"Britney, let me see your cell phone."
My 11 year old granddaughter hands it over to her mother (my stepdaughter), Nikki, who checks Britney's texts. Nikki has been out of town at her oldest daughter's softball tournament, and she wants to make sure her youngest has not abused her phone privileges. Later I ask Nikki, privately: "Your kids don't object to you looking at their call logs and texts?"
"It was part of our deal," she explains. "Dave (Nikki's husband) and I pay for the kids' cell phones, so we have the right to look at them or take them away any time we want. They know we can go online and check their calls, so we rarely have problems."
This summer, while my husband Dave is coaching baseball here in Las Vegas, we are living with his daughter and her family, and although their day-to-day dynamic appears effortless, I know differently. It takes a lot of work to parent effectively, and both my step-daughter and her husband are seeing the fruit of their commitment.
Amanda, 16, Logan, 13, and Britney, 11, are Dave and Nikki's children. They laugh easily, respect each other, and work as a team. That's not to say the kids are perfect. Occasionally they sneak a bite of each other's taco or get a little too aggressive when shooting hoops or are too competitive when knee-boarding at the lake, but they clearly delight in and love one another.
Education is valued in this home, and report cards reflect their efforts. On the refrigerator hangs this note: FAMILY SUMMER READING FUN. Under it are rewards offered for books read and summaries written; the more books, the higher the reward. It has been so fun to watch Logan and Britney find a quiet place to read together, typically with their mongrel dog, Piggy, cuddled up between them.
Hugs are frequent, and notes randomly appear telling the parents they are loved. Daily chores are expected -- as are good attitudes when doing them -- something that started when the kids were so young they had to stand on a stool to wipe the countertops. From dog patrol clean-up to kitchen duties, the list rotates weekly.
Manners are expected, as are thank-you cards for gifts received. Family conversation is a priority. No matter how tired Dave is when he comes home from work, he visits with each child individually, and in spite of Amanda's volleyball, Logan's baseball, and Britney's basketball schedules, an evening meal is a must. It is their time to catch up on each others' day. Television use is limited. Instead, cards and board games substitute, but during those games (as with meal time), phones and Ipods are not allowed.
All this is a blessing to watch, but clearly the priority with this family is the Lord. Christian music frequently plays in their car and home. The Bible is read and discussed. Church is a priority. The other day Logan was in his room for a few hours. When I asked him what he had been doing, he said he had down-loaded some songs from a friend and there were some inappropriate ones, so he was removing them from his ipod. No wonder his school-mates have elected him president of their middle school student body. Others recognize his integrity, as well. Amanda shared that she does much better when she starts her day with the Lord. Typically if we are working in the kitchen, one of us will start to sing a Christian song, and the other joins in. Recently at Amanda's job, a co-worker said that because of her he was trying to clean up his language. It was nothing she had preached. He just noticed something special. Britney smiles constantly and this week has spent countless hours entertaining her visiting, younger cousins.
Scripture tells us we reap what we sow. Dave and Nikki have sown into their children's lives seeds of discipline, laughter, respect, morals, and godliness. What a privilege it is to pray that this harvest will produce fruit for years to come!