Seeing our kids through too many lenses

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I’m watching my oldest son, Samuel, (nine and half years old) pump his heart out on the swing in the backyard and it inspired me to blog. Let me tell you the backdrop to this story.

When Samuel was 4, 5, 6, and then 7 years old, I used to get so frustrated with him at the park on the swings. That boy COULD NOT pump to save his life! It was almost embarrassing. He just couldn’t. He was so uncoordinated and awkward. For whatever reason, he couldn’t figure it out. I’m not going to lie, I was tempted to pretend I was his Nanny who had the instruction from his real mother to take him to the park and try to get him to swing.

No matter how much coaching, gentle cajoling, which turned into stern, impatient instruction giving…to sometimes me just getting exasperated and walking away, Sam just couldn’t seem to coordinate his legs, arms, and core strength to pump on the swings! I would watch as children younger than him would get going and swing high and giggle without any parent needing to push them. I have to admit, as ridiculous as it seems, I thought my son is would somehow be at a disadvantage in life because of this. My crazy Asian mom brain would jump to unreasonable and far-fetched thoughts like, “Oh great! This is how it starts. My 7 year old can’t pump on a swing…this is going to lead to him not being coordinated enough to do basic sports…which means he won’t have the discipline to do team sports….which means he won’t have friends…which means he probably won’t ever go to university, can’t get a job, and will live with me friendless, jobless, and moneyless until we die, and he’ll just inherit the house…not that it matters because he won’t need it because he won’t have any friends to have over…because he couldn’t swing when he was 7!”

Okay, maybe not EXACTLY like that…but pretty close. I think I pushed and pushed, trying to get him to figure out the swings until at age 7, I gave up. It was so bad for both of us, that he almost never wanted to go to a park with swings, or if we did, he would walk around it so he wouldn’t have to hear me ask him to try. Finally, last year at some point, when he was around 8 and half or so, he figured it out, sprinted inside and told me to watch….and sure enough, the kid did it. You would have thought he figured out the cure to cancer, he was so proud of himself.

Truth be told, I was proud of him too. I know a typical kid would have figure this out half his age, but whatever. He finally did it!

I didn’t think too much of it until just this afternoon, when I watched him swinging happily in the backyard while his younger brother tried to push the empty swing into Sam, both making a little game out of this, that it dawned on me.  WHO CARES?  Why did I care so much? Anyone looking at him swing now would never know that he couldn’t do it when he was 7. And quite frankly, his inability to swing did not stop him from being incredibly bright in reading, math, science or music. AND…to contradict my irrational Asian Mom brain, his inability to swing when he was 7 did not stunt his left leg from growing, so that when he walks, he would just go around in circles and not physically move forward at all! None of those things happened!!!

I realized in this simple moment of watching my kid, that I fell, and quite ashamedly still do from time to time, into the trap of comparison. Most kids could swing around age 5. There must be something wrong with my kid who can’t. That kid can draw beautiful creations that look like what they’re suppose to. My kid can’t draw a circle. The list goes on and on. I realized that when we do this – fall into the trap of comparison, we miss out on everything our kids CAN do that are amazing and beautiful.

Worse yet, we lose focus on the thing that’s more important than what they can do; we lose focus on who they are.

I watched Samuel swing. He looked happy, smiling from ear to ear, not a care in the world. I took that moment to appreciate just what a lovely young man he is. He’s compassionate, kind, generous, smart, sensitive, loving, eager to please, inquisitive, and the list could go on and on.  And in those many moments in the park, I realized how many moments I lost of quality reflection and time with him because I needed him to try and learn how to swing like most children his age.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. Should we never challenge or encourage our children to achieve their best? Nope. We should always encourage and support them to excellence. What I’m saying is to not let this subtly turn into something that takes away the focus on the WHY we do what we do.

Do we push and cajole because we have THEIR best interest at heart? Or do we push because we THINK WE know what is their best interest? Do we measure what they are capable of based on God’s standard and His revelation to us about them? Or do we measure based on what little Johnny next door was able to do?

I have to admit, I get lost in this. I still struggle with it. Like so many parents out there, I just want the best for my children. I want them to grow up responsibly, to know they are loved, to know who they are, to know the Lord. I need to remember to discipline my own heart, my own mind, to be still…to heed the Holy Spirit, the perfect guide and teacher, to see my children the way He sees my children. Anyone else’s opinion, perspective or thoughts on my children don’t really matter. I need to stop looking at my kids through everyone else’s lens!

At the end of the day, I want to see my children the way God sees my children; what He sees is that they are precious, beloved, and full of purpose. May we only look at our children through His lens and cast aside the rest.

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