As we parent our kids, we often stumble into learning opportunities that were actually meant for us.
They’re brothers. They play hard and then they rival. They were supposed to be sleeping, but they were giggling, wrestling and being straight up monkeys instead. It’s all fun and games until someone gets tired.
Liam didn’t want to play anymore. The banter began; then the back and forth yelling. As the oldest, Liam doesn’t hesitate to lay down the law with his younger brother. But our 3 year old Mikey is made of fighting stock. He had had enough, too
Kevin and I were downstairs desperately trying to get through an episode of Cobra Kai without anymore interruptions. (Okay the desperation was on Kevin’s part, not mine). We could almost see little Mikey standing on his bed postulating. He began to yell and list all the shows he was arbitrarily going to ban his older brother from watching. I think he recited the names of every kid’s show he’s ever seen! It wasn’t long before we could hear the sniffles from the 5 year old alpha male.
The instinct was to tell Liam to stop crying; he’s the older brother after all. But I knew that this wasn’t the best approach. Over the last few weeks, Liam has been getting schooled on how mean children can be; even in kindergarten. He was tired and frustrated, and I couldn’t fault him.
So at an hour past his bedtime, I sat down on the floor by his bed to begin a mom-talk. I had this idea that I would get through this motivational speech as composed and classy as a TV-show mom from the ’80s. Then, I would send my kids off to bed with a serene smile.
Yeah, that’s not what happened.
As soon as I started with the words, “We’ve all been there…” I crumbled.
Nothing.. NOTHING prepared me for the heartache that comes with being a parent. His sad little face mixed with all the memories of my own childhood hurt tore me right up.
I couldn’t hold back the tears. Not only because I remembered being bullied and teased, but because I remembered the bad habits and beliefs that formed as a result of them. And they still exist in my mind all these decades later.
He has his whole life ahead of him. I pray that it will be full of more joy and triumph, than sorrow.
I also know that I can’t always be there to protect him. So the best I can do is to teach him the truth that can.
So, I lead my sobbing son through what I hope will be his mantra. Who am I kidding? This needs to be my mantra! Perhaps it could be yours, too.
I told him, “You have Jesus. He is with you every second and He will never leave you. He loves you so much. When He looks at you, He smiles. You have your family. We will always love you and be here for you. You know you are loved. You know you are a good person. So you don’t care what anyone else says. You know the truth.”
It is truly amazing how you can find yourself pouring into your children the exact truth that you need to embrace yourself.
It was a conversation that I trust we will both remember. It is was a full-circle moment and a bitter-sweet one at best because I was teaching my son how not to be like me.
He was still crying. He was still so sad. I wiped away his precious little tears.
“Liam, you are stronger than you know. You are so much braver than you realize. You can choose not to care what people say or think about you. You can choose not to care or you can choose to be sad. When I was a little girl and I was hurt, I chose to be sad. I chose to not let the hurt go. And because of that, I chose to let the people who hurt me win. But you are different. You are going to choose to be happy and not care about anything other than the truth.”
And in that moment, my brave little boy, through quick breaths and tears, declared in a loud trembling voice, “I am going to choose to let myself win!”
Over the years, I had heard it said that you learn for more from your kids than you could ever imagine. They were absolutely right.
I don’t know about you, but every day has a struggle of some kind. Every day, I have declared defeat in my mind before I have even taken my first sip of coffee. I give negative talk free unfettered access to my head 24 hours day and 7 days a week.
Deep down, I know the truth that will set me free, but rather than declare it (whether I feel it or not), I choose to listen to the lies instead.
That’s why I have never been prouder of this boy.
He didn’t feel it, but he said it anyway because he trusted me.
As believers, we have the word of God; our Father. We get the privilege of receiving His living word and quoting its scripture.
Even when we don’t feel it, we can say it anyway because we trust Him.
I don’t know your story.
I don’t know if you have close family friendships and relationships. I don’t know if you’ve dealt with nothing but rejection and heartache all your life. I don’t know if you have accepted Jesus in your life, but you can if you are willing.
But for those who are believers, no matter what you’ve been through, you can say boldly:
I have Jesus. I know I am loved. I know I am a good person. I choose to not care (or give value to) what other people say or think about me. I choose to let myself win. I choose to let myself be happy.
Listen, if a 5 year old can declare this in faith, so can we!