“Mel, we don’t want to become like pumpkin pie to you.”
A few months ago one of my sweet little 10-year-old twin girl neighbors looked up at me with concern in her eyes. “You know how pumpkin pie is SO good so you eat a lot of it and then you’re sick of it for a really long time?”
The other twin chimed in, “Yeah we don’t want you to get sick of us. We’re over here all the time and we don’t want you to get sick of seeing us.”
The other twin chimed in again, “Yeah, like pumpkin pie.”
I laughed and quickly assured them, “You guys are #theneighbs, I couldn’t possibly get sick of you. Really, I love having you over. Pumpkin pie? Where did you come up with that?”
“It just came to me!”
The three of us dissolved into giggles.
Long after they walked the 20 steps back to their house the conversation was still running through my head. We had laughed long and hard about the pumpkin pie analogy but I was bothered by the message behind it. I hate that my little neighbors would think I could get sick of them.
If you follow me at all on twitter or Instagram you’ll often see #theneighbs. I’m their bestie, and to be honest, they’re my besties too. I moved in next door to them about 15 months ago and what a joy it has been to get to know and love them and their family. I love that God planted me near them. I’m on the road a lot, but when I’m home you can bet the neighbs will be over. Yes, they are over a lot but no, I don’t get sick of them.
In this throw away culture that we live in I wonder if we ever stop to think how that translates to kids. Your cell phone is “the best” until the next one comes out. Friends are traded and discarded like paper plates. Marriages are few and far between and also disposable. We’re never satisfied and always looking for something more. And in the midst of it are kids. Kids are the stripped down version of who we were all created to be. They’re born without any emotional baggage, walls or need for therapy. They are who they are. They love without limits and those they love they hold tightly to. Kids also take their cues from the adults in their lives. They soak in everything and begin to develop and figure out who they are and what they believe. Whether we want to or not, we help shape who they are and who they become.
When I think of the neighbs and I think of kids in general it breaks my heart that they live with concern over being discarded. I could tell my neighbors had done a lot of thinking about this and were very worried I was going to get sick of them. I don’t know their whole story, but regardless it saddens me that they think they could be disposable.
Let’s face it my friends, this world we live in is challenging. It’s constantly changing. It’s the reality. With that in mind I wonder what kind of message we are sending to kids and what kind of message we could be sending to kids. As I love on kids I know what I’m aiming for. I want them to know they’re worth the time and effort. I want them to know they are loved for who they are. I want them to know that they matter. And bottom line, I want the love I show them to point them right to Jesus. Here are some things I intentionally do.
Be consistent. Consistently show love and self-worth to the kids you’re around. My neighbs and I have a routine we do every single time they leave my house. We kiss each other on each cheek with a loud “mwah! mwah!” and then we yell “goodbye, miss you already, love you.” Every single time. Sometimes just when they’re running home for a minute. They know no matter what kind of day I’m having that we’re going to yell loudly, “LOVE YOU!” Whether I’m cranky, busy or crazy we’re consistent.
Be honest. Kids love honesty. I don’t have to put a fake smile on every time they walk in the door. They actually do so much better when I’m honest. Honesty speaks love to them. With my neighbors there are times they come over and it’s not convenient. A simple, “I love you but I have to work this afternoon,” goes a long way. They understand work. They also understand when I say I’m sick, tired or just need a break. I always reaffirm my love for them but also my need for space every now and then.
Be generous. Giving affirmation and hugs are free. They cost us nothing but mean the world to the person we’re giving them to. I’ve learned throughout the years to be generous with my love. I freely give hugs, back pats and high fives. I freely speak words of encouragement and worth into kids. With kids I find they can never have enough love.
Do life together. There is absolutely nothing glamorous about my everyday life and yet kids love watching and participating. At camp kids watch me do my hair. We eat meals together. The neighbs water my garden with me, they paint dressers with me, they help me do my makeup when I’m going out for a fancy night. Being a part of the ins and outs of a very ordinary life speak love to them.
I don’t know what this might look like for you, but let’s all do our best to speak worth into our kids, who are living in a pumpkin pie (disposable) culture. Let’s love them like Jesus loves them.
Ephesians 3:17-19 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
This article originally appeared here.