I was reading this post by JMom and it got me thinking about a lot of things with the boys – about how they view themselves and how they react to how the world views them. It’s so shocking when your child comes home for the first time and tearfully reports that a classmate or friend was cruel to them – said something or did something that cut into their heart and made them feel small (not small in the way JMom was talking about, but small in an evil, painful way). I have a million thoughts about this and I’m trying to put them together in some semblance of order. Here we go.
One has never been overly talented at getting along with others – he takes after me in this respect. He is a great friend and very devoted, but often frustrated and easily hurt. He also has trouble knowing what to say (or when to stop talking). Like I said: just like his mom. He has spent a lot of time working through tough times because of this. His low level of frustration not only puts off some friends but has also made him the target of a bully or two; this year a particularly nasty and manipulative child has zeroed in on him from time to time and wreaked havoc (one of those “nice one minute and horrible the next” kids – you remember them, don’t you?). It is so hard as a parent to watch this! But while it is hard, it provides so many opportunities to teach important lessons. Every time D, the bully, comes up with something new, One has the chance to work on how he’s going to react. He has learned this year to take his time responding and to keep his temper as cool as he can. I couldn’t have manufactured these very necessary lessons in self-control myself, and while I am miserable at the thought he has to face this potentially nasty child every day, I am so glad God has used these episodes to mature One in a much-needed way.
The second thought I had when I worked through JMom’s post is how, on a number of occasions, each boy has come to me with frustrations and disappointments on how they “aren’t very good at” some particular thing. Seeing that self-doubt, accompanied by the downcast face and wet eyes, is again very hurtful for a parent. But, again, those moments have provided many important discussions. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want my boys to think they are good at everything. I want them to acknowledge their weaknesses and learn to decide (with God’s help) if the skill in question is one worth working on or one better left alone. And that is the lesson we’ve been able to teach at those moments. When One tearfully announced that he was “no good at all” at baseball, we had several conversations about whether baseball was important enough to him to be really good at, or whether he could choose to enjoy it while not being the best on the team. His father is especially helpful in these conversations; he has more than once reminded One that he worked incredibly hard to swim well as a young man. It wasn’t a natural talent; it was only through constant practice that he saw himself improve and win races. When the boys have these discouraging moments, we’ve found that it helps to talk about this kind of perspective, and to remind them that the most important things to us are the ones we’ll work hardest at – not necessarily the ones we’ll be best at naturally.
Finally, in both situations, it is so important to remember that home base is just that – home base. It’s where your failures aren’t pointed out with pinpoint accuracy, but rather where you can feel safe to reveal what hurts you, receive comfort, and work out a solution. It’s where your parents remind you that whatever the world thinks of you, whatever you succeed or fail at in life, the most important scale you’re judged on is God’s. If your ultimate goal is to love Him with all your heart, mind, and soul – and to serve him with all the gifts you’ve been given – then the opinions of your baseball team and the petty torments of a classroom bully take on a much different perspective. We can build our children up with assurances of our own love, but it is when we speak to them of Christ’s love that we give the most comfort and build the strongest hearts.