Every parent, from the moment their child is born, delights in the unique blend of gifts that they’ve been given through their son or daughter.
We look around at other people’s children, we skim the milestone charts and parenting books, but somewhere in the back of our mind is the belief that our child is too wonderful to be contained by statistics or averages.
They’re ours, they broke the mold and they will make the world a lovelier place just by being alive.
Then one morning we wake up and we look at them not as a unique work of art, but as a mirror. We look at them and we see ourselves.
We look at them and we see ourselves not just in their eyes, their button noses or their crooked smiles, but we see ourselves in their flaws, their struggles, the things that cause them pain.
They don’t have an easy time reading
They have a wicked bad temper
They’re stubborn and refuse to learn lessons the easy way
They can’t sit still during story time
They don’t seem to fit in at school
In that moment we freak out a little, or a lot. Our hearts break as we remember our pain and project every ounce of it onto our child’s future.
Oh God, we pray, please protect them from all the pain that this inherited trait brought down upon my head!
Help them to make all the right choices, to have a milder case of this struggle.
Don’t let them be lonely at school, help them to be always surrounded by friends, seen and beloved by their teachers.
And on top of that, how could you have let this struggle find it’s way to my child? Don’t you know how tender and painful this is for me? (he does, believe me, he does)
We secretly worry that we caused this through our nurturing or our damaged genes.
That tension, that pain, these questions are normal, they bring healing because as we move through them, God will bring us into greater wisdom.
One of the best things that we, as parents, can realize is that it’s not actually helpful for our children to get through childhood without struggles or hurdles.
Because with struggle comes character formation, with problems come a lesson of reliance on God, family and self.
Of course we want them to have just enough struggle to strengthen them and no more. Yet, it’s not up to us, as much as we want to imagine ourselves as mama birds spreading wings of steel over our hatchlings, we know deep down that this nest season is a short one.
As much as we want to pray every protection over our children, we can’t pray the pain and struggle away. Perhaps, in addition to these prayers for protection we should add prayers to strengthen our child’s resolve and ask for the wisdom to parent and guide them through the inevitable bumps and hurdles.
I’m starting to realize that God is using my child’s struggles to strengthen our family and give us guidance on how to parent them with passion and intentionality.
When you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror of your child, what you may not realize immediately is that helping them overcome this struggle very well could bring a healing to your heart.
By guiding your child through this shared pain you may find a balm, a salve for all the regrets and shame you’re still lugging around.
Obviously no mother wants their child to hurt, to struggle or to feel pain. But in reality those rose colored glasses with which we see our child’s future aren’t helping anyone. They will grow up in the same broken world that we live in, for better and for worse.
So breathe deep with me, pray strength and grace for your family. Pray that life’s hurdles bring us closer to each other, to Our Father.
Pray that as our children stumble they learn a deep peace that no matter what life brings them, it cannot take away God’s love or his strong desire to redeem our pain for his glory.
How are your children mirrors for your struggles? What have you learned through these glimpses?