Jen has a little wall hanging in her house that reads, “The Best Place in the World is Together”.
She remembers fondly a time that she and the kids were making plans for the day. A suggestion was made that they would split up, with Daddy and one sister going one way and Mommy and the other sister going another. But Jen’s four-year-old said, “I just like it when all of us Hunca Muncas are together.”
The phrase stuck, and they still say it to each other, years later–not so much as a tribute to Beatrice Potter’s Hunca Munca character, but to their family’s love of togetherness.
Jen has tried to create a home atmosphere that is safe, and where everyone is wanted–so that when a family member comes in the house, the joy is elevated. When one of them arrives back from a trip or event, they all sit around asking questions, and hearing the 4,000 stories about what happened. Jen says, “There’s that certain feeling… when everybody’s there. Being together.”
As adults, Jen and her only sister are very close friends, but when they were young, there was a bitter competitiveness between them.
They lived with their grandparents, who were wonderful people, but Jen questions one piece of advice they gave. They would say, “You can’t pick your family. You just have to live with them until you move out.”
Jen craves more than this for her three daughters. She tells them, “God picked out our family for each other. We are lucky to have each other! We’re the best thing for each other!” Jen doesn’t think the verse which says, ‘There’s a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” is intended to elevate friendship over sibling relationships, but to emphasize that siblings are naturally best friends for life!
Remembering the long standing hurt in the relationship with her sister, Jen doesn’t allow her kids to bicker. She won’t let them yell and vent, or stomp off in frustration. Rather, she insists that they reconcile, even over small matters. She teaches them to come up with a compromise on which movie to watch, or to play ‘rock, paper, scissors’ to decide which game they will play. She urges them to remember, “Your sisters are your best friends, who are always going to help you be like Jesus.”
As they’ve grown older, Jen steps in less often. She’s coached them on how to work out their differences, and they do pretty well on their own. It may take a few hours for one child to get over hurt feelings, but they are all good about forgiving each other, and nipping problems in the bud.
One of the principles that Jen and her husband gleaned from a parenting class early on, is never to humiliate or embarrass your child–which makes you an unsafe parent. Jen tries to be sensitive of her girls feelings, even in front of each other. She is also careful never to share stories about her kids without first getting their permission.
Jen also thinks that serving together has built unity into her family. Each week, they all serve together in the two-year-old class at church, checking the kids in and playing with them, getting them settled, and making sure the teacher has everything she needs.
Jen wants to instill in her kids a desire to find ways to serve God, which is our purpose and mission. The world tells people to do whatever it takes to be happy, but serving is what truly brings joy. Jen is careful to validate all types of serving. Whether her kids choose to serve ‘up front’ or ‘behind the scenes’, all roles are worthy.
One of Jen’s themes for her kids is, “Look for a way to be a blessing.” This is what will lead to a blessed life.
Thanks so much to Jen for giving us a window to her mothering. Do you know a mom who is exceptional in some way? Read about how to ‘Nominate a Mom’ here.