The terrible twos, the fanatic fours, and the many other terms of endearment that parents across the world have come to coin the various facets of raising children. It is an amazing, terrifying, exhausting, and beautiful struggle, absent of any handbook, courtesy of trial and error. Because of this, we are bound to measure our success in benchmarks, and many times it is in comparison to those of the same age, grade, or social group of our own children. Praying that we eventually don’t learn how much counseling our kids needed to cope with their childhood as adults, and I say that with only a hint of sarcasm.
The truth is, our children are these amazing little conglomerations of genetic traits, built with fantastic gifts that will manifest over time. Every little being is different, and not just in personality, and abilities, or in the way they interact or perceive life, but in the way they develop, grow, and move through the process to get there. No two will be alike, no matter how close their birthdays are, or what their favorite Disney movie is. You see as parents, we must remember one huge point that has nothing to do with the world and everything to do with our purpose. We have been given the responsibility to assist in the development of this incredibly unique Godly gift to the world. God did not ask for your son or daughter to be created as a carbon copy of everyone else in their class, or a clone to the children highlighted from your own Facebook friend’s list. He did not ask you to ensure your child is excelling at the same rate, or playing the same time per game, to appease your securities. We are called to raise children with the values of Godly people, and allow them to be whoever it is God has called them to be, and trust that God will develop them in His timing, according to His plan, not ours. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” Proverbs 22:6.
Now, I am not saying we abandon all standards, we are to still encourage our children to reach their potential, complete their homework, study, work hard, be good stewards of their time, try at whatever it is they do with full effort. We put healthy boundaries in place to provide structure, and assist them in making good decisions, holding them accountable when they fall short. And most importantly, when they encounter hardships we help them process through it, but not solve it for them. This makes sense to us when we apply this last crucial piece to a child learning to tie his shoe. If he struggles, we simply don’t say, I will tie your shoe for you. We know they need to learn how, so we teach him, we coach him, but we allow him to struggle through it, and do it on his own, until he can master tying his shoe without our assistance. We do this because we know that this is something he will need to do in life, without our help. We cannot be there to tie his shoe every time the shoe comes untied. So, we allow struggle, with our support, knowing it will create something of lifelong value in the end. If only every life lesson was as simple as tying one’s shoe though, right?
Recently, my son was facing hardships with basketball. His lack of playing time was affecting his confidence, and as I was talking to the coach before winter break in a sort of swoop in and save my son sort of way, his words spoke to me far more than just “on the court” and led me to write this article. As we were winding up the conversation he said this, “you believe God has a plan and purpose. Sometimes that includes allowing your child to face adversity to develop them, to build character, or to create something in them that is necessary, just as it is for us. But when that happens, instead of trusting God, and helping them through that adversity you want to step in for them and take the weight off so they don’t have to deal with it at all. You are failing them out of that opportunity when you don’t allow them to grow from it, and instead they run from it, or opt out.”
As I walked away from that conversation I knew that God had spoken to me about more than just basketball. I was trying so hard to keep my son from disappointment, pain, and struggle when those are real feelings that come with life, and in more than just on a court. But if he couldn’t handle it in basketball, what was he going to do when it came in other areas? What was he going to do in times when I wasn’t there to swoop in and take the weight off? He needed these opportunities to grow, and I needed to see these struggles for him, as opportunities for me to guide him through it.
Life is going to be full of challenges, and we cannot always be there to take the weight off our children when they go through something that is hurtful or hard. They must build the character, perseverance, and faith to be able to push through those situations. As a parent those are teachable moments that will serve them throughout their life, and ones that will prove to be tested. I was failing him every time I tried to swoop in and take the weights off the bar because eventually he was going to need to have the muscle to lift it on his own. He would have to face those situations with the mentality, character, reserve, and faith in God to get through each one absent of me. That is what God has tasked me with, train him up in the way he should go, so when he is older he should not depart from it. I needed to go back to when I was simply teaching him to tie his shoes; I need to be the encourager, the one who helps him navigate through it, but not solve it for him.
Now, when he struggles with his playing time, or his athletic confidence, I encourage him, we talk about drills he can work on, and I redirect him to talk to his coach, but the days of me swooping in to lift the weights from the bar are over and that lesson has extended far beyond the court. There are muscles that must be built in my son, and that is going to take time, repetitions, and me simply being the spotter while God does His thing. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” Proverbs 19:21.