If you’re going to give, give graciously

14 June 2019

I’ve shared before some of my Dad’s parenting one-liner gems. His oft-repeated phrases formed the background of my character development, and I am so grateful for that! Paul David Tripp writes that “parenting is about the willingness to live a life of long-term, intentional repetition,” and my Dad was more than willing.

As I became a parent, I fully expected to pick up the mantel of his favorite phrases and impart his wisdom to a new generation – and I have. What I didn’t expect was that these phrases would still be growing and changing me, years and years after I first heard them, years after you’d expect I might have wrung every drop of goodness from them.

One in particular I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. My Dad would often admonish us, “if you’re going to give, give graciously.” In childhood, this meant that it wasn’t enough to simply shove a coloring book across the table at my sister if I begrudgingly agreed to relinquish it; no, I was supposed to politely (graciously) place it in her hands, ideally with a smile. Our parents were not often satisfied with the bare minimum, and they definitely weren’t satisfied until our hearts were in the right place.

These days, I am the parent, and as the parent, many requests are made of me by a certain little girl. Another pancake? One more book? Can we go outside to draw with chalk? Can we go upstairs? Can you play with me? Can you draw with me? Can you carry me??? Sometimes there’s a clear yes or no to these kinds of requests, and that’s that.

But often, it’s up to me. A year or so ago, I found myself often frustrated, saying yes but only begrudgingly. Feeling over a barrel, I’d huff out an acquiescence before tossing the pancake onto the plate or the chalk into her hand with a harrumph. June usually seemed indifferent to my attitude, but I immediately felt the sting of it. Not only did I feel like my child was getting something over on me (never a pleasant feeling), but I realized I was robbing myself of one of the best parts of parenthood: delighting my child by giving her good gifts. And for what? Usually, the no was simply reflexive and not rooted in any particular reasoning beyond my own agenda.

Thinking back to my Dad’s phrase, I retrained myself to pause for a beat when faced with a request. Was there a real reason to say no? I’d say a gentle but firm no and stick to it. No good reason to say no? I’d say a wholehearted yes, and fully enjoy the glee that followed. I let my yes be yes and my no be no.

And now I get the gift of saying with a smile, yes, let’s have another pancake.

Thanks, Dad. Happy Father’s Day to you and to all the wonderful dads out there. xoxo

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June 14, 2019 12:06 pm

I’ve been reading your blog for years, and every time I’m faced with a question like “Mom, can we do chalk/Mom, can we ride bikes in the culdesac/MOM MOM MOM MOMMMMY MAMA MOM” I think of what you wrote once about slowing down for our kids — something along the lines of “If I’m too busy for June, I’m too busy.” This post reminded me of that same sentiment. So often we say no because it seems like the easy/lazy answer, but actually, way more often I find it’s easier to say yes!

June 14, 2019 9:15 pm

This is so beautiful, Em. You have an eloquent way with words! Happy Father’s Day to John and all of the great fathers out there like yours, my own, Andrew and so many others. Xo

June 15, 2019 2:56 am

I read a Cup of Jo article once which talked about listening to each of our kids’ request, however bizarre (e.g can I wear my swimming trunks in the bath?) and thinking ‘well why not?’. It’s become central to my parenting philosophy, as it means I really listen to every request my son makes, and in turn we have a lot more fun. He slows me down and joyfully changes my perspective time after time.

June 16, 2019 2:08 pm

Happy to have provided the subject matter for today’s post! Interestingly, when I first propounded it, I said, “If you’re going to give in, give in with grace.” But I like your rendering better!

June 16, 2019 9:59 pm

I’ve been mulling over this sort of sentiment lately, too. When I feel my frustrations rise and there’s no good reason, I try to stop and think and breathe through the feeling. “Praying” through it, essentially. And I’m also wondering, did Jesus get angry when he stubbed his toe and a small child badgered him relentlessly? Or did he just accept it for what it was and moved on from it with grace? I’m guessing the latter and that’s what I’d like to work toward!

June 23, 2019 8:03 am

Wow Em, I love the way you share such incredible wisdom on parenting and being present and intentional, and ultimately finding a way to be the very best versions of ourselves, for our little people. It is a trait you can be very proud of. thank you for sharing this gentle but important reminder x