The other day I found myself saying to one of our girls, “I want to be a soft place for you kids to land.” My words have haunted me since.
What did I mean by “a soft place to land”? Was I a soft place to land? I wanted to be, but in reality—what is it like to be on the other side of me?
First, I needed to define what I meant and is it a goal I should have? In my book, Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With, I talk a lot about the importance of having a loving, supportive relationship with your kids, no matter what decisions they are making or have made. I talk about being as available as possible to talk to, help, and hang out with your kids. I talk about finding something in their lives in which you can honestly compliment them. I encourage parents to be interested in what your kid is interested in.
Gene and I have gone to many art shows, plays, and concerts to support our kids. We are now helping with a home renovation. We have moved the kids so many times! We wouldn’t have it any other way. So far, so good, right?!
But not so fast, Mama Garrison. While I love to encourage my kids, my weakness is that I am always ready with a little piece of unsolicited advice. And there is the not-so-soft part. I want to help my kids avoid unnecessary suffering. I want to fix things for them. But that is not my job. The hard things of life are where they mature.
So what is my advice to future me?
First, think before I speak. Make pausing to think my default. Instead of thinking, This is what I need to say next, listen totally focused on what my kids are saying (or not saying). James 1:19 gives us priceless advice for life, “Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” What a blessing I would be as a mom if this were the way I always interacted with my girls.
Next, when I do speak, do so thoughtfully. Think about the how my words will be received. Yes, I need to always speak truthfully, but I need to do so in the way I would want truth spoken to me—with love and respect. More wisdom from James (the half brother of Jesus) on our speech in chapter 3, verses 1-12. He talks about how “a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.” Even a few words, if they are the wrong words, can start a huge amount of pain and hurt. I believe the words of parents are weighted more than the words of others. We must be so careful of what we say and how we say. We need to be thoughtful of what needs to be said and what does not need to be said. In her book, Love Lives Here, Maria Goff writes about making a safe place for her family to be themselves, “Say fewer obvious things and more encouraging ones.”*
“Fewer obvious things and more encouraging ones.” Now that’s a soft place to land.
With the holidays quickly approaching, I want each of our times together to be a blessing. Will you join me in praying for God to make each of us a soft place for our kids to land?
* Maria Goff, Love Lives Here, page 197.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.