Sometimes My Kids Embarrass Me
Sometimes, I’m ashamed. When they misbehave, or talk too loud, or pick their nose in public.
When Colin, whose mind, so analytical, cannot see around the edges of the grey areas that so often occur in life. His frustration builds, and he melts, and I cannot help him yet to see that life isn’t always black and white.
Their fears, and flaws, and foibles, they aren’t mine.
Sometimes, I take the blame for what isn’t mine to take.
Sometimes, I wish they could be just be like all the Other Kids. The ones who skip merrily to the car after school, unflapped by game changes and audibles. They never melt down, the Other Kids. I’m certain of it. They arise happy and are dressed for school in five minutes flat. They pack their own lunches and brush their teeth without being asked, and they never lie, or make mistakes, or throw tantrums in public.And they never, ever, spill their milk on the carpet.
If only my kids could be like those Other Kids…imaginary robots of perfection that, if I’m being completely honest, I know do not really exist. It just feels like they do…
And then I remember…they’re not like the other kids. They are mine and Gabe’s and that makes them perfectly, imperfectly, unique. What failures they have, what gifts and talents, it is all wrapped up in one package of awesomeness. A little of me, a little of he, but each so individual and different. One blonde and tan, the other dark and fair. One got the chin, one got the dimples. One is hyperactive and artistic, the other artful and charismatic. One loves origami and martial arts, the other loves water and sunshine and dirt. Two boys, so different. All mine.
But not mine – their flaws and failures are not mine to own any more than their talents and gifts. Truly, they’re on loan, for a time, under our protection and guidance. We have a big job, this, imparting life skills like make your bed, don’t burp out loud and how to make an omelette. How to show love, how to accept love in return. How to be confident, self-sufficient and respectful, and forgive yourself as readily as you forgive others.
It is an impossible task, this. To nurture and cultivate these little blooms, but shelter and protect them as well. To shield them from a world that isn’t always kind or fair, but to prepare them to live in that same world, as well.
Several years ago I shared an excerpt from a blog post by the ever lovely and talented Lisa Leonard. I’m doing so again. It’s a story worth telling.
She writes of taking her baby, David, out for lunch. While they were there, two young boys, about 8 and 10, noticed that he was different. That he only had two fingers on one hand. And they were laughing.
A Spark of Bravery
…My cheeks flushed bright red and my heart shattered into a thousand pieces. I wanted to climb under the table and hide. I wanted to grab David and run far far away where no one would ever be mean to him. I wanted to protect him from a life where the kids at school who would call him names and not include him in their recess activities. Instead, I sat there motionless while shame threatened to swallow me whole.
And then a spark of bravery ignited somewhere inside me. No. No. NO NO NO! I am not ashamed of my son. Yes, he only has two fingers on his left hand. Yes, he is different. But he is amazing and he is mine…in my heart I knew. They didn’t understand David. They had probably never seen a baby with seven fingers. They were scared–so they tried to be cool.
Slowly, I unstrapped David from his carseat and carried him over to where the boys were sitting with their parents. I could see the looks of terror on their faces. They thought they were about to be in big trouble. But instead, I calmly said, “Hi, I’m Lisa, and this is my son David. I saw you notice him and I wondered if I could answer any questions for you.” They looked back at me with blank expressions. But the parents were incredibly kind. They asked how old David was, if he was healthy and thanked me for coming over to say hi.
I walked back to our table with my head held high and my chin quivering. It was one of the bravest and scariest things I had ever done. But I learned something about myself I hadn’t known when we left the house just a few minutes earlier. I wasn’t powerless. David was awesome–just the way he was, and I didn’t have to sit by and let shame swallow me up. I could stand up, I could be brave. And I thought maybe, just maybe I could change the world, one little conversation at a time.
Lisa Leonard Blog, June 21
I want to be the first person to celebrate the individuality of my children, not the last. I want them to know that I always have their back, and while I may not always love what they do, I will always, always love them. I want to be brave enough to hold my head up when they can’t hold up theirs, to be their confidence when they have lost it, and to be their champion when they feel alone, afraid, or unworthy.
And that I believe, with all my heart, that they are destined for greatness. Not because they are like the Others Kids, but because they are fearlessly flawed and unique. Not perfect, just right.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance,
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