More than Celery and Carrots

There is a running joke amongst some of my friends that my children were only allowed celery and carrots as a snack. Of course, that is not the case; however, there is merit in the sentiment. I have always tried to embrace the phrase “know better, do better.” As a young mom I only knew what I had been taught by my mom who only knew what she was taught. I decided that I wanted to know more so that I could do more. I started to study the effects of certain choices, food, entertainment, extracurricular activities, and the list goes on. Like all parents, I wanted the best for my children. I wanted them to be successful, well-rounded friends, students, and athletes.  

So, I kept healthy options in the fridge and cupboards. I monitored what TV shows and movies they watched. Understand now that I was not at all a “prude.” I just took storylines they may see and turned them into teachable moments. I encouraged them to always do and be their best without expecting perfection. I also allowed them to see me do the same things for myself. Eat healthy, take care of my body, and engage in things that would enhance my mind. Please do not stop reading because you believe this is me “singing my own praises.” It is not! This is part of the “know better, do better” mentality that I had. I believe all parents have this to some degree. We focus on all of the things that society tells us makes a good person.

My children are now adults and laugh heartily when they hear someone say that they were only allowed celery and carrots. My son gets a bit defensive of his momma, “yeah and we were healthy and happy.”  My daughter is now married to a sweet man that says “that’s poison” when he talks about processed foods. Thankfully she was prepped for that at an early age.  

They remember having dinner at a specific time and at the dining room table. They remember their parents cheering them on at the soccer field, at recitals, halftime shows, and graduations. They also remember that while other kids had the latest electronic games to play or cable tv to watch, they spent hours at a beach or hiking in the mountains. My husband and I wanted them to experience life, not simply watch it. They were not always happy or satisfied with the choices we made for them but let’s be real, it was OUR decision to make. They were the children, and it was our responsibility to mold and shape them into adults. It was not our “job” to give them everything they wanted, or make them happy all of the time. We were not their friends – we were their parents.

Now, having said all of that I must admit that there were times when I chose the easy way out. I made mistakes that came back to bite me, so to speak. I allowed behavior because it was easier and less embarrassing in front of our friends. It did not happen often but enough that they picked up on a pattern. We, the parents, had to break that pattern quickly, and for the most part, we did. I learned something new about how to parent every single day. And now in this new season I am still learning.

As I sit here typing I am reminded of a story I recently told about my daughter. We were approached about her joining a traveling soccer team when she was quite young. We talked to her and asked her thoughts and what she wanted to do. Because this was a travel team, we would be on the road most weekends of the season. She loved soccer. She gave every ounce of herself to the game. She practiced hard and played hard. I fully expected her to jump at the chance to play in an even more competitive arena. She surprised us all when she said no. Her reasons may surprise you. It wasn’t the extra work involved or the idea of having to travel. She didn’t want to give up her Saturdays. You see Saturdays were set aside for adventures. Some would find us at the beach for the weekend. Some were spent at home watching movies. While some took us on a car ride around the state just to see what we could find.  

We made family time a precious priority from the beginning of our children’s existence, and they leaned into it as they grew. Please, please do not misunderstand that I believe playing sports on the weekend is wrong. I do not believe that. Had she chosen to play, we would have supported that choice. I have learned that just as individuals have personalities, so do families. The personality of our family did not support weekends spent at a soccer field. But for some that IS family time. And it is precious! 

As I look back at all the things we did right AND wrong, one specific thing stands out to me. My children saw me read and study the word of God. They heard and saw me pray. They were included in reading the Bible, studying the Bible, and praying. As a parent, I guarded our time together. I made choices that would make them healthy, active, caring members of society. But more importantly, as a Christian parent, I introduced them to Jesus. I showed them how to pray to God and how to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. I made certain they knew that no matter what life threw at them, their strength would be found in HIM. The table that held our nightly dinners also hosted our morning devotions. The car that took us to practice, school, and games also heard daily prayers for our family, our friends, our schools, our church, and our world.  

At this time, one of my children is not following the Lord. I know that he has the knowledge of a Savior and will one day commit his life fully to Jesus. The other one chases after Him with a fierceness that I can only hope to emulate. I would encourage you to protect the time with your children. They will be out of your house before you can blink. What will they take with them for their eventual children? Take the day off, drive around your area to see what wonders you can find. Have dinner at the table and let them talk to you about anything. Take prayer requests on the drive to school and then pray with them. Feed them the Bread of Life along with the celery and carrots.

Written by: Betty Ann NeSmith. Betty Ann lives in Boston, GA with her husband, Payton.