I am writing this blog at the request of a friend who said she desperately needed to hear it. While laying in bed last night with all the thoughts of what I wanted to say to her running through my head, I grabbed my phone and shot her this quick preview and reassurance before I went to sleep, because I KNEW she was still up studying with her son and preparing for a test they have today. So here is my pep talk my friend.
So after reading that text, I know you do realize that in fact some kids performance does in fact reflect their parenting, or lack thereof. I'm not talking to that group of people. What I am talking about is when we choose to lump ourselves in with that group of people and begin to judge OUR success on the shoulders of our children's success.
At football practice or games, we moms tend to sit around and gripe about homework, studying, tests and playground bullies. As each mom starts to rattle off their kids issues and problem areas, we find comfort in knowing we aren't alone in these issues, but we start to feel inadequate when our kid struggles where another has excelled. We start to shrink down in our chair when one parent is concerned with B's and you are struggling with F's. We start to feel like a failure when we hear the scores their kids made on that hard test and yours was significantly lower even though you studied just as long and just as hard. We watch our children on the field and start to judge our success on how much play time they received. When they make a mistake, we take it personally. When whether or not our child made the honor roll determines how we feel about ourselves as parents, there is a problem.
Here is the realization that I think could radically change our perspective on this issue if we would allow it to fully center us in every thought we have running through our mind. Our kids success DOES NOT define who we are as parents. Here is a bigger news flash. We aren't all raising kids who will become doctors, lawyers, or CEO's of banks. When my child is older, he may not can tell you the difference between a declarative and interrogative sentence, but he may can fix your car when it breaks down. He may not be able to save a life in an operating room, but he may save a life from a burning building. He may not hand out orders from a big mahogany desk somewhere but he may be able to take a piece of mahogany and build you something beautiful with it. God made each one of our children with a different skill set for His divine purpose and once we realize that, our mood starts to shift.
Who ever knew that of all the things we would struggle with in the 4th grade, subtraction would be one of them. Something that seems so incredibly simple to me completely eludes my child. He doesn't understand large number subtraction. Period. Homework that week was a complete nightmare. After HOURS, homework ended with only 4 problems completed with 16 more to go, me crying at the kitchen table and him storming off screaming to his room. I had lost my temper with subtraction. I had lost my religion with my child. I had sat there all night and took it personally that my kid didn't understand something as simple as large number subtraction. The worst of it all is I completely overlooked the fact that he was struggling. After I had managed to semi put myself back together, I went in his room and crawled in bed with him. With just that one simple gesture my child fell apart. As he cried he said mom I can't help I'm so stupid. It was like the wind had been knocked right out of me. Math didn't make him feel stupid. Subtraction didn't make him feel stupid. My projection of his failure to comprehend in this relatively simple skill made him feel stupid. I turned him over to face me and proceeded to tell him he was to never ever in my presence ever refer to himself as stupid again. I apologized to him for losing it over something he could not control. The truth is he desperately wants to understand large number subtraction, the light bulb just hasn't clicked for him yet. The next day I emailed his teacher. She kept him in from music and gave him some one on one time with subtraction. We still went over it at home, and the light bulb still refused to click. He took his subtraction test a few days later and made a 67. The thing I realized after that experience is that 67 does not define him. It doesn't define me. I don't need to rely on my parenting victories to come from his success in math or how many tackles he made or how many base runs he hits or if he gets invited to every birthday party or for the love of all that is Holy his citizenship grade. I will wear that 67 like a badge of honor because I know the hours and tears that went in to that grade.
Let me tell you where my parenting victories come from. When a child on his team scores or makes a good play, my child is going to run and give him the biggest hug and chest bump you have ever seen. He comes home to tell me that at recess he asked a certain kid to play on his team to make him feel better about himself and make that kid feel included. His teacher emailed me to say that every single day he asks to take her lunch tray to the trash for her. When he is nervous, I see him start to count his fingers and repeat in his head with each finger I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. He tells me he loves me a bazillion times a day. He holds my hand in the car. He helps our elderly neighbor take her groceries in from her car without being asked. These are my parenting victories. This is what defines him. Whether he turns out to be a scientist or he works at Wal-Mart, his character at the end of the day is where we find our peace. Is he perfect all of the time? That's a hard no, but the seeds we have planted are still there taking root and sprouting each and every day. Should we still challenge our children to do better? Absolutely! Should we settle for F's and just be ok with that? That isn't what I am saying at all. Even though I am writing this, do I have a firm grip on it? Come to my house next week with a fresh set of homework and you will see for yourself how good of a handle I have on this. The struggle is real my friends. The good news is THIS TO SHALL PASS.
So to my precious friend who is struggling right now, let me tell you that you are raising a fine young gentleman. He has the best manners of any kid his age, he prays the sweetest prayers I have ever heard (even when he is hungry haha), he has a deep love and compassion for animals and his smile and laughter is contagious. You are a wonderful mother. This season of our life is pure survival. I am thankful to have you in my life to lean on when these moments seem to consume us. We shall get them to graduation, one way or the other. I can't wait to see what the future holds!