“Please tell me your son did stupid stuff when he was a little boy,” I begged my friend as I watched our sons sit side by side in a restaurant. I was desperate to know there was hope for my seven-year-old who was acting a fool while my friend’s son, age 11, behaved like a normal human with good manners and some semblance of social grace.
“Well, to be honest, he really didn’t…he was always a pretty good kid,” my friend responded.
I felt like I got punched in the gut.
It wasn’t because of her response; she was just being honest, and I had asked the question. I think I felt defeated in that moment because I believed my son would never change, that he’d always be the “hey-look-shiny-things” kid with behavioral issues and a major lack of self-control.
Was I worried about him? A little bit.
Was I worried about me, about how I was being perceived as his mother? Umm, yeah…a lot bit.
I’m quick to own my kids’ successes. My daughter’s teacher recently complimented her in front of me, and I beamed with pride…over what an amazing mother I am. Of course I patted my eight-year-old on the back and told her that she’s amazing, but inside I gave myself a major fist bump and congratulated myself on being an all-around fantastic maternal specimen.
Sometimes I really gross myself out.
I want the glory for the good and anonymity for the not-so-good. I allow my success as a mother to be defined by my children’s victories, and I also identify myself with their failures. The court of public opinion is always in the back of my mind, and I imagine I hear their cheers and jeers, respectively.
I care about that court way too much.
The truth is, my kids come from a long line of sinners, and by “a long line” I’m referring to my husband’s side of the family.
The real reason the stupid stuff they do gets under my skin so badly is because it reminds me of ME.
I remember what it feels like to act a fool and make bad choices. I remember because I did both earlier today.
The reason I often feel like I’m raising hellions is because I am, and it takes one to know one. It’s simple genetics. Since the woman first took a bite of the forbidden fruit and the man followed along, we’ve all been prone to sin. It’s in our DNA. Even my friend’s son who “was always a pretty good kid” is, at his core, a hellion.
This sounds depressing, doesn’t it? Well take heart, because there’s good news:
We have a very real, very loving Father in Heaven who wants to love the hell right out of us.
He saw our desperate need, the bottomless pits of depravity that threatened to swallow us up, and He said:
He made a way out for us, same as He did for our children, and our children’s children, and…
We’ll never be perfect, but Jesus is; our only responsibility is to receive the perfecting He offers. Once we’re hidden in Christ, we become hellions on a road to holiness, and one day we’ll understand what it’s like to live completely comfortable in our own skin, fully satisfied with the state of our currently-sin-prone hearts.
Until that day, the best we can do is fail well. When we fail (which we will do, and often) we must get back up, dust ourselves off, and keep walking toward heaven. We must remember that we’re identified with Christ, and that God is in the process of loving the hell right out of us.
In turn, we must teach our children to fail well. If we solely focus on their successes, they’ll quickly grow discouraged because failure is inevitable. I’d rather my kids learn to fail well than to live behind the pretense of perfection.
I’d rather they be real and raw and brutally honest about where they’re struggling, because honesty is where God is.
Do I want well-behaved children who make good choices and function well in society? Yes. Do I want them to mature and develop into people who look more like Jesus every day? Without a doubt. Is it my job to lay the groundwork for them to become those people, to set expectations and boundaries and even dish out consequences when necessary for their benefit and protection? Absolutely.
Is it my job to love the hell out of them? No, it’s really not. It’s actually impossible for me to do. Only the Father has the power and perfection to love them to heaven. It’s His task to be accomplished in His timing, and it’s not a fast process. I can testify because He’s still pretty busy with me at the moment.
I am not identified with my children’s failures or successes. I can’t take credit for either. Their junk is THEIR junk, and I have my own junk that God’s still sifting through. Their wins are THEIR wins, and are theirs to celebrate as children of God.
He’s got His work cut out for Him, but somehow I think He can handle it. He’s got a wild bunch of hellion hearts to capture, and it’s what He does best. He loves us. He loves me. He loves my seven-year-old zany son.
He loves you.
This post originally appeared at Feel Free to Laugh, published with permission.