I’m pooped. And I only have one child. So all of you moms out there juggling the youth group that is your family, go ahead and snicker. But seriously, I am running on fumes. I have played more Xbox games with one hand on the controller and the other on my phone checking Facebook than I care to admit. I have played more rounds of Old Maid with one eye on my hand and one eye on the Today show than should be allowable. So, after strategically purchasing a couple of new “single” player Xbox games the other day for Luca, you can sense my frustration when he caught me on the back porch long enough to ask, “Mom, can you watch me play?”
“Are you serious,” I thought to myself. Out loud, I said, “Luca, when I was a kid, and my parents got me a new toy, I couldn’t wait to just go play with it. I didn’t need to get anybody to ‘watch’ me; I just ran like the wind.” My husband, sitting nearby, jumped in for reinforcement. “That’s right, Luca, your Mom and I didn’t need anybody watching us play.”
Looking down at his hands for a minute, I watched his countenance slowly cloud with thought. He raised his eyes, and there it was, “Well, I’m not like either of you guys. It’s okay to be different, you know.” He’s seven.
Parenting is a crapshoot. It really is. On our best day, we are all just, by faith, shooting our arrows in the dark and hoping that the best of what we have informs one centimeter of what our children will one day become; thereby, leaving those things about ourselves that we know aren’t worth the paper they are wrapped in to fall quietly to the cutting room floor. God knows most of us are really just inflated imposters masquerading as the ones who have it all together.
Something in his tiny response hit my soul like a brick against plate glass. I felt the same way when I was his age. Different. At seven, it made no sense that anyone would sit inside for any length of time and dress dolls. There was too much running, jumping, throwing . . . competing to do. Why waste time bothering with make up and nails when there was a chance to break a record or break your arm? At recess, I played football. At home, I wrestled with my brother and found every opportunity to be outside. With my Buster Brown haircut, I was sometimes mistaken for a little boy, and for the most part, I was okay with that. Boys had more fun, as far as I was concerned.
Until the day I was invited to a dress up party. The invitation was simple. Wear your mother’s finest. My response was simple. Outrage. A dress? Jewelry? Make-up? No way. I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that! I’d rather eat mud than wear a tiara. Looking through my adult eyes at the heated discussion I had with my mom that afternoon, I can see now how she must have wished at that moment for a little girlie girl . . . one she could doll up for all to see, one who relished in the world of feminine accoutrements. But instead, she had me. Very different me. And what she did next made an impression in my life that lasted. She reached in her closet, pushing past the skirts and dresses, and pulled out her best pair of jeans. Rolling up the bottoms, I stepped into my mom’s finest denim and after pulling on a beautifully soft sweater, she brushed my hair, wiped the dirt from my cheeks and said, “How pretty you look.” In that instant, she put herself away for the moment so that I could be comfortably me for an afternoon.
So, why at every turn do I feel the need to mold my son in my own image? The truth. He wasn’t made by me or for me. He is God’s boy, a reflection of the Almighty. And I would cheapen that snapshot of perfection with my own convoluted ideas of what he should look like? He’s a gift. Sometimes wrapped in pretty paper that surprises and delights. And, sometimes wrapped in a paper bag complete with a note and a flame on the front porch. Either way, his life is on a divine trajectory, of which my involvement includes managing the launch pad, praying for good weather, paying attention to the clock, looking out for obstacles and using what intelligence I do have to prepare him for blast off. I am living my chance to be comfortably me because my mom had the good wisdom to resist re-making me in her own image. My son deserves the same opportunity.