Thursday, September 06, 2012

Little Teapots?

I do not aspire to be a person who pretends they have it all together. I try to keep it real regarding my struggles as a wife/Mama/friend/woman because I believe strongly that one of the best thing humans can do for one another is live authentically. I have made many decisions that are counter-culture without much worry over 'what other people think.'

All that being said, I have realized I have a real hang up when it comes to what people think about the behavior of my children. Somewhere along the way I have subconsciously allowed my children's 'conduct' grade to be my report card as a Mama. The truth is, on a good day, we are barely a B. Trying to earn a (completely subjective) A+ is exhausting and has led me to a lot of unnecessary frustration.

I suppose it is because their Dad's work schedule makes me the primary trainer/disciplinarian. Maybe it is because I really value respect, kindness, gratitude and self control. Or perhaps it is simply this often sinful pride of mine...the old achiever in me wanting to do well in ALL things.

I read books. I pray with my children and for them. I consult with wise Mamas who have been there-done that. I work really hard to be consistent. We talk about these concepts. We role play. And yet, I have three feisty, precocious children who (gasp) behave like 8 year olds.

I don't expect perfection, honestly, but I do seem to have standards that are a bit high when it comes to their public performance. (Please don't crucify me in the comments. I am being vulnerable here.)

The Lord had been working on me about all this as my performance anxiety kicked in the week before school started. I started really praying that God would work on my heart and make me mindful of the slippery slope I was on in this area. I felt like I was making great strides until I received an e-mail from P & R's teacher requesting a conference on the 9th day of school. When I replied I asked her if she could at least tip her hat to which child we would be discussing. I gulped hard when she responded "a little of both, actually."

I fired off a frantic text to one of my best friends & her reply proved why she is in my inner circle: "Don't panic. You are raising smart, precious boys whose hearts love the Lord."

Ahh, perspective. As I processed the message of consolation from my friend, my mind wandered to the antique silver service I have in my dining room. It is a beautiful heirloom from my husband's family. It is a gorgeous display piece, but it is not particularly useful. I polish it periodically and although the coffee urn still gleams, the inside does not look fit to hold anything you would want to consume. For years the exterior has been meticulously kept, but somewhere along the way the interior has been neglected. The text message, plus the visual led my mind to a passage from Matthew 23:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."

Stark, biting words that I pray may never be true of me or those I love.

Am I striving to raise pretty display pieces that are socially acceptable but not of much use?

I was reminded again that if we focus on the insides (of ourselves and the children entrusted to us) our usefulness will never be in question. God can do anything with a willing, obedient heart that is surrendered to Him.

It is not that behavior, respect, courtesy and kindness are unimportant. I don't believe that at all. I just pray that we don't allow ourselves to confuse the outer behaviors with the core/heart truth.

When the world tempts us the focus all our attention on the exterior, I pray the Lord will keep bringing us back to the heart. May we not forget that true light, lasting love, and world-changing shine come from the inside out.

P.S. The nerve-wracking conference that started all this wound up being a precious gift. A one hour conversation that acknowledged my sons' unique challenges and how to reach/teach them best. I left feeling incredibly grateful for the wonderful woman God picked to teach them this year.


Sisters said...

I remember praying about my pride as I was pregnant with my first child. I knew I was going to battle wanting him to act perfectly, so that I would look like a good parent. I prayed that I would want my child(ren) to resemble God and not me. That he would be a reflection of Him & not me. Oh, there are tough days, embarassing days. But I can see my prayers being answered as that child, and the three that came behind him, are loving the Lord with all their hearts. Being children, but loving the Lord. I'm sure yours are doing just the same.

The Niemeyer Nest said...

I stress about this too. You know what helped me is reading that my child would remember my reaction to their behavior long past the other person will remember my child's infraction. You are one of my role-models for parenting! You are doing a fabulous job

The Doster's said...

It's Rebecca Doster here! I love love love this post. I have worried about falling into the trap of feeling like my child's behavior in public is a direct reflection on my parenting skills. But oh how important it is to remember what our ultimate desire for our children are and to remember that ultimately it's God work in them and not ours! I love your honesty!

Sammy said...

I also struggle with this, especially with my oldest, which feels even more unfair. This post really means a lot to me. I often find myself feeling that my sweet son's behavior is a reflection of me. When he's kind and patient, it means I'm an amazing mom. When he's a typical 4-year old, I'm a terrible mom.

I guess it's unfair to him and to me!

So glad I'm not the only mom working on this.

Thanks for your honesty.

Little Apple said...

I too fall into the trap. Our church just did a class using the book "Give them Grace- Dazzling your kids with the love of Jesus". It is phenomenal. It spends a great deal of time pointing out that God is in control of our children, not us. All parents are sinners but God is capable of redeeming our mess ups as parents. It was a really freeing yet challenging book.