It’s that time of year where summer is coming faster than you thought was possible and this has been on my heart a lot again lately. It may be a different team this year and a different Ballet, but my heart finds itself in the same place…
The end of the school year push is upon us and the crush of it is almost unbearable. Though I can see the summer light at the end of the tunnel, the path to get there is so fraught with projects, performances, tournaments, and tests that I may never reach that lounge chair by the pool. Currently my four children are involved in T-ball, baseball, soccer, art, track, and a huge ballet production. I am morally opposed to my own family’s schedule. Every morning before the Hubs leaves for work we have to form such a precise game plan for the afternoon and evening that I want to get back in bed before the day has even started!
Last Saturday morning I had to laugh at the absurdity of it all. When we broke it to the 7-year-old that it was time for the sleepover with her bestie to come to a close and to don her shin-gaurds she pitched a huge fit because, obviously, she “hates soccer” and “never wants to do it again!” No amount of reminding her that she was the one who had asked to play this season mattered. About the time my hubs had reached his cheerleading limit and began yelling, the 11-year-old came in, leotard and tights on, hair in a bun with the exact 8 bobby pins required. She proceeded to follow us around and remind us of the time as each minute clicked by. No amount of reminding her that she has never been late for a rehearsal mattered. So, my hubby began yelling at her for being too obsessed. See? We were frustrated with one because she didn’t want to go and frustrated with the other because she couldn’t wait to go…. After dropping the ballerina at the studio (30 minutes early, obviously) we drove to the soccer park with #8 and her two (thrilled) brothers in tow. We waited in line to pull into the parking lot for 10 minutes and then drove around searching for a parking place for another 5. Finally we get everyone unloaded and headed to field #17 to find the rest of the Heroes.
As I looked around at all of this I had this thought: “What if our grandparent’s generation could see this? What if a family from a third world country fell in the middle of Butler Park right now?” All around there were families carting wagons full of chairs and coolers and fancy organic snacks. They were toting crying children dressed in expensive soccer gear, hair fixed with huge color-coordinated. Grown men were dressed in hot pink team shirts “coaching” 4 year olds in “drills.” I just thought, “really?” This is how ALL OF THESE PEOPLE (myself included) are spending their day off? I wonder how much $ is tied up in all of these tiny girls who are laying on the ground finding lady bugs and have no interest in soccer. Really? They could find bugs and pick flowers for free while I was sitting in the shade on my porch. All of a sudden I felt duped, like we were mindless robots that had been brainwashed into thinking this was normal, or desirable, or beneficial at all. Like, what else would all of these hard-working adult people do with a Saturday BUT sit in the freezing cold/ burning heat/ crazy wind and scream/yell/cheer/coach small children kicking a ball?
What are we doing? Seriously ‘y’all, what in the very world? Let me say this… I come from a family of athletes. Both of my parents were college athletes. 2 of my grandparents were. My father-in-law and brother-in-law were. My brothers were athletes. I played team sports. We all did. I was a collegiate cheerleader. It’s what we did, what we watched, what we talked about. It still is. But, like everything else in this culture, it has been turned up a notch to crazytown. It seems the age of organized sports is stealing our kid’s childhood, and our sanity as adults. No, I do not want to get my 10-year-old a batting coach. No, I do not want to do a travel team for my 7 year old. Yes, actually it IS my 5 YEAR OLDS first time to EVER play. Seriously? Crazytown.
Take a detour with me for a moment off the road to Crazytown….. Mamas, do you have a strategy for praying for your children? Like do you hear these parents say things like, “I have prayed for my child’s spouse every day since conception?” Really? Have you really? Or, “I pray for each of my children’s friends by name daily.” All of this had me feeling a little behind the eight ball with my 4 kiddos growing up and going out into the world in front of my very eyes. In the midst of my discouragement, I felt like the Lord dropped a plan into my heart that works for me. Ready? I’ll share…. I got a journal for my hubby and each of my 4 children. On Monday I spend time in prayer for the Hubs…. write scripture I am believing for him, things I am thankful for in his life, petitions I am praying for him, etc. Tuesday I do the same for kiddo #1, Wednesday is kiddo #2, Thursday #3, Friday #4. There are seasons that I have filled pages and hours over certain behaviors, teachers, friends, heartaches, etc. There have been seasons that I have had the luxury of praying for that future spouse because there are no pressing issues. And, to be completely transparent, there may be certain children that fill up more pages in that prayer journal than others. I may have a certain child that things don’t come as easy for…. I may have a certain child that I have cried more tears for, stressed over parent/teacher conferences about, held my breath at sporting events for more, prayed so so so many prayers about. Maybe.
