I’m not much for painting nails. It’s messy. It smears. And it chips. Oh, how it chips.
Yet, I’m mom to four … yes, count them … four girls. And three out of four like, even love, having their nails done. So every now and then I will paint them. I admit, with some shame, it’s not often done with that much enthusiasm.
Yesterday, though, I was convicted of my less-than-enthusiastic nail painting ways by an episode of Call the Midwife. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s about a group midwives who work in London’s 1950’s East End. And it makes me cry. Every time.
In this episode, midwife Chummy finds herself caring for her dying mother. The two have a distant, strained relationship. For her entire life, Chummy’s mother has pushed her away with criticism. Now that Chummy’s an adult and has chosen a simpler life over the one her prominent parents enjoy, every visit with her mother is an opportunity to be told how poorly she’s chosen. And how disappointing she is. If only she were more like them.
Yet something happens as Chummy’s mother lays on her death bed. A simple request for a manicure becomes a rare moment of connection between mother and daughter. Suddenly their differences aren’t quite as important.
While my daughters and I hardly have a relationship akin to Chummy and her mother’s, this episode reminded me of something basic, but important: When it comes to my kids, I need to be intentional not to let differing interests keep us from making relational connections.
Because the reality is that my kids are unique individuals with interests and desires that may very well differ from mine. And, as long as we’re not talking unbiblical habits and sinful patterns, that’s not only okay, but even good. God created them to be uniquely them … not mini versions of me.
In my book Team Us, I share three ways that Ted and I have been intentional when it comes to differing interests in our marital relationship. I’ve come to realize they’re also helpful in our parenting relationships.
1. Build on Common Interests
Building on common “likes” with our girls strengthens our relational bond. It provides shared points of interest that draw us together. For my girls and me, musicals are one such area. From My Fair Lady to The Sound of Music, we love to watch and sing along together. So I look for ways we can build on this interest. For example, we’re all going to see Wicked this spring. And, here’s the thing, because we do have common interests such as this, the places our interests diverge don’t as easily divide us.
2. Allow Differing Interests
As our kids grow, they’re developing some interests I don’t share. It’s just the way it is. One of my girls loves Skillet. Me, not so much. Another one avoids blue jeans like she does Brussels sprouts. I live in mine … and love Brussels sprouts. But I’ve learned that just because I don’t like a particular band or I favor a certain kind of clothing, that doesn’t mean my kids need to also. In fact, it’s up to my husband and me to set a tone in our house that communicates, “It’s not only okay that you like something we may not, but how can we encourage you in this interest?”
3. Learn to Stretch
In Ted and my marriage, we’ve learned that just because we don’t naturally share an interest, doesn’t mean that we can’t make an effort to give something a try. The same is true with our kids. Painting nails is an area I’m learning to stretch in. Not just in doing it more, but also in showing more enthusiasm for it. Because it’s something that brings my girls “joy,” I can attempt to share in that with them.
I want to look back decades from now and see that I was a mom who encouraged her daughters to embrace and fully live out their individuality. Without guilt. Without criticism. Without disappointment. Unlike Chummy’s mother, I want to cheer them on to be uniquely them, free to explore their interests and likes … even if it means nail polish and I become friends.