Nancy Regan did us a great favor in the 1980’s with her “Just Say, ‘No!’” campaign. She had a great idea, and it wasn’t just about forbidding certain behaviors.
She advocated having an answer prepared before you encounter the question.
So, what would happen if we were prepared to just say, “yes”?
“Yes” Grants Freedom
When God originally created the world, he put Adam and Eve in the garden and said, “yes” to almost everything there. That was paradise. In the Garden of Eden there was only ONE thing that was a “no.”
We were created to live with that kind of freedom. Of course we chose the one “no” and things changed dramatically, so there will always be a lot of “no’s” in our lives. But part of our job as Christians, and as parents, is to push back the effects of the fall not to wallow in them.
I want my home to be a picture of that.
I don’t like the idea that Christianity is a list of do’s and don’ts. It’s not. Christianity is about freedom and grace: freedom from the power and penalty of sin and grace because of the power and penalty of sin.
As parents I think we need to be prepared to say “yes” a lot more often. And having a house that is ready for kids makes that a whole lot more possible.
We can make choices that give us the freedom to say “yes” and our kids the freedom to be kids. It doesn’t have to mean using melamine plates and sippy cups until the kids go off to college either.
Some things we’ve discovered about filling the home:
- Leather sofas (yes, leather) are a lot more forgiving with spills and even ball-point pen than their fabric counterparts.
- If you already have fabric sofas, a quick coating of Scotch Guard or a washable slip cover are great options. (Please stop short of those clear plastic covers that were popular in the 60’s and 70’s! Those do NOT make children feel welcome.)
- Floor cushions make great seating and fort building supplies.
- Fleece throw blankets in favorite designs keep kids warm during movie nights and keep good sheets and blankets from being used for said forts.
- Already-distressed furniture offers a great way to relax and let kids be kids.
- Satin or eggshell paint on the walls doesn’t glare in the light, but has enough sheen to keep crayons and markers from soaking into the wall.
- Wood or tile floors are preferred for kids with allergies and they also bear up well under spills, traffic, muddy shoes, and bloody noses.
- Wood or metal dining chairs take spilled milk with a lot less tears than upholstered ones – because let’s face it, our kids do cry over spilled milk, but we don’t have to. (Again, Scotch Guard and slip covers can be a great alternative.)
- Washable placemats. Enough said.
- Mix and match dishes, so that you don’t have to worry about the ones that get broken.
- Coasters, coasters, and more coasters.
- Rags available in every bathroom or kitchen – this keeps them fairly close to any room in case of an emergency.
- Hooks. Hooks. And more hooks.
- Do I need to mention hooks again?
- Step stools.
Freedom Requires Grace
Our Father granted freedom and furnished grace in the garden of Eden. He gave Adam and Eve the freedom to choose life or to choose death. He knew they would choose death and was already prepared to repair the damage while letting them live with the consequences.
Parenting with grace calls us to the same thing: provide a great environment, give instructions on how to live in it, and be prepared to repair the damage while letting our kids live with the consequences.
It doesn’t do our children any favors to raise them in such a child friendly environment that they don’t know how to behave in the adult world. Part of having a home where kids are comfortable is giving them a safe place to mess up as they learn what is right. If I know how recover from their mistakes, I can relax a bit and let them make them. I can also let them help in any “repair work” that needs to occur.
Some things we’ve discovered about fixing the damage:
- LockTite Gel is awesome! We use it to repair plastic, wood, ceramic, glass, and cuts that almost (but not quite) need stitches.
- Easy access to first aid essentials: happy ice (ice packs), alcohol swabs, safety pins, band aids, and triple anti-biotic ointment.
- Gorilla Glue has it’s place, too, especially for wood and on things with surfaces that match precisely. Don’t forget to use clamps – it expands.
- Duck Tape is not just for decorating anymore. lol
- Nail polish comes off of tile, laminate, and counter tops very well (wood & carpet, not so much), paint nails over a hard surface and nail polish remover can remove spills.
- Mayonaise lifts water rings from wood (just in case they forget to use a coaster).
- Baking soda is your new best friend. It works wonders on stains, odors, and glue. Do a web search of uses for baking soda in the home. It is definitely worth the time.
- Hand sanitizer will get permanent marker out of fabric.
- Salt will remove the gel beads from your washer when/if someone throws a disposable diaper in there.
- Olive oil and lemon juice can help work pen marks off of leather. It also makes a great wood conditioner for finished furniture.
- Ice followed by boiling water will remove candle wax from fabric.
- Baking soda (again) will absorb remaining liquid and odor from carpet, bedding, clothing that has been soiled by an upset stomach.
- A salt paste will remove rust stains.
- Hydrogen Peroxide will remove mold from grout and caulk and rust stains from bathroom shelves.
- The adhesive portion of flexible fabric bandaids make great patches for the back side of torn fabric that cannot be washed (sofa cushions, throw pillows…). Add a tiny bit of satin-finish clear nail polish to the top to keep threads from unraveling.
- Baking soda will get crayon off of paint and glossy surfaces.
- Paint on fabric should be rinsed immediately with water and followed with a mild detergent like Dawn dish soap.
- Ready access to spackle, dry wall tape, and touch up paint is a good idea. A paper towel or q-tip make great disposable paint applicators.
- Old t-shirts make great rags to use to lift stains from carpets, upholstered furniture, etc. Plus it helps the husbands feel better about getting rid of them if they have a further useful purpose. 🙂
- Fabric softener sheets will remove stubborn, burnt-on food (especially helpful for rescuing pans when young folks are first learning to cook).
- Effervescent denture cleaner removes coffee stains. It also works well on odors and tomato/grease stains in plastic storage containers.
- Baking soda + vinegar + boiling water = grease removal in disposal and kitchen sink drain.
- Keep a good plunger in every bathroom. Really. They aren’t that expensive. With kids toilets often receive wrong things or wrong quantities of things. Many a potty-overflow can be averted by having the plunger handy. (True story: when we sold our last home I overheard the buyer ask his Home Inspector if he thought we had plumbing problems since we had a plunger by every toilet. The Home Inspector said, “They don’t have plumbing problems, they have kids. See, they are all dusty except for the one in the kids’ bathroom. It’s a good idea, actually.”)
It is important to know how to repair damage, and then to remain calm when accidents happen. I know, easier said than done. But having the right tools for repair, really helps. And don’t kids need to see that there is a cure for brokenness? Doesn’t the opportunity to redeem their mistakes open a door to talking about the Redeemer?
For me to “Just say, ‘Yes!’,” I have to prepare a place of freedom and be faithful to repair the accidents that happen there. I can act in my children’s lives to help them experience the grace God has given me. I can model the same freedom and faithfulness I have experienced. When I succeed, I point them to the only one who grants true freedom and is faithful to cure brokenness.