Friday, December 2, 2011

The Importance of Open Hands

A few years back when Isaac started preschool, I remember being nervous about him being out of the home a few days a week. Of course, I knew I'd miss him and all of that, but truth be told, I was a bit unsure about putting him in situations where I wasn't there to help guide him. It was the first time he'd be in regular contact with another adult that wasn't his parents and I really wanted him to obey and be a blessing to his class.

Part of my uneasiness made sense. It was a new situation and every parent wants to see their child do well when they're not around. However, the other part of my uneasiness was not good. I knew deep down that any disobedience on his part could reflect badly on me. Hmmm....not the greatest of motives but, at the time, it was true. Now that I'm much more used to the school situation, this doesn't concern me as much.

But regardless, our kids and their behavior can reflect badly on us. There is a reason that Proverbs states, "A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him." Prov. 17:25 There is a correlation. Having our children at that point when they're older is definitely something we want to avoid at all costs. We want our kids to grow up wise and to love the Lord. These are our goals and we work tirelessly toward them. Ultimately we want them to learn to think and in doing so navigate the world successfully.

The hard part is this-often they won't.

And when (not if) they don't, it will be difficult. But the hardest part of it all, is keeping our hands open when they don't do what's right.

A few years back, a wise woman in our church who has raised six lovely children, gave some excellent advice to us young moms. She said, "Your kids are going to have problems with other kids. They're going to get in trouble at school. They're going to lie to their friend's mom. These things are going to happen as they grow up and are learning to do what's right. But your reaction is key. Be humble. Always seek restitution and forgiveness. Keep an open mind. Don't be easily offended. Forgive with no strings attached." At the time, my kids weren't in many situations where this advice would apply since they were pretty young, but now that two are in school and are regularly rubbing elbows with other kids, this advice has been so applicable.

I can't tell you how many times those words have come to my mind when I've been shocked by one of my kids' behavior. It's tempting to make excuses...oh he's just tired, he must not have heard their instruction, etc... But the truth of the matter is this-my kids make mistakes, even big ones. As much as I'd like everyone else to think they're the most perfect angels on earth (don't we all?) they're NOT. They're sinners. In fact, if I think really hard about it, they're a lot like someone I know pretty well-myself.

Recently a very close friend of mine called me to tell me about something one of my boys had done while he was with her. I was so surprised by it. It was not something this particular child would normally do (it wasn't something he struggles with) yet, it was clear he had really messed up. It was so hard for me to swallow. I wanted to make excuses. I wanted to explain it away. But here's the thing-I couldn't. It was blatant. And I needed to deal with it. Afterward, I was so thankful that my friend loved my son and us enough to tell us about it. It took courage on her part to do so. And in the moment, it was really hard for me not to fight it. But I had to unclench my fists and keep my hands open. I had to let it go.

Because my husband is a teacher, I get a front row seat to some parent interactions he has. He doesn't normally have too many parent issues because he teaches mostly juniors and seniors who are all pretty smart (Physics and Calculus students). As a result, they want to be there and give him very few issues. But he still has some. And often these parents will do everything in their power to try and say that Steve is the problem. It doesn't matter that their student is absent 50% of the time, never does their homework and fails every test, it's his fault. Because nothing is ever their child's fault so if something is wrong, it must be somebody else.

I don't want to be like that. Yet in the moment, it's so hard to discipline myself to do the right thing when faced with another mess-up. I want to clench my hands and hold on tight shaking my head that it must not be true...but I have to let go. I have to keep my hands open.

My kids aren't perfect. Their behavior will embarrass me. They are going to make big mistakes as they learn about life. And I, myself, might have to pay for them. But making them walk through the process of owning their wrong includes me owning it too. If I can't own it, how can I ever get them to? And if I try and keep them from these situations by limiting their access to the world, how will they ever learn? How will they become equipped to deal with life?

Humility is so difficult. And it's even more difficult when I'm trying to hold onto my pride. That's why I have to keep my hands open. I don't know what our future holds. I can train my kids as best as I can but my hands must stay open. I'm going to be disappointed. I'm going to be mortified. I'm going to be totally frustrated.

But if my hands are open, then I can let go of my shallow ideals and at least move in the right direction. In these times my kids need me to help them seek the forgiveness that comes through repentance and moves them to make restitution. In the end, that's the most important thing.

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