WHEN an acquaintance once referred to her children as ``home-grown friends,'' I thought it was a delightful expression. But the day my mother repeated a question one of my own children had asked her, I was brought up short to realize that it was much more than ``delightful'' to make friends with one's children. It was imperative. ``Grandma,'' my little boy had asked, ``did mama ever used to smile when she was young?'' You can imagine how I felt. I was trying to bring up two boys to know right from wrong, good from bad, and all the things children need to learn. And until this shattering question came up I thought I was doing all right. (I even thought I was smiling a lot!) But apparently not. I suddenly saw that although I loved and cherished the boys, they weren't likely to benefit fully from their homelife if they viewed their mother as an unsmiling ``old'' woman!
So I prayed. I had learned in Christian Science that answers to our prayers are consistently found in quiet study of the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy.1 So I turned first to Matthew for insights on how Jesus treated little children. ``Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.''2
Of such -- of the innocence and purity of the child-thought, the Master appeared to be saying -- was the kingdom of heaven. So shouldn't I be protecting the innocence, the pure teachableness, of my own children, and not scaring them off with so much sternness?
Until the day of the ``smile'' question, I had felt a heavy responsibility for the growth and development of my boys; a sense that because I was bringing them up alone I must make very sure to have rules and discipline so they would respect my authority. Rules and discipline are not, of course, bad things. Yet what I hadn't realized was that by setting myself up as the household disciplinarian, personally responsible for how the children ``turned out,'' I was inadvertently shutting God out of the picture.
I should have known better. I had learned through study of the Bible and Mrs. Eddy's writings that man is made in the image and likeness of God; that each individual in his real spiritual being is an idea of God, His beloved child. Then it had to follow that although I was indeed responsible for the day-to-day care of my children, we were all three in fact children of the same Father, God, spiritually nourished and cared for by His infinite goodness.
The more I prayed about the idea of God's care for all of us, the more peaceful I began to feel about my role as parent. Certainly there needed to be rules -- wisely and lovingly crafted. But by getting beyond what I had seen as the not-always-pleasant but vital need for firm discipline, I found we could all three move naturally -- as ``home-grown friends'' -- into a Christlike environment of living in accord with God's rules, with His law of goodness and right, which tenderly impels what each one of us needs to do -- for Him. And in so doing we would more consistently express the Christliness we were all capable of expressing.
Mrs. Eddy once wrote to a Christian Scientist serving as a Reader in a branch Church of Christ, Scientist: ``Christ is meekness and Truth enthroned.... It is not a stern but a loving look which brings forth mankind to receive your bestowal, -- not so much eloquence as tender persuasion that takes away their fear, for it is Love alone that feeds them.... The little that I have accomplished has all been done through love, -- self-forgetful, patient, unfaltering tenderness.''3
On that ever-memorable day when I heard about my little boy's wistful question I began to look deeply into my heart for ways to keep my tenderness from faltering through a maze of rules. And that was how, step by step, trusting all three of us to God, I made friends with my children.
We're all fine friends to this day, and now I have grandchildren to smile at. Also, in case you're wondering, the really important rules of growing up -- God's law of mutual loving and goodness -- were all followed.
1The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 2Matthew 19:13, 14. 3The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 247.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26