Spaghetti sauce bubbles in a pot on the stove, the rich red depths of the kettle wafting fragrance throughout the house. The annual ritual spans three decades: garden-grown tomatoes, handpicked and placed into a basket, become jars of winter provision. After all, my four sons could eat a lot of pasta.
But this pot of spaghetti sauce is different — momentous, really, because it’s not mine. My son and his wife grew these tomatoes in their own garden and brought them to my kitchen for transformation. “Canning for dummies!” they say with a chuckle, inviting me to hover over them throughout the process as we puree, add spices, watch over the slow simmer, and then preserve the thick, fragrant sauce in hot glass jars.
“Twelve quarts!” they exclaim as they high-five each other.
Having homeschooled my sons through high school, I’d like to think this isn’t the first time I’ve taught them something. I’d be kidding myself, though, if I imagined they always received my teaching with the same willing enthusiasm of this canning lesson. Unlike a daily algebra class or my arguments for a broad knowledge of world history, this day’s learning experience required no defense.
While gardening and canning are valuable life skills, Solomon had bigger things on his mind when he exhorted his son, “Forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8). Teaching here refers to direction, instruction, or even law. As mothers, we stand beside fathers in imparting the gospel to our families. In both structured teaching and purposeful living, truth is passed on and worn like “a graceful garland” on the heads of our sons and daughters (Proverbs 1:9).
Of course, the weighty question lands with a thud in parenting conversations for every life stage: How can parents pass along a vibrant faith? How can we communicate the truth we believe in a way that will not be forsaken by our children and our grandchildren?
Reminder in Chief
We know from Scripture that Peter, Jesus’s outspoken fisherman-turned-apostle, was married, and the fatherly tone of his second letter makes me wonder if he was also a parent. Step by step, Peter describes a kind of incremental discipleship, in which faith is supplemented “with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:5–7). He sounds almost like a mother teaching her son how to make and preserve spaghetti sauce in simple, orderly steps.
Peter follows his instruction with a gentle warning: “Whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:9). Even though his readers have heard the truth before, Peter understands that even believers who know the truth need to hear the truth, and then hear it again. Instead of expressing frustration over the need to repeat himself, he celebrates his role as “Reminder of the Truth.” He writes, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have” (2 Peter 1:12).
As a mother, you may find yourself serving as Reminder in Chief in your home, and, like Peter, it’s your privilege — and responsibility — to “make every effort” to establish your children in the truth (2 Peter 1:5, 12). Naturally, this will look very different at every stage of parenting, as your sons and daughters change from children to teens, teens to adults.
1. Reminding Children
We’re laying a foundation in the years of early childhood. I remember well that my teaching and training had to be repetitive, simple, and scriptural. Regular routines of family devotions and the steady input of my example instructed my four sons with and without a word.
The books, movies, and other media we chose reinforced our teaching of godly living. My apologies for outbursts of temper or moments of impatience reminded my boys that I was also in the process of sanctification.
Like Peter, it was my intention “always to remind” my children of the beauty of the Christian life and the God behind that life (2 Peter 1:12). My four sons had four very different ways of being in the world, requiring me to become a student of their unique personalities. What connected with and communicated well for one child would likely completely miss his brother.
No matter what the culture at large may say, as the parent you are the main “reminder” in your children’s life. By grace, you can be the strongest, steadiest, and most compelling voice in their ears.
2. Reminding Teens
There were seasons of life with our teens when we felt as if we were holding onto the reins of a runaway horse. When you’re being dragged at high speed, it’s hard to think rationally. We didn’t always know precisely what to do, but we knew we had to hold on tight. And now we’re thankful that we didn’t let go!
I’m grateful to have had the gift of consistently building the truth into our children since birth. If this is your story as well, your teens may very well be on their way to having a sincere love for God and a biblical worldview that will carry them safely into adulthood. With that foundation in place, it may be time to soften your reminding role — but certainly not time to abandon it.
In the spirit of Peter’s epistle, why not send a short note commending your son or daughter for some trait that displays godliness and encourages your heart? A verse in a lunch box, a well-chosen book with a well-timed message, an open-door policy that says, “Every topic of conversation is fair game here” — practices like these will go a long way toward reminding your almost-grown children that faith in Jesus is a vital part of life and that you are willing to accompany them on their journey.
3. Reminding Adults?
For most of us, the longest phase of parenthood begins when our children leave home and become independent. Our role certainly changes, but our job is not done. For the rest of our days, for good or for ill, we will be living “a reminding life” before our adult children. How we honor boundaries, make room in our hearts for in-laws, respond to our grandchildren, and negotiate the inevitable disagreements that arise will either become a barrier or a bridge.
In 2022, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive and debilitating neurological disorder. While it has always been my goal to model strength for my children, I’m now discovering how to wisely model a gracious acceptance of weakness balanced by persevering discipline. I submit to the daily exercise routine that allows me to care for baby grandchildren and chase toddlers. And as I do, I work carefully at showing them what it means to maintain my focus on the things that are unseen and eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Perhaps the teaching opportunities we have not chosen, but which have nonetheless been assigned to us by our wise, loving, good, and sovereign heavenly Father, will have the most lasting influence on our families.
A Reminding Life
With a new grandbaby due any day, there will be fifteen Morins who will continue to receive loving reminders from me, because I agree with Peter: “I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Peter 1:13).
May our children embrace and not forsake the teaching that we impart throughout all the ages and stages of their lives, including the lessons that come to us in unexpected ways. As godly mothers and grandmothers, let’s embrace the weighty joy of living a reminding life.