the end of a busy school day to just be silly together, or sometimes allow the conversation to turn into a deeper theological discussion.
Learning our children's hearts... I want to do that more too. Those kinds of things don't just simply fit into this schedule, I need to allow myself to be available for that to happen.
So for the past two nights when the hosts have said their goodnights and we have prayed together, I have stayed behind the extra half hour to talk to the girls. I have learned about their journey to faith, what their families believe, the siblings they have lost, their thoughts on worship music in churches...and tonight I was asked to tell them stories about my Grandmother. Tomorrow we have another half hour or so date on the bus to look at the pictures that illustrate my favourtie memories of her that I shared. We laughed as I told them of the time when I was little and stuffed coffee beans up my nose and then had to be dragged to the hospital to have them removed- only to laugh harder when Deborah said she did the same thing as a child, and so did Victo's sister. I don't know what it is that prompts children from no matter where in the world to do such a thing as shove beans up their noses! But we laughed together, and in just two nights we are closer.
"Auntie Laura you are like Jesus! You come in, spend time with us, care about us, talk with us, and then pray with us and bless us! It is like Jesus is lying in my bed beside me!" (Deborah)
That is the highest compliment I could ever be paid I think.
Tonight two little girls grabbed my hands and quickly shut the door behind them and begged for the chance to talk again.
Tomorrow they will hang off me and tell me they love me, tomorrow I will feel the love in their hug, tomorrow we will share more stores and pictures. Tomorrow will bear the fruit of today's strengthened relationships.