Before I was a mother I always thought I wanted kids that would come replete with amazing accomplishments. I thought I wanted to hear things like, "Wow, whose kid is that!?" And not because they were picking their nose in public with zero inhibition, but because they were just that awesome at everything.
I mean, how awesome would it be to have the kid who couldn't miss a three-pointer to save his life? Or the one who could score seven goals in his soccer game . . . using only his head . . . in the first fifteen minutes? Ooh, or the kid who was drafted to the NFL straight out of high school (although if you saw how big I wasn't, you'd realize this one is REALLY a long shot)? Or how about the kid who becomes the valedictorian . . . and the ASB President . . . and letters in eighteen sports (Okay, maybe not eighteen, but if there were that many high school sports, my child most certainly would.)? Or the kid who makes a life-changing scientific discovery at age fourteen?
I had dreams. Big ones.
Now I am the mother of four, beautiful children and I've realized that while accomplishments are great, I'm more concerned with what happens before they get there. I love watching my children learn new things. I feel a great sense of pride as they figure things out on their own . . . even if it means taking an unconventional route to get the job done. They're exerting their independence, they're spreading their wings, they're figuring out that they're capable people.
Tanner came home from school today unbelievably excited.
"I know how to write 2:30! Two, colon, thirty!"
I'm not going to tell you exactly how excited I was that my Kindergartner could remember the word 'colon.' I'm kind of a nerd. Okay, probably more than kind of. Academics are my forte, so when my kids get excited about that type of learning I float away to nerd heaven. My husband gets excited about the other kind . . . the common sense, mechanical kind. He would've been beaming over the mustard bottle victory. But whichever type of learning is happening, the important thing is that they're learning. They're figuring out how the world works. They're realizing that although everyone is blessed with talents and natural abilities, success doesn't just fall out of the sky.
It's baseball season. Hunter really did well in tee ball, so even though he's only in first grade we moved him up to machine pitch. He could hit with Kyle pitching to him, so we were certain it would be a breeze. But truth be told, it's been more of a challenge than we thought it would be. Hitting off of the machine has been a bit challenging for him. During his first game, he struck out every time he went up to the plate. I could see my tough, little guy holding back his tears.
Honestly, it may have been harder for me as his mother than it was for him. As parents we want our children to succeed. Sometimes it's easy to forget that allowing our children to learn is part of what determines their success. When that bat connected with the ball in his next game, I thought my heart might burst. Not because he hit a home run and my kid was now the star that I'd envisioned in my pre-parent days, but because he experienced victory. One little victory that told him he could do it. He could appreciate his struggle.
My entire view has changed. It's the decisions that our children make every day that make them who they are. Every battle they fight is shaping their future. I don't want success to fall into the laps of my children. I want them to earn it. Because I am a mother, I want children who are built by their battles, refined by their struggles and defined by their virtues. I want children who can figure things out and aren't afraid to try . . . even when trying might mean failing, again. I want children who are eager to learn and who are more concerned with the state of their souls than the size of their trophy case. And as much as I find value in my children knowing how to appropriately use punctuation or to hit a baseball, the most important battle that they'll ever fight will be internal.
My boys have really good hearts. I can't take credit for it. I don't ever remember them not being that way. But in the battle to retain those hearts, they're going to have to fight.
One of the most poignant conversations I've had with my sons was after a baseball game. In his softest, most concerned voice, Hunter explained that several boys were making fun of a girl on the other team. They said she was fat and had a big butt. His eyes reflected the hurt he knew he was supposed to feel. Tanner tuned into the conversation looking just as alarmed. As I stared at my boys I knew their toughest fight was beginning. My heart broke. I was hoping they wouldn't have to engage in this battle until they were older, stronger. I didn't want them to face this struggle until I knew they could win . . . until they knew they could win. But here they were, staring bullying and meanness right in the face. Here they were at a critical crossroads, a road that could either desensitize their sweet hearts or a road that could lift them higher.
So, that's the conversation we had. I told them that it wasn't okay to treat people that way. I told them they had a choice. They could choose to engage in the meanness or they could stand up and fight. I told them fighting was harder. Fighting requires a strength no one else can touch. Fighting demands the boldness of a son of God. I saw Hunter's fear. His entire team is older than he is. But I told him he'd find himself in this situation a lot. And I told him that one day, if he kept being kind, he'd feel strong enough to fight it.
"Okay, Mom, I'll do my best to say something to stop it next time."
Victory. One little victory that told me he could do it.