What I know but often forget

When we had one kid – our outwardly compliant, brilliant, over-achieving one – I thought, “We must be doing something right!”  And I gave myself a pat on the back.

When we had two kids – including our super-diligent, extremely extroverted evangelical one – I thought, “Not only are we doing things right; since we are having such great success with two kids who are clearly quite different, it must be our great parenting!”  And although it was a bit harder to reach, I gave myself a pat on the back.

When we had three kids – including our highly distractable, dyslexic, bipolar, gifted, learning disabled, curious one – I worked really, really, really hard to get and/or give him the many and varied helps he seemed to need, while I watched him in some ways spiral horrifically down and in other ways do tolerably well.  But I could no longer even reach my back, and I just prayed for him to become a responsible young man who would live for God and do what’s right and marry a great wife and lead his family well – and in the meantime remember to brush his teeth and turn in assignments on time.

When we had four kids – including our maximally social, gymnastic, defiant, craving-acceptance-at-any-cost, dramatic, continually challenging, musical one – I realized that although we were still fully committed to do our very best to parent all four of them as well as we knew how, even if we did do everything perfectly right (which we clearly didn’t and surely couldn’t), even that would not guarantee the kind of outcomes we as parents yearned for in our kids.  I wasn’t even sure I had a back any more, and I learned, both through instruction and experience, that I am not big enough, strong enough, energetic enough, creative enough, or wise enough to even plan – much less control – who my kids become or how they live their lives, because our great (or not so great) parenting is not the only factor involved.

They. Also. Get. To. Choose.  Just like I do.

Their wills are involved.  Just like mine is.

They are products of ALL the people and situations and difficulties and joys they have experienced, just like I am, and they are most especially products of the choices they have made, just like I am.  Yes, our great (and not so great parenting) plays a role, but it’s not their only outcome-determining factor.

And so, while I don’t get to take full credit for their accomplishments (although a portion of that credit may be mine), I also don’t have to take full blame for their failures (although a portion of that blame may be mine, too).  Actually, I really just need to give God credit for the grace he’s given them (and me) to accomplish some things, and I need to trust him to carry them (and me) and keep working through their (and my) successes and shortcomings.

Grace and trust seem to go together.

As I am in a season of several transitions right now, I’ve been thinking through all the above, and then this morning I read this blog post by a mission-minded mom of eight (Wow!!!).  I don’t know her personally, but I have followed her blog for about eight years. She’s the kind of mom I would like to be.  I’m not like her, but she’s just so solid and such a great example to me.  I follow her as she follows Christ.

I believe there’s a lot of truth in her post.

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