Our oldest son can play at least 4 different instruments. I can’t play a single one.
My second son is an absolute crack up with a sharp wit and quick sense of humor. I’m never quite as speedy with a clever comeback.
Our older daughter loves to dance. My body has never moved like hers does.
And our youngest daughter has an uncanny knack for drawing and art. She’s already outpaced my stick figure capabilities.
You see, these children are mine, but they are not me.
It can be so difficult to remember as our children get older that they are their own human beings. Their choices, their successes, their failures…all the good and the bad they put out into the world…all of those things belong to them. And the older, the more mature they become, the more this rings true.
It starts with the hair
Both of my sons went through these crazy long-hair phases. The older one looked like he was trying to be Justin Bieber while the younger one reminded most people of the 80s band Flock of Seagulls.
I hated it. They loved it.
Those crazy hairstyles would bug me so bad! Especially if we had an important event or, God forbid, family photos to deal with! I’d get so angry that they wouldn’t agree to get their hair cut or that they’d totally brush off any suggestion from me as to what would make it look just a little bit better. I remember completely blowing my stack on my poor husband after one such incident. I was going on and on about how this one’s hair looked awful and how could he not see it? and what would people think when they saw him?
And that was when it hit me. I wasn’t concerned about how their goofy hair would make them look. I was concerned with how it would make me look.
My kids were old enough to start expressing themselves through their appearance and they made choices that I didn’t agree with. It was as simple as that. They weren’t hurting anyone or doing anything wrong. They were still my handsome, good boys. But their hair was their own.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
As I continue to navigate my way through this “parenting teenagers” thing, I find that there is more and more that I don’t know. But when I come across a gem of information, a gleaming nugget of parenting gold, I grasp onto it for dear life.
I was listening to a podcast yesterday and the lady threw out a quick comment that stopped me in my tracks. She said (and I paraphrase) that I struggle with the danger of defining my identity and my worth by my children’s successes and, on the flip side, my worthlessness by their failures and shortcomings.
Wow. That hits ya right in the feels, doesn’t it?
How many times, as a mom, have I done that? How many times have I bragged about my child’s success as if it were something I personally achieved? Or, conversely, how personally devastated did I feel when my child made a terrible decision and acted in a way completely counter to how he had been raised?
My children are mine, but they aren’t me.
The solo in the concert, the good score on the SAT, the B that they worked so hard for, or the homerun they hit on the ball field…Mom didn’t do those things! The kid did! Just like if they fail a test, lose the race, get a stupid haircut, or make a disastrous decision, then the consequences should fall on them, not me.
Now, does that mean that I can take no responsibility for who and what they become? Not exactly.
Mine, but not me
Of course we celebrate in our children’s successes! Why? Because we worked damn hard to give them the basis and background they needed to get the job done. Our children can be our pride and joy, but their achievements can not be how we define ourselves.
And on the other side of that coin, we can’t let every dumb decision or stupid move our teens make take away an ounce of our worth.
We are not them. And they are not us.
These kids of ours make more and more of their own choices every day. That’s the beauty and the absolute terror of having teenagers, you see. And with every new freedom they earn, they have the opportunity for success or failure, triumph or defeat. It is our job to guide them, to teach them, and then to let them fly. And it’s our job to love them regardless of the choices they make, to cheer them on or help them pick up the pieces and start again. It is my honor and my privilege, my ultimate joy and (at times) my greatest heartache to raise these children alongside my husband and then, together, slowly release them to the world.
It is that on which my value as a mother hinges and that by which I will be judged. Not by the choices they make, but by the choices I make in response.
So, let’s love these kids, yeah? Let’s guide them and help them teach them in the ways they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)