When my kids were little, my husband and I were challenged to create a list of our family values. It was a messy process, but during the chaos of chiseling out the bedrock of our beliefs, inspiration struck: we don’t want to raise children, we want to raise adults. With that thought ringing in our ears, eleven values were born, written down, typed into our phones, and etched upon a chalkboard in our kitchen.
These values became the foundation of all our parenting decisions. They made sense to all of us and were something our kids could take with them, if they so chose, as they left our house. They gave me a true north when navigating the messy, unexpected moments of parenting.
When I spoke in church on Mother’s Day, I talked about two of the eleven values. I had no idea the stress I would cause by not revealing the nine unmentioned values. I underestimated people’s curiosity and drive to discover the unknown. Well, be at peace. I will reveal all eleven values. I will take them one at a time, because I believe a blog should be nugget sized. These are specific to our family, and we have tweaked them over the years. Some we stole from John Richmond, a speaker at a conference we attended. Others we stumbled upon, and a few of them found us. Let’s begin.
People Are More Important Than Stuff
“Hey kids,” I called to my young tribe of toddlers, “this is Amanda. She is going to babysit you tonight.”
“Well,” Drake said in the deceptively sweet voice of a two-year-old, “I won’t remember your name because I don’t love you.”
It was one of those moments when you wish your child had not developed clear speech patterns.
Over the next several months, no matter how many times we told Drake he didn’t need to inform the unfortunate that he did not love them, this scenario repeated itself with annoying regularity. So, we knew we needed to teach our kids the value of people. As we were rolling that thought around in our heads, another scenario happened.
“You broke it!” Makenna shouted at Emery.
“What happened?” I intervened.
“I told Emery she could use my eye shadow, but she dropped it and broke it!” Makenna wailed, pointing at the cracked container of colorful powder on the floor. “She should never use my stuff again!”
“But I dropped it because Makenna scared me when she told me to be careful,” Emery defended herself, tears welling in her eyes.
So, people are more important than stuff was added to our family values. Emery is more important than eye shadow. She is more important than the shirt she spilled Kool Aid on. She is more important than the flowers she dug up to see if there were any bugs underneath it.
A great number of offenses between the siblings involve stuff: The breaking of stuff, the borrowing of stuff, the dirtying of stuff. But, life is messy and accidents happen. A measure of grace goes a long way, and valuing people as more important than stuff helps to keep perspective.
As the kids got older, this value evolved. They weren’t extremely possessive of their stuff, but their pride was growing like someone doused it with Miracle Grow.
“Is Josiah my friend or not?” Drake asked one evening after completing his homework.
“He is your friend,” I told him. “Why do you ask?”
“I waved to him when the fifth grade line passed my fourth grade line in the hallway, but he didn’t wave back.”
Stuff is not always a material object. Stuff can be the pride of being in fifth grade while your brother is still in fourth. Stuff can be feeling more important than another person. Stuff can be a desire to be in charge, or it can be a desire to bully.
We explained to the children that their siblings were more important than their stuff, whether that was their shirt or their pride. So, they were expected to acknowledge each other in public. If they saw one another at school, there were to wave or high-five or nod.
Parents have stuff too. Stuff can be your yard when your grown up daughter needs you to watch her hole-digging dog. Stuff can be sleep when your teenage son’s curfew is past your bedtime. In fact, at all ages, stuff is sleep for parents.
Life is full of stuff. Forever, stuff will clamor for our devotion. But, forever, people are more important.