A little over two years ago as we prepared to move back to Texas, we were packing and purging stuff from a decade’s worth of our life in China. The task proved to be more overwhelming than I imagined, and by the last day we had major decision fatigue. Choosing what to pack and what to toss was tricky and we didn’t always choose well.
So many times, I’ve headed into my kitchen or closet in search of something only to realize I intentionally left it on the other side of the ocean. My hiking boots were one of those things. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve gone in search of them in my closet and came up empty handed, only to realize I left them in China. During the final cut, I simply couldn’t make room without adding an extra bag. I ended up handing them to my good friend and asked her to see if one day she could possibly get them across the ocean for me, but I seriously doubted I’d ever see them again.
The other day, I arrived home from work and found a mystery package on my doorstep. I had absolutely no idea what could be inside, and I didn’t recognize the sender at all. Maybe I ordered something during the Christmas shopping rush and completely forgot about it until now? Curiously slicing open the box, I couldn’t believe what I found inside: my long-lost hiking boots!!! What an amazing and timely surprise. Somehow, the boots were passed along until someone I don’t even know mailed them to me! I felt like God used a dear friend and a stranger to send me a big, giant hug in the mail!
Later that same day after the kids were tucked away in bed, my husband and I were enjoying our favorite TV show. Our quiet hour was interrupted, however, by one of our kids who needed to make a confession and talk some things through. What he did and what we discussed aren’t relevant here, but the fact that he was feeling convicted about breaking a “rule” we hadn’t even mentioned in a few years got me thinking about my hiking boots again. One really has nothing to do with the other, the confession was completely unrelated to the boots, but I couldn’t help but feel that the two were connected somehow.
It took me a few days to make a connection, and I won’t make you wait that long to figure out what a late-night confession and a surprise package containing a long-lost possession have to do with each other. So here it is: my older kids are getting to the age where we finally get to see that they’ve been paying attention! Two years ago, we had a conversation with our son about something important. I hadn’t thought about the conversation in a good long while, but then, seemingly out of nowhere, he confesses that he’s broken a guideline we set out for him during that conversation, and he’s feeling guilty about it!
This unexpected resurfacing of the wisdom we passed along to our son two years ago reminded me that our children are truly paying attention. The example I’m living out, the guidelines we’re discussing, the boundaries we’re setting as parents all matter. We may not see it today, but two years from now our kids could be making a decision based on a conversation we hardly remember having. That bit of wisdom we passed along to them years ago will resurface in their brains when they need it (or so I will continue to pray!)
This got me thinking: what are the things I need to be talking to them about now that might be of use in a few years? He’s on the brink of being a teenager, and I must take this opportunity to continue setting a good example and talking to him about the big stuff that may not necessarily be an issue now but will be sometime in the unknown future. It’s like an empty box that will be mailed to me, full of surprises! What do I put in the box? Prayers! Advice! Do’s and Don’ts! Boundaries! Maybe I’m stretching it, but somehow the timing of the mystery box and the unsolicited confession were such an encouragement to my mama-bear heart. He is listening and paying attention. We’re actually doing something right as parents!
The next time your kids give you a gift that shows they’ve been heeding your advice or paying attention to your example, take delight in the moment. They may be few and far between, surrounded by days that feel like “Sleep, eat, work, eat, repeat,” but the effort you’re putting in as a parent matters. Your kids are hearing you, even if you don’t know it yet!
Have you received a surprise lately? Related to parenting or not, I’d love to hear about it!