I remember the first time I looked at my oldest son after he was born (well, the first time I actually remember after being knocked out for an emergency c-section). I remember being amazed that this tiny being had been in my stomach not that long ago, and then I gulped.
Why? Because I realized I was now responsible for keeping this little scrap of humanity alive. It felt like an incredibly weighty responsibility.
Before Brock was born, I read a ton of parenting books. I had a plan. Within a couple weeks of his birth, I learned the hard truth that children don’t always go along with their parents’ plan – no matter how well-intentioned they are.
Brock was born early and he had a lot of trouble feeding, so my idyllic vision of breastfeeding went out the window when I took him to the doctor for the second week and he was STILL losing weight.
I remember how crushed I felt to have failed this first test of motherhood. What kind of mom can’t feed her own kid? As someone who had always gotten A’s, this felt like a big fat F on my first mom report card.
Then I kind of got over that first failure and Brock was such a great baby and toddler. He slept through the night and he didn’t throw tantrums. I could just explain why we did things a certain way, and, bless him, he’d look at me with those enormous blue eyes, nod his little golden head and I thought, “I have this mothering thing down!”
Then Brody came along, and everything I thought I knew went right out the window. While he got the whole breastfeeding thing without any problems, when he got to be a toddler, explaining things to him didn’t make a bit of difference.
I’d lean down and gently explain to him why we did or didn’t do something. He’d look at me – his brown eyes glinting with mischief, give me a big smile and enthusiastically go do just what I had told him not to.
He was also a champion tantrum thrower. I left more than one store feeling humiliated, my head bowed in shame after Brody screamed all the way through the store. Once again I felt like I had earned a big fat F on my mom report card. I was sure everyone in that store thought I was the worst mom ever because of how my child was behaving. It didn’t matter that Brody’s tantrums netted him exactly nothing. It didn’t matter his cute little picture should have been next to the word “strong-willed” in the dictionary. Nope, what mattered was my child’s behavior directly reflected on me – his mom who was supposed to control said behavior.
God certainly used Brody to teach me humility and to teach me a truth that I think parents everywhere need to hear.
You can do all the right things as a parent and your child can still make poor choices or struggle or have problems.
The thing is, in this day and age of so many resources for parents, so many blogs and websites and books and radio programs, it can feel like there is a secret formula for parenting – one that we just haven’t managed to find yet. And if we can just get that formula right, our children will never have difficulties. They’ll never struggle. They’ll never make bad decisions.
But God is the perfect Father and look how His children act sometimes.
The thing is kids are little human beings with a free will. They make good choices and they make bad choices, and all of those choices are not a reflection of your parenting skills or lack thereof.
Of course, this doesn’t negate our responsibility as parents. God entrusts these children to us and we need to raise them up, with God’s help, to the best of our abilities.
But we also need to remember that our abilities will never BE enough in and of themselves, and whether our kids turn out great or not so great, it isn’t completely up to us.
I mean, I wish I could tell you that I have prayed for my children every day of their lives – but I didn’t.
I wish I could tell you I never lost my temper or yelled at them – but I can’t.
I wish I could tell you I was always the best example to them – but I wasn’t.
Both my boys are great kids. At 13 and 16, I am proud of the young men they are becoming. They’ve each had their individual struggles and difficulties, but they are turning into Godly young men that make my mama’s heart just about burst with the joy of it. But I certainly don’t feel like that I can take the credit for that.
I know plenty of moms – moms who were way more together than I have ever been and who loved their children and who were godly – whose kids have made bad choices and strayed from what they have been taught. I’ve looked into tear-filled eyes of moms wracked with guilt as they sift through their parenting years trying to figure out what they did wrong.
The truth is how our children turn out just isn’t all on our shoulders. If they serve God and follow hard after Him, we can’t take all the credit for that. Just as we can’t blame ourselves if they follow hard after the wrong things either.
See, here’s the thing, no matter how lovingly, how carefully you mold a piece of pottery, for it to be functional it has to go through the fire.
So, yes, absolutely do your very best as a parent, but set down the burden that it is all up to you. God works in each of our lives and He doesn’t waste anything – not the good or the bad – and that includes our children’s lives as well.