My younger daughter walked onto the stage for her choir concert on Monday night, and I didn't recognize her. It wasn't because she was wearing a costume or because she looked all that different. It was the distance.
We were sitting near the back of the auditorium, and from that distance, it was hard to recognize this young lady who was wearing her hair down and was dressed like all the other sixth grade singers. When I finally identified my child after a few seconds of looking, I was stunned at how grown-up she looked. It was as if she had morphed into an almost teen when I wasn't looking.
This isn't the first time this has happened -- although it tends to happen to me more frequently with my older daughter who has changed dramatically in the past two years. But this time, it reminded me that in the middle of this motherhood thing, we sometimes have to take a step back to see the big picture.
When you're in the middle of the homework wars or the potty-training nightmare days or the seemingly endless sibling fights, it can be really hard to see the good work you're doing. It can be hard to identify the successes when so many days feel like failure. It can be difficult to see the big picture because all you can see is the mess right in front of you.
But if we take a step back, if we look at the long-term, if we view the big picture, we will find that our kids are growing and learning and becoming independent people. We will see the hand of God working in their lives. We will be reminded that these kids' choices and growth aren't dependent on us -- they are dependent on God.
Too often, we take the burden of our kids' faith, their academic standing, their sports successes, and their relationships on ourselves. We think that if our kids fail at something, then it's a reflection on us, on our parenting, on our own worth.
That's simply not the case. Our job as parents is not to make our kids successful at everything. Our job as parents is to point our children to God. Our job as parents is to teach them the things they need to know to be independent. Our job as parents it to love our kids unconditionally.
The choices they make? Those are up to them. We can guide. We can discipline. We can advise. But we can not make their choices for them.
So when you're in the middle of a day where all you can see is the mess and the failure, take a step back. Look at the bigger picture. And remember who's holding the paintbrush painting the masterpiece of your kids' lives. Because a little perspective can make us all better parents.