Friday, May 22, 2015

Grace Based Parenting because kids aren't standardized tests

Somewhere, somehow, I bought into the lies the world tells us about our children, but God is slowly doing a work in my heart to teach me the right way to see my three blessings.  What the world often uses as a measurement, God never uses.  I can’t find any biblical evidence of tests scores being an indication of right standing or a marker of one’s character.  Yet, I’ve found myself measuring my kids by their grades or, as sad as it sounds, their SOL scores–sometimes embarrassed when they haven’t measured up –and sometimes too overjoyed when they have.

Emily asked me once is if it was bad to have thin hair because they sell shampoo to make your hair thicker and should we get some for her? An obvious indicator of the amount of times she’s heard me say, “I can’t do anything with this thin hair of yours.” Kinda makes me a bit nauseous to think that by eight you’re already convinced that even your hair doesn’t pass the test.

Why is it that we allow the machine that is the media or the department of education or anyone to determine the value of our children –the worth of ourselves?

I remember a conversation in library school between mothers who were boasting about their children and the fact that their kindergartners had never “pulled a light,” and how they’d simply die if one came home with a disciplinary note –how parents today just needed to learn to parent their children.  I sat out of this one, given the fact that one of my children, not to name names, pretty much pulled a light a day for at least two years.  And I wondered if I should think less of my talkative one –who typically wasn’t disrespectful, just had a lot to say –and had God not intervened, I probably would have gone home and punished him for his preschool days just because I had lost out on bragging rights in the library.  If you’ve been around me much, I’m sure you know I don’t let much air fill a conversation –and I can certainly see where my kids have learned the art of conversation.  But isn’t that okay? Is being quiet the only thing worth celebrating in our children?  Or if you have a quiet one, one someone is always trying to pull out of her “shell” –one you’ve been made to see as odd or antisocial or somehow misfitted with the rest of the world—don’t you think there’s a place for her –a God ordained place where her quiet, reflective nature can be used.

Somehow we’ve erected this childhood idol –this straight A, rule following, college-bound, polite sports star that sometimes, if we are honest, we really want our kid to be.  We want the facebook picture of the most valuable player –but what is it that we are really being taught to value? Satan always lies, ALWAYS –and he always distorts truth, ALWAYS –and we have to be good discerners to catch this subtle lie that’s invading our ears.

The one who finishes her work on time, colors within the lines, says please and thank you –sure that girl has potential, but I was that girl –and I allowed perfectionism to almost claim me on many occasions because I internalized that A’s were good –therefore, the more A’s I produced, the better I was –and the more I was rewarded with praise (from well-intentioned people) and scholarships and awards which only fed my need to keep achieving to keep being “good.”

God doesn’t have an achievement system, though-- he has a grace based parenting approach –a “my grace is sufficient for your needs” approach –a “you don’t have to work to please me” approach –a “you’re created in my image” approach –that looks a lot different that the approach the world is embracing.  And I don’t want to be a part of the world.  I want to be SET APART instead.

Do you know what He’s teaching me to love most about Emily? How about the fact that whatever she eats inevitably finds its way all over her face –and usually in her hair –and on her clothes.  She wears one of those KoolAid grins –the kind that brings a smile to anyone’s face who sees her.  She’s the kid whose teacher says, “I bet there’s never a dull moment in your house.” –and I want to embrace this –to run with this –to enjoy this –this girl of mine who knows how to live in a way that I still haven’t figured out –who enjoys each second of each day to the fullest –who’s still talking when I’m walking out of her room at night –and wakes up with this hair that has never figured out how to be tamed.  Can I just love this about her –and stop worrying about spelling words and lady-like speech and just relax a bit and see what God’s going to do with this one?

And this middle one, this entertainer, the talkative light pulling one –who has endured so much more than me so far.  Can I just love the fact that he corrects everything I say because he knows every random fact in the universe including when all three of the three Stooges were born and when they died and how to make Origami versions of all the Star Wars characters.  Instead of pushing him to “reach his full potential,” can’t I just let him read all the corny joke books he can digest and useless information about Elvis or his fascination of the week? Can’t I just like his quick wit --that I’m sure got him in trouble the day he asked how M&Ms and cheeseballs could really help him and his classmates on standardized testing—and see how God uses all this?

And this last one, this first one, who seems so old, and so young, too –can I just like him –in his boots and jeans and t-shirt –and his pickup truck.  He was the one whose blonde hair I kept in a bowl cut –wasn’t that the sure fire method of creating a prepping boy –one who would like to read and like school –and be like me and fulfill all these meaningless arbitrary expectations that I created? I’m ready to watch him now, God’s helping me –to watch him be loyal to this group of friends that he loves and to work hard outside with his hands –doing a man’s job –and to see who He wants him to be –that will so exceed what I could have ever dreamed up in this head of mine.

Can I encourage you, as he’s encouraging me –to love your little one right where they are?  Can I remind you, as He’s reminding me, that slow workers sometimes do the best work –and that dawdling and doodling isn’t sinful.  That it takes all kinds –and that standardized isn’t a term that applies to relationships- to real love- to God’s design.