If Only it Was that Easy…

“It is an often erroneous but strongly held belief that children are a direct representation of their upbringing, of their parents’ ability to nurture and raise offspring.”

****

It was Wednesday, the last day of school before summer break began, and my enthusiasm was evident as I danced into the classroom. I plopped my work bag onto my desk, whirled around to face Katie, the teacher I assist in an ILC classroom and grinned. “Good morning!”

“Good morning!” Her ready smile was also of the summer-is-upon-us size.  “Hey, Mr. Samson* was here earlier looking for you.”

Mr. Samson (not his real name) was a highly esteemed staff member at the high school, where he taught English and Yearbook. As yearbook members and editors, three of my children had been privileged to be under his teaching over the past six years and I had met him a number of times at parent-teacher conferences, but it was only when I interviewed him for an English paper I was writing that I caught a deeper glimpse into the reasons why my kids and so many others found him endearing. He is an attractive but unassuming man in his mid-thirties.

Blue-jeans-quiet-button-up-shirts-and-loafers unassuming.

The kind of person that doesn’t immediately stand out in a crowd. But the moment he began speaking to me of his students and of teaching, he exuded a deep passion and compassion that mesmerized me to the point I almost forgot the questions I wanted to ask. I was impressed.  Apparently so were many others and he recently accepted a teaching position at a nearby university. We were genuinely excited for him but the delight was mingled with a deep sense of loss that he would be leaving our high school arena.

From Katie’s announcement, I guessed that he was cleaning out and packing up his classroom and had likely found some photos or papers of my kids to give to me. I determined to track him down before the end of the day, but before I could go off in search of him, he was strolling back down my hallway, hand delivering an envelope with my name scrawled in tiny letters. We chatted a bit and then I returned to my classroom where I unceremoniously tore into the envelope.

I quickly scanned the handwritten message. Tears came to my eyes and I slowly read it again. This busy man had taken the time to write me a note, a sweet and thoughtful note, thanking me for my children and reminding me how wonderful they are.

I may have a bias, but I, too, think my children are pretty amazing. Yet one part of the note made me want to run down the hall after him, shouting, “No, no. You’ve got it all wrong!”

note

They are a testament of the amazing parenting that you and your husband have done and the amazing family you have built. I can only hope that one day my family will be as strong and caring… he had written.

No, no, no.

It is an often erroneous but strongly held belief that children are a direct representation of their upbringing, of their parents’ ability to nurture and raise offspring.

If my children are a testament of anything, it is the grace of God.

The HH and I, well, we had no clue how to parent when we first began, and more than a quarter of a century into the journey, we still don’t know a whole lot more, we’ve discovered  no absolutes or concrete how-tos or musts. Except love ’em.

Oh, we have loved our kids – all six, incredibly unique individuals – with a fierce love only known by other parents. That’s come easily enough. And we’ve desired so much for them.

Yet the actual parenting?

If only it was that easy, if only there was a parental equation that stated the sum of  a + b  + c  resulted in family utopia, that  it only took a love deeper than the Mariana Trench to cause young people to make healthy, wise choices. If only it was that easy, that simple.

We’ve floundered our way through much of it, making mistakes and sometimes being too tired, too worn, and too battered to do much more than hope for the best. The reality is, we’ve sometimes used the VCR or  DVD player as a caregiver, and there have been days when we have thrown our hands in the air in exasperation towards an eye-rolling teenager. It took us a long time to master not responding in anger to rebelliousness or teen disdain.

We’ve fed them junk food, and sometimes we have caved to their wants even though we knew we probably shouldn’t.  Said yes when we should have said no and no when we should have said yes. Been over protective and under protective. And sometimes? Sometimes late at night, I lie awake and feel pangs of heartache for the could ofs and should ofs.  Sure we’ve done a few things right, but we have done just as many things wrong. Despite our best intentions, our valiant attempts.

The number of parenting books I’ve read could rival the number of text messages my daughter sends in a day.

And that’s a whole lot. A. Whole (hold the syllable). Lot.

I’ve attended parenting conferences. I’ve listened to “experts.”

And the only, sure-fire, absolute thing I can confidently tell other parents is love unconditionally.

So no, children aren’t a direct representation of their upbringing, of their parents’ ability to nurture and raise offspring.

Young people have their own minds, wills, intellects and giftings – and they ultimately make their own choices. Sometimes, beautiful, life-giving crops arise from the saddest childhood seedlings. And likewise, withered, fruitless trees can grow despite the most meticulous care.

We can’t claim our children’s goodness as our own; neither can we live wrapped in guilt when they choose wrong paths, make harmful choices.  We can only do the best that we can, go in the direction God has called us, be sensitivie to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and pray fervently for grace.

As parents, we can and should celebrate their achievements with them. We should never give up on them. Never compare them with others.  Continue to love them with a forever love.

As one of my very wise-in-spite-of-his-parents sons, College Boy,  recently told me: You control the controllables and leave the rest to God.

 Yes, it is an erroneous belief, that children are always a direct representation of their parents.  Yet.

 Yet it is still one that is gripped tightly in the fists of many people: parents are frequently judged by their children’s character.

Therefore:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

 Grateful for this wonderful life,

Marie with a 🙂

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