By Hannah Grieser
He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. —Psalm 1:3
As I write this, harvest season has begun in the fields, and decision-making season has begun in our home. Now is the time for choosing electives and registering for activities and signing up for volunteer opportunities. It’s a process that’s as easy as checking a box—and as momentous as shaping our kids’ characters. Every decision to spend our kids’ time in one way requires not spending it another way. And the more kids, the more complicated the decisions become. All of it requires wisdom.
These choices may end up being fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but we can’t know for sure. We’ve all heard stories of that one teacher, or that one book, or that one race that made a deep impact on the rest of a person’s life. It’s possible that the art elective or the football season will be just that kind of pivotal experience for one of our kids.
But even the “minor” decisions remain part of our duty to train and shape our children’s everlasting souls—a daunting responsibility if ever there was one.
NO COOKIE-CUTTER KIDS
My husband and I have five sons—all the same sex and from the same parents. Same home, same town, same church, and the same classical Christian school, but, oddly enough, they are not the same person. And praise God for that.
Sameness would certainly be easier to manage, especially in a biggish family like ours, but it would also be far less glorious. Unity is a wonderful pursuit, but we shouldn’t mistake it for uniformity. There is no easy, one-size-fits-all recipe for raising a faithful, fruitful kid.
Each year, my husband and I must work hard and watch carefully to understand our kids’ unique strengths and weaknesses. We constantly need to assess both our changing family dynamics and our unchanging priorities, and to make our decisions accordingly.
What’s best for each kid? What’s best for our family? What’s best for the kingdom of God? Sports or music? Weight lifting or oil painting? Dinner at the family table or dinner at the football field? The answer, we’ve found, is clear: it depends.
A FRUITFUL ORCHARD
We have certain non-negotiable activities that we’ve required of all our children, regardless of their gifts and interests. They all have to learn to read, find notes on a piano, play a sport, attend church, etc. But beyond those basics, we face a range of difficult choices.
We have to decide how much to cut with the grain—to encourage our kids’ in their natural gifts and interests, and how much to work against it—to do valuable things that are difficult or even painful at the time. Too much of the former, and they may become arrogant and lazy. Too much of the latter, and they may get exasperated and discouraged.
But the difficult and easy things rarely remain the same over time, even for the same kid. The kid who hates phonics now may later become the teen who just can’t put down a good book. The kid who struggled through PE last year may discover a love for basketball this year. So pay attention. Don’t pigeonhole your kids in your mind (“the shy one,” “the sporty one,” etc.) and then fail to notice the people they are becoming—both in good ways and in bad.
Ultimately, the fruits of the Spirit are the traits we all long to see in our children. But just as no two trees are alike, even in the same orchard, so also no two kids are alike, even in the same family. To encourage fruitfulness, we need to watch for which branches need pruning. Learn which roots need watering. Observe the wind and the weather—the forces from outside—that affect our children’s ability to flourish. And then, even as we check those boxes and pay those registration fees, let us remember to pray for an abundant harvest. ✤
HANNAH K. GRIESER is an ACCS alumna and the mother of 5 sons, including one cancer survivor. She lives in northern Idaho where, in addition to managing her family’s full schedule, she works as a writer and graphic designer. She is the author of numerous articles and of the book The Clouds Ye So Much Dread (Canon Press, 2017).