There have been a handful of times I’ve been late to pick up my elementary aged daughters. Losing track of time is the usual culprit. In my mad dash to get them from school, concern starts creeping up. For whatever reason, I feel semi-horrible when I picture them waiting for me.
As they hop in the car, I begin to apologize and make sure they are okay. And you know what I’ve learned? They are.
In fact, they are totally okay.
I have even straight up asked (when I was fully engulfed in “mom guilt”), “did you think I wasn’t going to get you?” And their response says it all. They look at me bewildered and ask, “why would I think that?!”
Maybe the personalities of my girls play into their particular response, but I have come to find that kids are usually more okay than we give them credit for. They are usually more resilient. And usually more tough.
The problem might be more related to the expectations we put in ourselves.
God tells us to raise our children in the Lord and teach about his goodness (Deut 6:7). To train them to obey (Eph 6:1-2). To show them God’s ways (Prov 22:6). But somewhere along the line many of us have come to believe our job is to meet our child’s every desire, be our child’s playmate, make sure they never experience disappointment, and in summary, be their everything.
Don’t get me wrong, we do not want our kids to be hurt or afraid — especially due to our actions or failures. But sometimes we put undue pressure on ourselves to meet a standard that no one is holding us to, except ourselves.
The reality is, we will disappoint our kids, and we will not be perfect. There may even be times when it is appropriate or right to do something (or not do something) that will result in disappointment for our children.
Pain is Okay
In general (certainly there are exceptions), children believe their parents love them. Children are not usually filled with the insecurity we assume of them. Thus what we worry may cause them deep internal angst, doesn’t usually impact them as negatively as we fear it might.
However, if you picture yourself making a simple mistake (being late, forgetting something important, being unable to attend their special event, etc.) and you think your child will genuinely struggle, realize that is okay too. When you disappoint them, assure them you love them, but don’t beat yourself up. Assuming these incidents are not your daily routine, your kid will be okay – even if he thinks he won’t.
Eventually, your child will face real heartache and pain. Your loving relationship is a safe place for them to learn how to get through those little trials well. It may indeed be good for them – an unmet expectation is breeding ground for beneficial life lessons. Even big trials that come your child’s way can prove profitable.
So as you walk through those difficulties with your child (the ones you fear might “ruin” them), help them learn to grow through the pain.
Consider the fact that your child’s expectations could be a reflection of your expectations of yourself. If you expect yourself to solve every problem for your child or help them avoid any and every disappointment – they will adopt those expectations of you too. Ironically, they will be disappointed when you don’t meet the standard you had set (that you should never disappoint them). It’s quite the vicious cycle.
But you can end the cycle.
It might not be easy. It might take some heartfelt discussion about appropriate expectations. But begin by accepting you are not perfect and realize you will disappoint. Remind yourself your job is not to be your child’s everything. Rest assured you are doing your job well if you are raising your children to know how good our God is, if you are teaching them to obey, and showing them God’s ways.
Don’t Take Yourself So Serious
All in all, we don’t need to walk on eggshells with our children. We are not going to “mess them up” by being late, missing a game, or letting them down. God made children to be far more resilient than we anticipate.
And I’m willing to bet, you are a great mom who can’t help but show constant love to your kids. So when you don’t meet up to the standard of perfection that you have set, remember that you don’t need to take yourself so serious. Your kids will be fine. In fact, 10 minutes after the “massive” disappointment, they are usually fine.
Let’s not put on ourselves a weight that God never intended us to carry, our kids didn’t ask us to carry, and we don’t need to carry. Just do your best, and when your random “mistakes” arise, know that your kids will be just fine.