September 18, 2012

Where’s Your Will?

When we ponder the complexity and amount of change God undertakes in the womb to transform a united sperm and egg into a newborn child, we correctly remark that the baby is a miracle. We continue to believe in and comment on the miracle in the first few days after birth, marveling at tiny toes and wry little sleep-induced smiles. And we note a number of miracle moments throughout the child’s first year: true recognition of his parents, rolling over, crawling, and walking.

But what about the toddler who inexplicably launches into a tirade in the middle of the grocery store…the 10-year old whose language would embarrass a sailor…or the teen who fails an entire semester’s worth of classes, “forgetting” to inform his parents of his struggles until it’s too late? 

Each is still a miracle despite the angst his behavior causes; after all, each one was that miracle baby not many years ago. But how do we keep that perspective in the midst of the stress and difficulties their choices bring to us?

First and foremost, we “choose with our chooser,” as author Denise Glenn is inclined to say. That is, we as adults consciously decide every day – sometimes dozens of times throughout a day – to see beyond the yuck to the miracle. We don’t dismiss poor behavior – in contrast, we decisively deal with it in order to point our kids onto the right, character-building path. But we choose to refuse to equate a child’s behavior with his identity. We’re the grown-ups; we’re supposed to be mature enough to do that.

Second, we keep our kids out of boxes. Instead, we remember that each child is a unique, one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-repeated individual, wired with specific strengths. We always work to train our kids in diligence and other noteworthy character traits they can apply to their schoolwork and beyond. But we accept that each child is different from his neighbor and work to maximize his success in his particular areas of interest. Practically speaking, that means we don’t denigrate the child for whom math is difficult; instead, we help him master as much of it as he can while concurrently celebrating and finding avenues of expression for his special ability to repair any machine he gets his hands on. The child is not deficient; he is unique, and God has a plan for him that cannot be fulfilled by any other person. When we remember that, the view of the miracle returns.

Simply put, it all comes down to “will.” Will we forget the truth we knew in the core of our beings the moment we first set eyes on our children? Or will we fight for them – against our own selfish inclinations and against our society’s propensity to categorize, label, and standardize? Where’s your will?

Photo Credit: Dave Brosha


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