There she sits. Kids are climbing over her. They have doughnuts. Soon, she is wearing them—both the kids and the doughnuts. It is astonishing. How a person can be so patient, is beyond us. Next, the kids want to get going and she isn’t fast enough for them. They pull at her dress and her hands. They scream and stomp their feet. She keeps her shoulders soft and her voice steady. She leans over and says kindly, “Sweetie, mommy is coming, okay?”
The only way for me to make sense of such a scene, is to understand that we truly are uniquely made. There is not a cell in that mother’s body (especially nerve cells) that have anything in common with mine. I am like the clambering, clutching kid who wants to keep moving. God gave me a child whose roots go into the foundation under the house, so that I could learn that moving fast is overrated. This mom is my opposite. She is steady and serene.
She is guaranteed to be labelled by other moms. They will think she is too lenient. Her feisty kids will likely be labelled too. So let me go first. This is the mothering type I compassionately and respectfully call a Pine Tree mother. I call all mothers trees, because I love trees. They represent life, growth, seasons, fruitfulness, beauty and strength. They are also completely unique, even within one species. I picked the Pine Tree metaphor for the mom with the cool and calm of a pine tree forest inside of her. Anyone who comes near her is compelled to sit down a little and rest. If there is tension, she wants to make peace. If there is need, she wants to empty out her pantry to help. She is all about harmony and a safe haven.
There are Pine Tree dads too, of course. They are solid and silent. They faithfully anchor their families without fussing too much. Dependable and predictable they give a security their kids only value much later in life. This steadiness registers as ‘boring’ with those who have yet to find what matters more in life than the exciting, temporary adventures. Their wives may call them detached or distant, when in truth, they are deeply devoted where they are sitting on the couch behind the remote. Trust me, they really are.
It does seem cruel that a Pine Tree parent should have the child who bites, screams and needs only about an hour of sleep per night, doesn’t it? Still, God often matches us with the personality type who will shape us and who will need our shaping the most. When we clash, we become one another’s sanctification.
What are the strong points of a pine tree parent?
Every Pine Tree mom will need a few redeeming truths about herself to hold onto if she is raising a little firecracker. Because you are a pine tree parent you . . .
- look at the bigger picture with patience and tolerance towards your spouse and children, and don’t make heavy demands on them.
- put your family at the top of your priority list when you have to make far-reaching decisions.
- create tradition and a constant, warm, homey atmosphere.
- are a “safe” person who forgives easily and believes the best of your family members.
- set a good example of self-control, serenity, rationality, and patience (until your very long fuse has burnt through, of course).
What should you know about your Rose Bush child’s needs?
Yes, that is what I call the live wire kids. They speed through the milestones and they bring back the prizes, hence the roses that we associate with those rosettes pinned to the chests of winners in the olden days. And then there are the thorns. They tell you when you look fat in a dress. They spit out the meal that doesn’t taste right. They are born with a sign that says, “I’m the boss. Can’t you read?” And if you don’t agree, the toddler and preschool years are going to be tough.
Here is what they like the most:
- Only the necessary words without emotion
- Clear boundaries (which doesn’t mean they like them or won’t test them, just to be sure)
- Challenges of every kind
- Yes, some of them love it.
Parenting is always the tricky balancing act between meeting needs and indulging wants. We can’t allow the list above to be ticked every day. We’ll raise a monster. If we deny a rose bush child all of these, though, we will have a rebel on our hands. With a little imagination we can see the positive side to these, though, and pick them out, fulfil them and have children who grow up to be great leaders.
What a Rose Bush child has to learn, you are the best one to teach
Proverbs 22:6 (Amplified Bible): Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents]. Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
We are taught to raise kids in cooperation with the natural bent the Lord creates them with. When we “go to work” with a child, it is never to change them, but rather to make sure we parent in line with their strengths. Unfortunately, they, like us, will have unattractive traits that need loving discipline and correction. The Rose Bush child needs you, the peacemaker Pine Tree, to help with these things. God has equipped you:
- Not look down to people and to respect their feelings, needs and opinions (Pine Trees are known for compassionately embracing all people, especially the underdog.)
- To accept “no” as an answer without manipulating (another Pine Tree strength)
- To differentiate between their domain and that of the parent (So, stand your ground.)
- To lose gracefully and win with humility (Again, you can show them how.)
- Recognize mistakes and ask for forgiveness (You can learn this together.)
- Speaking with respect and tact (your superpower)
- To be part of a team under a different leader (your comfort zone)
- To serve others (Take them with you when you do this.)
Your desire to keep the peace at all costs may make you a manipulative rose bush child’s favorite target. If you always try to avoid conflict with your Rose Bush, you will get nowhere with your parenting. Your initial response may be to withdraw from this angry, intense, noisy child. But that means that you will never have a good relationship. Stay close to your child. Rose Bushes only respect parents who can act with conviction and guts. You will sometimes have to act much more firmly than you feel comfortable with. If you have shown once that you are serious, you only have to give “the look” later on.
Rose Bushes always have goals and reasons for what they are doing. If you want them to do something else and follow you, you must be prepared to explain your aim and reasons. Think ahead—you are good at it—about the challenges awaiting you and make sure you are always one step ahead of this challenging child. There is a promise for you, if you keep at it:
2 Timothy 2:24–15 (The Message): God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth.
What kind of mom tree are you? Take the free online Tall Trees Parenting Profile that Hettie developed to find out!
Adapted from (un)Natural Mom: Why You are the Perfect Mom for Your Kids by Hettie Brittz. David C. Cook, publisher (2016).