As promised on this blog's First Anniversary, The Missionary Mum will feature a guest post from one of my many missionary mum friends who are working all over the world.
Today I am really pleased to introduce Eluned, who I met along with her husband Mat, while Mark and I were studying at All Nations. In fact, we were assigned to help them settle in as they arrived in our second year ... we soon became great friends. Eluned and Mat are both British and are currently serving as CMS missionaries in Madrid, Spain. Zac joined the family in 2009 after they had moved out there. They have their own website and blog, full of information and stories about their work, lives and cultural experiences of being in a different country but for this post, Eluned writes for me.
I think that the most important thing in the entire world when it comes to childrearing is being advocates for our kids. They're ours. They didn't ask to be born (as when they get older they may well tell us!) and we are responsible for their wellbeing above pretty much anything else in the world.
While being an MK (missionary kid) has lots of positives MKs also have additional challenges in their lives, and rarely will anyone else who hasn't been in a similar situation understand them fully. So it is our responsibility as parents (and significant others) to understand them and advocate for them. To get them. As missionary parents our ministry responsibilities start with our kids (and our spouse) - they are absolutely not a tagged on extra. And they should never feel like they are put last in the equation.
An amazing example of being advocates for our kids is from a vicar we know. I was utterly challenged and impressed when he said to me some years ago that it was his son's birthday (he was maybe fourteen or fifteen) and the son and his friends were having a party at the house and he'd bought them some beers. Because he'd rather they were drinking weak beer in the house than out somewhere in a park and he didn't know where they were and drinking.
Now, we may have different reactions to alcohol and underage drinking. But this father understood the context his son was in. That was the reality of the place they lived in. That is the reality of many teenagers in the UK. And he chose to engage with it in a way that trusted his son and put their relationship first above rigidly applied rules.
The last thing you need as the vicar's son is the additional pressure of a parent who requires you to meet impossible standards of behaviour so that you don't tarnish their reputation. Imagine how many of us if it was us might have thought "we can't let them drink in here, it's the vicarage! What will the parishioners think?"
That son knew that he was more important to his father than what other people thought. I am so grateful to that friend for the example he's given me over the years of how to put your kids in first place.
I remember another missionary I knew many years ago letting her child behave what I thought at the time was appallingly - and it was only later in the day that I found up that the child had been up all night because of some very difficult circumstances. Her mum knew that and felt no need to defend her actions to others. Praise God for wise parenting!
Recently when we were back in the UK some people commented that my three year old should be sleeping through the night, I had to say. "Yes, and he does sleep well at home usually but he's just moved six times in four weeks and he just wants to check we're still there." I had to understand him - he wasn't being a pain, he was stressed and confused. Everything in his life had changed more times in six weeks than many people's changes in a five year span.
If your child is acting up because of circumstances, don't punish them. (Easier said than done!)
At the other end of the spectrum I heard a very sad story of a friend who was sent off to boarding school in the UK while his parents were missionaries in Africa. And when they were in the UK for Christmas they told him on the phone that they couldn't come and see him because they were ministering to the "poor Africans who had nobody" in London. That little boy (now a grown man) also "had nobody" but felt that to ask for his parents support would be to tear them away from God's work. And that he wasn't that valuable. My heart breaks.
So lets be advocates for our kids like no one else can be. Let's bless them and encourage them and spend the time it takes to get them. And lets encourage each other in this weird and wonderful journey of missionary parenting and change.