Let me tell you a little about this certain child. This child has the kindest soul. This child still yells, “I love you Mom!” no matter who is around. This child is a gifted artist. This child will not go to sleep without me praying over them at night. This child loves their friends fiercely. This child can identify a plane in the air by the sound it makes. This child knows every creature, bug, hole, stick, tree, and mound of dirt on the Ranchito. This child LOVES nature and being outside. This child can make me absolutely crazy but has the most beautiful eyes and head of hair you have ever seen. This kid…. Let me tell you what they don’t give trophies for…. being a 10-year-old who still plays with your little brother kindly. Let me tell you what will not be on a college transcript… how many birds, bunnies, cats, horny toads, and bugs you have saved in your life. Let me tell you what doesn’t factor into a little league draft…. loyalty to friends. Let me tell you what makes no difference on a report card…. hard work and honesty. Nope. In this day and age the only measurable successes kids have are how they do in sports and how they do in school. Culture fail. What we are telling these kids is that how they perform on the field/court/track and in the classroom is all that matters at the end of the day… That is what we award. That is what we measure. That is what breaks my heart for certain kids.
I read this Einstein quote not long ago and it reminded me of a certain child:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Man, I’d like to give my fish an ocean instead of a tree. Why are there only trees around?
So, back to Wednesday and my prayer journal for a certain kid. Here is the best thing God ever told me, “I made him just how he is supposed to be for my purposes. Everything he is good at and loves is for a reason… bugs, airplanes, art. Everything He is weak in I will use.” It was as clear as anything I had ever heard before. So, do I have the guts to believe it? Can I get off of the road to Crazytown and jump in the water with my fish? How can I find the balance? How can I protect them all from the thief of comparison? How can I fight it myself? Because, here is the truth…. I like it when my kid is the best. I like a win. I like the A’s, the hits, the starring roles. Am I the driving force behind this? Are we peddling trees to fish?
I Corinthians 15:41 says, “The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another, and the star differs from star in splendor.” It sounds like there is plenty of splendor to go around, according to our Creator, certain kid’s creator. It’s just different.
What is the answer, Moms? Really, I want to know… I don’t have a cute summary for you here. I am kinda drowning under all of these activities and expectations on our kids at younger and younger ages. I know I could take them out of everything. I know I could take them out of their (part-time) school and full-time home-school them. I know I could buck the whole educational system and “Little House on the Prairie” it. I know I could pretend we lived 100 years ago and shut the whole thing down. That sounds kinda great for sure. But that’s not my life, my town, my husband, my kids. Here we are. All I know to do is to pray hard, no matter what day of the week it is, to believe the best thing God ever told me.. To embrace those qualities and gifts that may not win awards but will win souls one day… To honor kindness and creativity and love above honor rolls and select teams. To have the guts, here in Crazytown to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18). What if we all took it down a notch and let our kids fail, let them be mediocre, let them quit sometimes. What if we had a big ‘ole tree burning session for our fish? Would it make us bad moms? Mediocre moms? Are we brave enough?
So, total confesh…. I have another kid. It looks like we will be traveling to a different state to get her professionally fitted for pointe shoes (again) by one of 4 “Master Fitters” this summer. We spend the big bucks on shoes and training. She will be dancing 7 hours a day, 5 days a week for the whole month of June. She lives at the studio. But she loves it. She eats, sleeps, breathes it. She watches documentaries and practices and speaks a language I don’t know. She is gifted and has been given great opportunity. I get it Mamas of tree climbers…. I’ve got one too. I’m not judging! Right or wrong, I’ll make sure she has the tallest, strongest, prettiest tree she can as long as she wants it. I’ll water that tree. Heck, I’ll hang lights in it if she wants me to. But… sometimes we have fish and they need to know they were created for a purpose too. I hope you are encouraged today to listen as God whispers some pretty great stuff to you as well as you pray over your certain kid. Sometimes trophies are overrated. Sometimes A’s don’t matter so much. Sometimes being an okay fish in the middle of a forest in Crazytown is the bravest thing they can be. Maybe the only thing braver is being their Mama.