Before we had kids, I had an idea of what my life would look like when we did. I'd have perfectly groomed, well-behaved children who were smart and talented. They would obey when I told them to do something and we'd have calm, rational discussions when they disagreed with me about something. They would pick up their toys and put their clothes in the dirty clothes. Are you laughing, yet?
My current life as the mom of 7- and 9-year-old daughters looks nothing like my pre-children daydreams. Just like any other household with children in it, we have good days where my children do pick up after themselves, speak with respect and do their homework without being told. But we have other days where my kids stomp off in anger, leave messes behind for me to deal with and shed tears when told to do their homework. But I wouldn't trade my messy, sometimes noisy life for the perfect one of my imagination because if I did, my children would need to be little robots doing only what I asked of them and never having a thought of their own. As nice as that sounds some days, we would miss out on the richness of life that God has given us through the two precious girls that live in our house.
One of the biggest traps that we can fall into as parents is letting our dreams for the way we want things to be get in the way of recognizing the gifts we have been given in what we have. One of our biggest challenges is to give up our expectations and dreams for our kids so that we can fully participate in our children's dreams and hopes, which may be very different from our own. I'm not saying that you shouldn't encourage your children to try new things or try to improve, but when you do encourage them to do those things, be sure to examine your motives. Do you want your child to excel at something because it's something you want or do you want them to do well because it's something they want?
Believe me, I know how hard this is. When they handed me my second daughter after she was born, visions of ice arenas and hockey games did not flit through my head. When my oldest daughter decided she wanted to play soccer, I never thought three years later I would stand in driving rain in 40-degree weather to watch her play (which shows how little I knew about soccer). I never thought I would consider the school nurse an adopted member of our family. As a copy editor (you know those people who make sure everything is spelled correctly) by profession, I never thought I'd sit with a spelling list in one hand and a sobbing child in the other arm because she just can't figure out how to spell "surprise." As an avid reader, I never thought I'd sit in a library poring over the shelves looking for anything that would persuade my reluctant reader to pick up a book.
If I had my choice, my girls would participate in activities that didn't require me to sit in the stands and watch them get kicked, checked or tripped. We wouldn't be on a first-name basis with the doctors at the urgent care center, and I would have no idea how awful it is hold your child down while she is getting stitches. Spelling wouldn't frustrate them, and they would love to read. But that's not who God made my girls to be. If I try to force them into the mold that I had in mind for them, they will be miserable and so will I. Together, we would miss the opportunities for them to fit into the place God has in mind for them.
In Jeremiah 1:5, God tells Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." This is true for you and your children. God knew them before they were born. He knew my oldest would be a self-motivated child full of compassion and love. He knew my youngest would be a stubborn, spunky girl who is the life of the party. He has a plan in mind for both of them, and He gave them to me and my husband to nurture and raise so that they are ready to go when God calls.
So, the practical application in today's post is for you.
- Spend some time today thanking God for the children He has given you. Ask Him to help you see your children as He sees them. Ask Him to help you be willing to participate in activities that you might not choose for yourself if it's something that fits your child.
- Be open to doing things with your child that are outside your comfort zone. You might have to strap on ice skates for the first time in 20 years. You might have to learn the finer points of ballet. You might have to learn the difference between a rubber eraser and a gum eraser. Even if you know who Maradona is, you might have to figure out what his soccer move looks like. Whatever it is, be open to following your child's lead where his gifts and talents are concerned.
- Let go of your expectations. Whatever it is that your child excels at or doesn't excel at, let them be who they are, not who you want them to be in your "perfect" world. Accept your child for who he or she is. Push them to do their best, but don't be disappointed if they choose a different activity than the one you would have chosen or if they simply want to have fun playing and not be the next Babe Ruth or Pele.
- Enjoy your kids. Even if you have to learn about something in which you have no interest. Be interested for your kids. I'm not really all that interested in Lego Bionicles, but I'm learning all sorts of things about them because my youngest loves them.
- Be involved in what your kids love. By simply being there, you are loving them and giving them the confidence to be who God made them to be.
Even though your life probably doesn't remotely resemble your pre-children dreams, enjoy what you have been given. In this case, reality is better than the dream.