I threw a brief post up on Facebook some time ago in response to an image I saw (right) that resonated with me this morning. I’m still thinking about it.
This is what I wrote:
Agree. Life is full of hard stuff, and every heart needs instruction on how to navigate it. “Anti-snowflake” training means our goal is for kids to be able to victoriously work through disappointment, failure, loss, rejection, disillusionment, and pain. It’s time we move away from giving awards and consolation prizes, spreading scores of safety nets, and running interference for every little thing. God needs soldiers.
So, does this mean I’m hard hearted? No. As a matter of fact, I think not showing our kids how to work through hard things makes them unfeeling. Letting them be our audience (with discretion) as we ache and weep and pray helps them to think beyond typical childish egocentric (selfish) reasoning and grows compassion in them. Protecting them from every slight is dangerous. What happens when they don’t have you hovering, mama? We set our kids up for defeat and discouragement if we don’t 1) show them the skills and 2)hold them accountable to use them.
How does this look in our lives? It means when we experience a scary, plummeting low with our youngest (who is diabetic) in a public place, I don’t worry about what people think. We treat and then we pray. Hard. In front of whoever might see. Because that is the answer.
It means when our child is unjustly accused of something, we inquire with them first if there is any ounce of truth which needs to be considered (because every criticism needs to be approached this way) instead of going full-on Mama Bear about our kid who can do no wrong. Show them how to own failure, and to seek forgiveness and make genuine apologies. Instruct them.that wrongs need to be measured against something much bigger than “because Mom or Dad said so”. That we are all accountable to God first. Something else needs to happen too. There needs to be grace. It needs to be shown that “love hopes all things”. We give the benefit of the doubt and strive to practice that Golden Rule. Parenting is often as much about instructing my heart as it is about instructing that of our children. Ever heard yourself say something to your son or daughter and realize as soon as the words are out, that the directive needs to be heeded in your own life as well? Yep. Me too.
It means when our older kids are struggling with big questions and heartaches and doubts, we cry with them and for them. Because it hurts and we feel the pain along with them because we know. We plead because we love. We give God’s (sometimes hard) truths, because He is always right, and we can be wrong. His Word remains the only right answer, regardless of what their opinion about it may be at the moment. You keep lovingly beating that “dead horse”, Mama. You’ll be accountable one day. And pray, because so often in those circumstances we don’t have quick-fix answers.
It means that I learn to prioritize and let go of that part of me that wants to assimilate people’s positive (or negative) opinions about what our kids do, say, wear, the music they choose, etc. and make all of that part of my own identity. We train. They choose. Sometimes that’s really hard. It can trickle down to something as little as what our youngest chooses for a play outfit. I used to be very matchy-matchy and everything needed to be coordinated cuteness. I wanted to be thought of as the good mom whose skills were admired. Now? Our oldest kids choose their outfits. Sometimes I’m not wild about them. But you know what? I’m so glad they still want to be at home (most of the time- lol). They still wish to be a part of our church life. That’s big to me. With our youngest, the rule is that I choose Sunday’s outfit (because she comes up with some really crazy ensembles), but the rest of the week she can wear 27 different mismatched patterns, cowboy boots, a tutu, and a Grinch hat. As long as it’s weather appropriate and modest, I do my best to “let it go”.
It means that sometimes other kids get prizes and they don’t. We don’t encourage trophies for participation in situations where what is required to succeed has been clearly laid out. Sometimes you are the winner, and sometimes you aren’t. We teach that they need to learn to rejoice with those who rejoice (which ironically is often much harder than “weep with those who weep”…isn’t human nature beautiful?). Today our youngest was given a directive and fair warning of consequences. She didn’t follow through, so she owed me an hour of chores. Mamas, isn’t it so much easier to sort of *forget* those consequences? Parenting is HARD, if it’s done right. Exhausting. Draining. But to know that at the end of the day we have done the best we knew how with what we had? That brings peace.
It means we teach forgiveness, remembering first how much we’ve been forgiven. When we have our own sinfulness front and center in our thinking, it redirects our conclusions. We have more patience, compassion, pity, mercy. We look beyond the behavior (which is a symptom) to the why (which is a heart issue).
All of this also means we demonstrate mercy. I remember one time when our minivan was so loud with disgruntled little people that I pulled into TCBY and asked “Who feels like they deserve a treat right now?” Nary a peep. I asked why, and the answers were candid and contrite. Then I proceeded to open my car door and beckon them to come with me. They got a treat, and a lesson in how God gives mercy and grace to those who are undeserving. Life is full of teachable moments, isn’t it?
So, when I experienced the loss of my parents, the loss of a child, the frustration and pain of chronic illness, financial reversal, unfair treatment by others, or just plain old “stick a fork in me, cuz I’m done”…I need to remember those two little quips:
Your children will learn more by what is caught than taught.
Your walk talks, and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.
Worth thinking about. I don’t do it perfectly. Some days I am quite bad at this. I’m a work in progress. You too?
I think I’m done writing about this for now. It’s long enough already, and today’s readers don’t have much patience for lengthy discussion. I’m a front porch kind of gal though. I text because I have to and the structure of my life currently lends itself to that too often. But I do love heart to heart chats. Maybe that’s why you came back? 🙂