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For the life of me...

I don’t know about you, but from the moment I became a mother, I have been on this passionate, internal battle to never allow them to feel less or ridiculed or devalued because of who they are.  Who God created them to be.

When you have one child, you compare them to other children, but typically (naturally) your child rises to the top.  They are your child after all.  Not the best thing to do, but we all do it.  Call it insecurity.  Call it making sure your child is “on par” with his peers.  But comparison is comparison and it’s a thief.

When you have a second, you compare them to each other.  This is way worse.

Maybe larger families don’t have this issue.  Maybe it’s harder to compare children when you have four or seven or twenty.  But when you have a handful, or like me currently, two, it’s so easy to balance one against the other.  Without even meaning to.

I find my husband I saying things about our 16 month old son, Travis, comparing him to what we recall about his older brother (now three) when he was that age.  “Joel never would have done that!”  or “Travis never just sits and reads like Joel did!”  or “Joel wouldn’t have moved a muscle if Veggie Tales was on and Travis never stops moving!”  And the best, “Travis is NOTHING like Joel.”

Not to sound intellectually stunted, but, “No duh.”

Travis IS nothing like Joel.  Because Travis IS NOT JOEL.  (And vice versa).

When Joel was younger and his personality began to sneak through, we picked up on a very serious, very cautious, very sensitive child.  He was more prone to want Mommy, more prone to play quietly and more prone to fall apart if he was excessively tired or hungry.  Much like me, to be quite honest.  And it was easy to say, “Joel is like me.” and then to reason and imagine his mind, his motives and his heart to be, well, like mine.  But Joel is not me.  He is Joel.  Period.

While both boys have inherited traits (blue eyes, blonde hair, thanks, Daddy!) and generational genes running through their blood - they are still who they are by the grace of God and they have been created and gifted according to His purpose.  They may look like me or him when they smile or they wrinkle their eyebrows or they sass... but they are not us.  They are part of us.  They are our children.  We are always connected.  But they are not us.  

I swallowed back tears as I shared with a girlfriend recently that I don’t want either of my boys to ever feel bad because of who they are or to feel that one of them is better than the other.  For instance, we find ourselves praising Joel’s engineering mind and the way he puts things together, figures things out, writes his own name without being taught how.  He has engineers for grandfathers and even his own Daddy studied engineering.  

And Travis?  He’s our goofball.  Our daredevil.  He’s fearless, he’s a little irreverent.  We tell him, “No, don’t touch that!” and he grins this disarming grin and tries anyway.  He gets disciplined and he barely seems to care or notice.  

But I don’t ever, ever want Travis to feel that he’s not smart or that we’re not proud of him or that he is lacking in some way because he isn’t serious and detail-oriented like his big brother.  And who knows, maybe someday those parts of him will begin to be displayed - he is still a very young little person after all!  But even so... he may remain our jokester.  He may remain the one who pushes the limits.  

And I don’t want to be so sure that I “know” my kids inside and out because they are so like me or so like their Dad... categorizing and labeling them... and miss completely who they truly are.  And the more I focus on loving my children as unique, God-gifted individuals, needful of grace and mercy, just like me... the more I see the comparing and the sorting as a means of control on my end. 

I think parents typically feel out of control.  Parenting is so huge.  It’s so weighty and stressful and eternally important.  When they are infants it’s all about if you’re feeding them enough or the right thing and is their sleep normal or do you need to work on it and should you have toys that make noise or toys that are silent and “encourage the imagination” and what if all your books aren’t all baby lit and what if they don’t talk or walk as soon as someone thinks they should?  It’s consuming.  But as they grow it just becomes more so... are they learning enough, are you teaching them correctly, are they behind if they do this or are they advanced if they do that and it shouldn’t matter, we say it doesn’t, but we still think about it like it does.

So if I can put my kid in a box and deem him the sensitive-type or the brain or the artist or the comic... if I can label them, then I understand them.  And if I understand them, then I know how to operate with them.  And if I make them like me, then suddenly I know everything about everything, because I know myself perfectly.  /sarcasm

And I don’t want to be that kind of Mom.  At all.

And I don’t want my kids to feel the comparison, the judgement,... the lacking.  

They should never seek their worth or their meaning from how they were raised, what kind of family we are, or what academics or sports they excel in, what degree they achieve.  I want them to grow up knowing Mommy is a train wreck in need of God’s grace.  I want them to go through their transitional years knowing that they aren’t alone, that their emotions are valid, that God has a plan.  I want their broken hearts to teach them of God’s love and that they find His nearness when they are busted spirits.  I want them to know they are wanted and loved and that we are painfully, excessively proud of them... because they are our sons.  They are gifts to us.  

Yes, we have a duty and a job to do with them, as parents.  But they are a blessing.  Whoever God created them to be, the scientific “nerd” or the introverted artist or the loud and boisterous clown.  That they have a purpose, that their traits were intentional and that my job is to allow them to stretch and figure it all out.  To not pigeon-hole them into being mini-me’s or mini-likenesses of their Daddy or their grandfathers.  

God has a purpose for Joel and a purpose for Travis.  And they may end up looking alike as the years go on.  They may end up being polar opposites forever.  They may remain, one being serious and one being goofy, for all time.  But Joel’s seriousness doesn’t diminish the fact that he has a good personality and a silly sense of humor.  And Travis’ antics and grins and climbing-on-the-furniture doesn’t take away his sweet spirit, the joy he brings, or the way he loves us, his grandparents and his big brother.

I want to know my children for who they are, not for who I imagine them to be or what “makes sense” to my limited understanding.  I don’t want to learn them for the sake of control or even for the sake of influence over them.  I want to know them because they are creations of God.  Nearly every night Joel wants to stand on the front porch and find the moon.  We talk about God hinging it there.  We talk about the amazing things God does.  We talk about His creation like it’s remarkable and surprising and that it’s so big we can’t even understand how God does what He does.

And so are we.  We are the works of His hands.  We are where we are and who we are for His glory and His purpose.  If my children grow up to look like anyone or to possess the character traits of anyone... let it be Christ.  That’s my job.  Not to make them like me or like their Dad or like their ancestors.  I am not growing them a certain way because, “That’s what Weinhold’s do.” No.  This is what people who were created by an almighty, awesome God, do.

I already know I’m going to fail them.  I already know I have.  But I take comfort in the fact that God’s plans for them will succeed and that no matter how much I think I know as a “seasoned” adult or as their mother... I am not God.  I was maybe the vessel that grew and birthed them, but I did not create them.  Their inner beings, the workings of their hearts, their ultimate purpose... designed, handed down and bent and pulled together by God.  By I Am.  

I have a job to do.  I do.  I am not discrediting my responsibility or the weightiness of being a mother.  I still have to discipline.  I still have to encourage.  I still have to find ways for them to eat their vegetables.  But I am not making them to be me or anyone else.  I’m going to encourage the good, the God-given I see and I’m going to show grace and mercy for the rest.  

Because that’s what I’ve learned by being God’s.  And it’s what they will learn, too.

It's who they are.

"For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand,
that we should walk in them."
~  E p h e s i a n s   2 : 1 0 


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