Everyday Christian: The best parenting advice I ever received

The best parenting advice I ever received was given to me by a wonderful woman called Margaret. Margaret is around 25 years older than me, always has a fabulous outfit on, complete with heels and lippy, and she has lived. I mean, really lived.

One day, I will write a profile on Margaret and the hardest part will be deciding what the angle should be. Should it focus on her recovery from cancer? Or how she found Christ, despite being raised in circumstances that most of us will only ever read of? Should it zone in on how she and her beloved husband Fred got divorced somewhere in the middle and then re-married? Or her work ministering to women in Eastern Europe?

All that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Margaret. She’s just larger than life.

Margaret is discerning, prayerful and a straight-shooter. And she doesn’t mind a good pentecostal line that sends a congregation into fits of laughter, either. So as you might imagine, I have received plenty of good advice from Margaret over the years, not the least of which was that sometimes we need to just “bash on” when life becomes hard.

One day, I was lamenting the state of my daughter’s bedroom to Margaret. I had been raised by a mum who often lamented my bedroom’s state. She had probably experienced the same. I hadn’t considered whether lamenting the state of one’s daughter’s bedroom was a good thing to do or not. I was on autopilot. A mum with a kid whose room was a mess, so I complained about it loudly – both to my daughter and my friends. And no, it wasn’t helping my relationship with my daughter, nor my wellbeing. But what was I supposed to do?

I hadn’t considered whether lamenting the state of one’s daughter’s bedroom was a good thing to do or not. I was on autopilot.

Margaret told me, point-blank that messy kids’ bedrooms were not worth getting riled up about. When her daughter was young, she had also found her messy room infuriating. But, Margaret said, she’d decided it wasn’t worth fighting about in the grand scheme of eternity. So, instead, she’d had a large sign made for her daughter’s bedroom wall that declared “Bless this mess”, and she’d learned to shut the door.

I remember the first time I met Margaret, and it was also the first time I met her daughter, Jane. Margaret was a guest speaker at a women’s conference at a church I was working at, and her daughter (an adult by this stage) was travelling with her. I’d met them soon after they’d arrived in town and come to our pastor’s office. They had both given me huge, warm hugs the moment they’d met me as if I was an old friend. They seemed like the best of friends (I now know they are).

Suffice to say, if Margaret was offering parenting advice, I was going to listen. I wanted what she had.

So, I tried her approach to my daughter’s room, and it worked. I didn’t battle with my daughter over her bedroom anymore. I just let it go. (She’s a very tidy adult now and we are really close friends.)

Anyway, Margaret’s advice came back to me this week and it occurred to me that it was relevant to more than just messy bedrooms. Many parts of our lives can feel messy. Relationships can be messy. And sometimes it’s just not within our control to clean it up and not worth losing our peace over.

I have been working on developing forgiveness in my heart towards someone who has wronged me, recently, and finding it – annoyingly – more difficult than I would like. I have meditated on the scripture “love does not keep a record of wrongs,” and I know it to be true, but I’m struggling still. Striving, maybe. The situation is just so messy.

But recalling Margaret’s advice this week, I have decided to let the offence go, hang a metaphorical “bless this mess” in my heart over the whole situation, and close the door. At least for now.

So, the best parenting advice I ever received has helped again (Thanks to Margaret!). Perhaps it will help someone reading this, too.