Friday, September 25, 2009


Last night, I realized how easily amused I am by commercials. I must have laughed out loud a half dozen times while Josh and I watched t.v., and Josh looked at me with something like amusement every time.

I don't remember most of them now, but the one that does stand out is a new (to me) Mastercard commercial. It shows a little girl maybe four or five years of age eating a bowl of cereal with painstaking effort. As she very carefully works to get every last Cheerio onto her spoon, the narrator calculates, "Books so she can learn to read so she can go to college and grow up to be a famous writer: $14." The camera then shows the girl slowly picking up her bowl to drink the last bit of milk, which--in the most endearing fashion--misses her mouth entirely and spills down her shirt. The narrator concludes, "Taking it one step at a time: priceless."

I chuckled at the sweetness of her efforts but even more at the obviously misguided efforts of the parent in projecting and plotting and planning so far into the future when there is so much to appreciate and experience and teach and learn right in this moment. I chuckled most, though, because I recognize this future-thinking quality in myself.

I have this unfortunate tendency to extrapolate every little thing, good or bad, into its extremest form years and years down the road. Ben recognizes the sound of a violin or a tambourine in a song on the radio and I'm convinced he will be the next Beethoven. Or he says something to me or to Abby out of anger or frustration and I panic about how this will manifest in his adult years.

It's actually a quality I'm beginning to really despise for a number of reasons. For one, I know that when I'm parenting out of this place of expectation, be it concern that I nurture their strengths appropriately so that they don't miss out on opportunity or, more commonly, when I'm parenting out of fear, worried that if I don't "fix" this behavioral or emotional issue now, it may grow into a monstrosity later, what I'm really doing is trying to control everything. I'm believing this lie that somehow I will make or break my kids, that I have the power to mold them into responsible citizens or to ruin them, that I have to do something to ensure they will be okay. It is a very dark and scary place when I get wrapped up in my own performance as a parent as measured by my toddler and preschooler's daily behavior. It's suffocating for me and unfair to them.

It's true that my actions will influence them, probably significantly. It's true that my children will grow to view the world in a way that's greatly shaped by my love and fear and compassion and anger, for better or for worse. It's true that some parents buoy their children's spirits while others shred them.

But when I get so wrapped up in this thought that somehow I have to do everything right in every moment or else, I think I'm actually more inclined to screw it up. When I react to the kids out of fear rather than love, my response and my discipline look quite different than when I engage them in the confidence that "He who began a good work in them will be faithful to complete it." And the "He" there is not me. I neither started the good work nor can I complete it.

When I let go of the result and instead focus on our relationship, I find myself interacting with kindness and gentleness and patience and self-control. I can come along for the journey that I am privileged to be a part of, holding their hands and hugging them tight, listening with compassion and speaking with grace, confessing my mistakes and forgiving theirs, all the while praying like crazy for their hearts and minds and bodies and souls as they walk through a world of hurt. I think I can actually love them with some semblance of real love. And I'm counting on the fact that love covers a multitude of sins.

I'm learning that God does, indeed, make all things new: me, them, us.

No doubt, I am a significant part of my children's story. Someday, they will have to work through things I've said or done that have wounded them, perhaps deeply. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if parents are the very first taste of imperfection in this world, if they provide our first longing for truly perfect Love, no matter how well parents parent. Because parents are our first encounter with people who are human and who have strengths and weaknesses and insights and blind spots which they are able to wield with blind authority for many years. Some do this better than others, but to date, I haven't heard of any who've done it perfectly.

So I'm learning to surrender this failure, trusting that God will ultimately redeem my messes in them and for them. Then I can rest. And enjoy. Without stressing out about who they will or will not become in twenty years. Without pressuring them with the burden of my expectations or disappointments.

Anyway, I chuckled at the commercial last night, knowing how much I long to provide the very best possible experiences and opportunities so that Ben and Abby have the very best possible chance of enjoying their fleeting stay here on earth. But I also smiled inside, a small, quiet smile, because I recognize that I am learning--slowly and, at times, falteringly--how to let go, and how to truly live, in love, by grace.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love comments!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin