I walked out of the meeting feeling sad, my team had tried with tremendous professional compassion to illuminate truth to a parent for the benefit of her student and in return we received angry accusation based in defense and justification of behavior that is just not acceptable in a school environment. As I walked to my car I evaluated once again all that had transpired and came to the conclusion that this parent was making the choice to try and change the environment for her child instead of being open to helping her child adapt, grow and mature into a person who can contribute in any environment.
On my drive home I whispered gratitude to God for the front row seat to different parenting styles and choices I had received as a junior high teacher and youth pastor’s wife long before my first son was born. In Psalms 32 there is a promise that He will guide and teach us but for that promise to be fulfilled we must be open to it.
And it was in His presence writing in my prayer journal that I often received thoughts, ideas and instruction about how to handle different parenting situations. It was on a morning like that when my boys were toddlers that a thought began to form. I should hold my sons accountable by asking them to be a blessing not a burden.
So I began teaching them what that meant and asking them when I picked them up from pre-school, Sunday school, and after the babysitter left, ”Were you a blessing or a burden?” Mychal always felt he was a blessing (even when he was not) but Taylor would say mostly blessing with a little bit of burden. That always made me laugh!
The conversation changed shape over the years but basically being a blessing looked like:
Be a helper
Have a positive attitude and be grateful
Enjoy the experience
Be open to the adventure
A burden looked something like:
A negative attitude
Arguing and not helping
Disrespectful to those in authority
As they grew up we changed the challenge to be a leader or team player who contributes. You are a part of this family and we represent each other to the world we live in so let’s represent each other well. And even when mistakes were made and mistakes are made when you are growing human beings you treat mistakes as a vehicle for learning, they are the catalyst for conversation and evaluation. Developing right attitudes and right responses is a life time commitment to practice, practice and more practice.
Contribution grows us and Detraction derails us.
Mistakes and missteps are opportunities to learn from and grow through, they are not times to change the environment to cover them up. Raising children is always a journey of preparing them for life as an adult and learning how to do that even when the circumstances feel unfair or skewered for someone else’s benefit.
As you are walking the parenting journey there are moments that verify that you’re guiding correctly and because God is gracious He will illuminate moments where corrections need to be made. These are times we need to pay attention and respond accordingly.
When my Sons were finishing their 8th grade and sophomore years in school an opportunity came for them to go on a mission’s trip to South America. Our small youth group along with some other small churches joined a larger church youth group whose youth pastor was leading the trip. He was well travelled and knowledgeable about youth missions so we trusted our sons would have a positive experience. We believe that American teenagers should travel to 3rd world countries and serve in whatever ways are needed, it deepens their roots and grows them in the ways of service.
They were gone for 10 days, very little communication and we missed them something awful so we were early to the airport even though it was midnight and we had to wait for them to clear customs, pick up their luggage and finally make their way to the gate where we were waiting to hug their necks! Just about the time you think you are going to burst from waiting…there they are…all tan with big smiles and the warm hugs only teenage boys can give, we held them tight and we all talked at once, after a minute or two we started to move towards the exit, it was chaotic with about 50 kids and parents trying to make connection and get ready to leave.
As we were walking away we heard a voice calling our names and so we stopped to see the Leader of the trip rushing towards us, “I am sorry to make you wait but I had to meet you!” He said “I had to meet the parents of 2 such amazing kids; your boys were such a blessing on this trip. They worked hard, had great attitudes, helped with everything they could and they were just a ton of fun” He smiled and continued “I don’t even like to take 8th graders on these trips but Taylor is so mature for his age and was so great and Mychal is such a hard worker and great example. I just wanted to say to you, Good Job Mom and Dad!” And really before we could truly thank him he was off back to his responsibilities. We hugged our boys hard with tears in our eyes…Contribution.
A couple of weeks ago we were altogether on a family trip in Oregon and on Saturday morning we decided to walk a beautiful hiking trail near the Willamette River, we didn’t realize that it was 3 miles and on the way back at the .75 mile marker Mychal teased me that this was starting to feel like exercise and not a morning stroll…we all laughed! It was so beautiful, crisp and cold and we walked in all kinds of configurations sometimes the girls ran ahead and we were left alone with our boys, sometimes I was behind everyone which I love…but there was a moment when we walked as couples that I just soaked in.
Tim and I were in the back and directly in front of us Mychal and Allison holding hands and looking at each other pointing things out along the path, ahead of them Taylor and Niana arms looped through each other’s laughing together about something they thought was funny. I felt a sense a joy about my sons that they are in fact contributing in their homes, in their jobs, in their churches where they both serve and they are blessing the new families they have joined. They have chosen to align their lives with the ways of the Lord and in that they contribute to a world that desperately needs the next generation to make serving God a priority and create healthy families that can shape their communities.
I had lots of Mama Bear moments in the “growing years” moments when I wanted to burn the town down for the pain or difficulty my children were having to experience but the ever faithful God would nudge me, challenge me and correct me when my heart was open to it and keep me from justifying what I wanted for them and helped me to see that even in disappointment, unfairness and inequality He was at work, a bigger work, eternal work that is more important than the momentary issue. In the parenting journey if we align our steps with God’s the outcome will have a deeper meaning and a richer purpose. It can mean even in loss there will be gain.
I think it is important to always keep the bigger picture in mind, the issue of today that seems so important that all will be lost if we don’t intervene… should be compared to how will our emotional response shape our child for the future. What biblical lessons can be discussed and weighed in processing a disappointing experience? How can a deeper level of intimacy be achieved between parent and child because we choose to be vulnerable and share from our own difficult experiences. It means breathing when we want to bellow; it means living in the dissonance of sometimes a hard thing could become a good thing.
That maybe in the burden there may be a little blessing.