Amyone else out there know competitive mothers? You know, the ones who make your stomach do flip-flops when they approach because you aren’t sure you have enough grace to get through the next few minutes without feeling either worthless or defensive? I’ve met a few and have had to pray through my own competitve urges with my children…sigh…don’t you just feel like most of this parenting thing is meant to teach us instead of our kids?!
I’ve been struggling to write a blog post about this topic and just couldn’t find the words…well, the right, encouraging words I guess. Plenty of the wrong words came, so we’ll leave them where they should be: the trash. A dear friend shared this with me this afternoon and it was just exactly what I was thinking, praying, feeling, wanting to say–so I copied and pasted as any good blogger does! Hope it blesses you as much as it did me!
November 19, 2009
I Don’t Want to Raise Successful Children
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)
I don’t want to raise successful children. That’s a shocking thing to read, and a shocking thing for a mother to type. So, let me clarify.
I used to define success according to my child’s report card. Good grades and academic achievement would surely equal a good child with great potential in this world. But then several of my children wound up being average students with average grades. Though we carted them off to tutors and spent many a late night at the kitchen table helping them, they remained average. And I remained concerned and frustrated.
One report card day I found myself facedown in the fibers of my carpet crying and wondering, “Where have I gone wrong as a mom?”
I dug into Scriptures. I begged God for wisdom and discernment. I prayed for God’s perspective with each of my kids. Finally, one day it dawned on me – what if I simply chose to embrace the natural bent of each of my kids as God’s way to protect them and keep them on the path toward His best plans for their lives?
What if my A student needs academic success to prepare her for God’s plans while my average to below-average student needs to be steered away from a more academic future? What if my sports star kid needs that athletic excellence for his future assignments by God, but my benchwarmer kid is being protected from getting off course by her lack in this area?
And that’s when it finally dawned on me. My job isn’t to push success for my kids. My job as a parent is to recognize the unique way God created each child and point them to Jesus at every turn along their journey toward adulthood. Yes, I want my kids to learn and thrive and grow up educated, but it’s not a flaw in me or them if they don’t have straight A report cards and trophy cases full of sports medals.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (NIV).
I am challenged to ponder these words, “… in the way he should go.” Are we training our kids that the “way he should go” is to chase worldly achievement or to chase God? Whatever they learn to chase as a child, they will chase as adults. Therefore, we must be challenged to honestly assess the way we are pointing them to go.
My daughter, Hope, is one of my average students. She has also warmed many a bench in the sports she’s tried, and can always be found hiding on the back row of the stage during school concerts. Using the world’s benchmarks for achievement, Hope wouldn’t be seen as a child positioned for success. But God…
This past January, my 15 year old Hope, shocked me when she announced she wanted to go to Ethiopia with some missionary friends of ours and live in the remote African bush for the summer. Yes, she may not have trophies and straight A report cards but she does have a heart of gold. And because she’s not entrenched in sports and academic pursuits that could have created obligations for her summer, she was free to go to Africa . Free to chase God in a really big way.
One of the first e-mails she sent me from Ethiopia read, “Mom, I’ve fallen in love with the AIDS orphanage children. They rushed at me when I held my arms out and I tried with all my might to hold all 30 of them at once. I love it here.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do expect Hope to return to her studies this fall, give 100% effort, and finish her high school career having done her very best. She will most likely then go to college. But she probably won’t be delivering the valedictorian address or wearing the honors cords and medals. She’ll be the one with a vision of a dying AIDS orphan pressing against her heart ready to chase God’s plans to the ends of the earth.
So back to my original statement, I don’t want to raise successful children. It’s true, I don’t. Though Hope’s sister coming behind her is an A student and can always be found on the front row of school performances – we don’t chase after success for her either. I trust God that she needs those things in her life for the plans He’s unfolding in her life. We train with that bent in mind. But, we don’t chase it. Just like Hope, we point her in the direction of God at every turn and pray like crazy.
I stand by what I said and I’ll say it again, I don’t want to raise successful children. Because— raising God-honoring adults who will set the world on fire for Christ is just so much more rewarding.
Dear Lord, being a mom is a really tough job. Please help me, teach me and show me how to define success for my kids. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.