It's strange how instinctual it is for a parent to subconsciously expect her child to be like she is.
I don't realize it, but I must expect them to be like me, or else I wouldn't be so surprised and thrown off when I find out they're not, right? I don't know why, exactly. In my brain, I knew my kids would NOT turn out to be carbon copies of me, nor did I ever want them to be. But because I couldn't predict exactly HOW they would differ from me, I suppose, I end up bewildered when it actually happens.
Know what I'm talking about?
This is all coming back to me now, with school in full swing. I go through this every year, this process: "Oh yeah, okay. My child is not me. My child is not the same student I was. My child is not the same kid on the playground that I was. My child is not the same child I was." I have to recalibrate to not only acknowledge they are different, but also add, "...and that's not the worst thing."
Case in point.
Every fall, I feel stressed because my daughter doesn't quickly mesh with a group of friends. She floats. She sometimes hangs out all alone, or draws at the lunch tables, or reads a book. I was a more social kid, and so I have to stop myself from giving her pep talks on how to make a friend, be a friend, and so on. I tried that for about two years, and it didn't work. Incidentally, she is not stressed about her social interactions. I am. The ten-year old Leslie thought that being alone at recess was the worst thing in the world. While communication with her and training can be helpful at times, she is her own self, and doesn't need me trying to talk her into being someone else (ie. me).
So now, I go through this process of remembering,
"Oh yeah. She doesn't have that tight-knit friend group. And that's not the worst thing."
"Oh yeah. She forgets things in her desk, hesitates to ask questions when she needs help, and says she doesn't like school. And that's not the worst thing."
"Oh yeah. My son sometimes gets in trouble for doing compulsive things like rock throwing. And that's not the worst thing."
"Oh yeah. Boys pick up potty talk at school from each other. And that's not the worst thing."
See the pattern? I've learned to underreact at the things that used to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Trust me. I stressed out about all these things at one time or another.
Even when other moms are all up in arms about the girl drama or the potty talk, I really try to remember that my kids are a part of their own stories...God's own stories...and those are sacred. Perhaps my daughter's lack of connections on the playground leads her to a deeper friendship with Jesus. Perhaps my son's compulsivity leads us to a life-changing discussion on walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. I don't know, yet, how those issues will unfold, because I'm not the one ultimately in charge of their stories.
Yes, of course, I'm their greatest influence, and if you've been around here for any time at all, you know it's a huge priority of mine to be intentional in my mothering and the spiritual shepherding of my kids.
However, as they age, I will continue to lose control over their immediate circumstances and social interactions. That is precisely why I am in the business of equipping them for life when we're together! At this point, I need to focus on the continual adjustment of my expectations and push down that instinct to panic when things aren't going the way I'd hoped for them, even in the tiniest of circumstances.
I'd love for my kids to say they love school. But really, is it the worst thing in the world if they are the kids who say they don't?? Is it the worst thing ever for my introverted daughter to want to be alone at recess? Or for my son to learn a hard lesson from a school authority because he made a bad choice? Of course not! Not only are these examples not the worst thing, but they are pieces of who my kids are, who God is shaping them to be. It's such a great reminder that I'm soooo not in charge of who my children were created to be, and who they will become. I've been given authority over them and responsibility for them, to an extent. But my job as a mother is limited, not infinite. The God of the universe has much bigger and better (and more loving) plans for them than I ever could.
It's freeing, isn't it? God sees my son and daughter at school. And in His divine, perfect wisdom, He helps me equip them at home to face the challenges HE KNOWS they will face. I can rest in that truth.
I may, at times, be shocked at how different from me my children are, but watching their stories be written by their Father who loves them....well, that will never cease to bless me.