How’s the mother of the worst kid in the 8th grade??
This comment was actually made to me by the mother of another 8th grade student, in church on Sunday, back when my son was in middle school. I was quite taken aback by the question, and I’m not sure how I responded. My jaw probably dropped, and I undoubtedly stammered a bit before coming out with something bland; after all, we were in church.
So I guess the case could be made that this was truth over harmony, but at it rawest, for sure. I knew this mother from being on committees or seeing her at aerobics, but I would not have considered her a friend. And yet, the truth can come at us in ways and places that we least expect it.
The truth for me was that I was embarrassed by the question; my son was struggling – to fit in, to do his best, to be a leader in character, not a rebel leader. And it was no secret that the school was at a loss as to how to help him and his parents.
Looking back, I wish I had known then what I see as an important part of parenting: TAKE THE LONG VIEW. When our kids are struggling, do we see those struggles as an opportunity? I certainly did not. I was more worried about my son’s future than he was. I was the one lying awake at night worried about how he would turn out, while he was down the hall blissfully getting a good night’s sleep! Now I realize that had I been able to let go of some of his struggles, allowing more time and energy to focus on my own struggles and shortcomings, or to go after something great in my life, that he might have felt more pressure to change his attitudes at that time.
We need to take the long view in parenting. Our kids may have issues, but we as parents need to let them work it out, and we need to be focused on the bigger picture: What are my personal principles? Am I grounded in those, so that when I’m in a ‘parenting moment’ I don’t go off track? Am I teaching and modeling those principles in my life so that my kids see what I value? Am I imparting these principles and making a big deal out of our family principles?
Almost thirty years after that difficult question that Sunday, here’s what I would say now: “You know, there are a lot of opportunities in front of my son – opportunities for him to learn and grow from these struggles, and he will be the stronger for it in the long run.”
And guess what: he is!