When your child doesn't win, it can be hard on you. That's my parenting perspective right now. Sometimes as parents, you get lucky. With little to no effort on your part, you have a child who's reasonably attractive by today's cultural standards, reasonably intelligent, reasonably gifted in sports or art or some other extra-curricular activity, and you sigh with satisfaction. You might even think, "Look at this awesome kid I gave birth to and nurtured. I must be doing something right."
You get a temporary high by posting a photo of them on social media with their honor roll certificate or sports award or fresh, new painting. It's so fun to celebrate their achievements!
But what happens when you have a child who spends a lot of time, resources, and energy on something they love - and they aren't very good at it? There isn't a photo with a medal, or their art work isn't actually impressive, or they try to sing and it's enough to give everyone a headache?
I remember running in a race for field day in elementary school. I felt like I was flying, but quickly realized I was actually the slowest runner on the field. I ran harder, sure I could catch up. Nope. I ran as fast as I could, and I finished dead last. It was mortifying. It's the first time I remember trying my absolute best at something and failing. I'd been pretty good at most things until that day. But running? Nope. Did I ever do it again? Not if I could help it. I really hate to be bad at things.
Fast forward to today, when I have a child who loves a sport and can do it better than the average person (much better than I ever could), but not with enough precision to do well in competition. We spend a lot of time, energy, and resources on this sport, but there's nothing to post on social media about it except, "well, we were here..."
My friend, this blog post is all about the parenting perspective in this situation. The child is sad about the lack of awards, but it's the parent who is really struggling. It's the parent who really wants the win.
I'm writing about this today because I know there are some parents who motivate their children with tough talk, telling them their loss is an embarrassment to the family. They let their child know how hard it is for them to handle the failure. I could yell at my child, let them know we spend way too much time and money on this sport for them not to be doing better. I could say it's unacceptable to walk away from a competition without a win. But it isn't about us as parents, is it? We can't make up for all our childhood failures, or relieve our childhood successes, through our children.
We must let our children figure out who they are and what they're best at without pressure from us to manage how we feel about ourselves.
We must let our children figure out who they are and what they're best at without pressure from us to manage how we feel about ourselves. Yes. I wrote that twice.
That is really hard to do, but it's important. Unconditional love for your child is your job. If you allow your child's success or failure to define you, there's going to come a day when that foundation will fall apart. Your child will come to recognize conditional love and acceptance and resent it. They may resent it so much, they remove themselves from your daily influence because the pressure is too great to withstand.
I could write so much about this topic, but I will leave it there for now. If you're struggling to define yourself apart from the success of your child, I encourage you to pray and ask God to help you love your child without condition, to accept your child without allowing it to reflect on how you feel about yourself. Your child's beauty, talent, eloquence, speed, or grace cannot be the reason you adore them. Ask God to give you His love for your child, an unselfish love, an unconditional love - and see what He will do through you to grow and nurture that child into a beautiful human being.
I am an expert in this area because I have a child who isn't likely to ever meet our culture's standard of success during the expected time frame on most levels. It has required an entire re-wiring of my brain to learn what it means to love your child for who they are, not for what they can accomplish or how they make you look. It's tempting to put even more pressure on his typically developing siblings to be highly successful so our family is seen in the "right" way. This type of pressure doesn't serve anyone well.
It's a lie from Satan that says our culture's standard of success means anything in the Kingdom of God. It doesn't. The heart of God is pure and undefiled love for His children, no matter the cost. He was willing to allow His son to be tortured and killed so we could understand how much He loves us. So we could be healed and so we could spend eternity in heaven with God. We just have to believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He makes a way through the darkest places.
Put your trust in Jesus today and let Him guide you as the perfect parent. His parenting perspective wipes away all the lies, and He wants to be our loving and generous Father.