Friday, September 14, 2012
Raising Our Children to Have Character
I am again reminded, the C word , is not only an ugly menace, but a monster who comes not only to destroy you, the warrior, the fighter , the survivor, but to consume our families, to swollow them whole. This last week I have had the blessing of not just spending time with my son, but having an open hearted, soul revealing and life changing conversation. My eyes have been opened more than ever, my heart broken a bit and my mind focused on the continued after care of those I love since Cancer came to town. We have taught our children to love, in spite of the hurt, to serve those in need, to give even when it means sharing the last of our own last stash, yet I know there have been times in our journey when the bumps and pot holes have taken their toll on all of us. Now standing where I do today I can see the bigger picture, and the deep pain they have kept hidden from me.
Johnny and I have brought our boys up in a loving home, far from perfect, but a home where innocence was the norm, where they could be kids, play, laugh, slow down, enjoy being a kid, never rushing to grow up way too soon, our home has always been a safe place. Above all we have taught the boys to accept those who walk in and sometimes out of their lives just as they are. Unfortunately, many more families than we realize look down on those of us who choose this lifestyle. It's not that those other folks in our lives want to be overly judgmental, or even push their kids to grow up, looking down on those whose schedules don't include an activity every night, don't eat less, exercise more, or accept exposure to adult oriented programing because it's part of the parenting plan. No, the truth is most just fall into this kind of lifestyle because it's what everyone else is doing, it’s how the rest of the world seems to be preparing their own kids for the real world.
Can I just be honest here? I am a firm believer in preparing my kids, but my granny had a saying, I have chosen to live by, to parent by: You have such a long time to be old, and such a short time to be young! So why would we rush them to live adult lifestyles long before they are meant to? For Johnny and I the choice has always been easy, let our kids be kids and let us worry about the worries of the adult world.Now this is not to say busy is not good, because busy is good to a point. It's just to say that once the C word arrives, your life slows down, you see life a bit more clearly and the need to keep up with the Jones' or have the most trophies on the wall, or allow the TV, game systems or computers to keep the kids occupied seems like a waste of time. Slowing down, watching a movie, sharing a home cooked meal, heading to the park, not for the exercise but simply for the fun of it…together, becomes the new normal! Sadly, this is not everyone else’s normal, and our kids become the targets.
While we were raising our boys to respect others, to slow down, enjoy the innocence of childhood, not to fear the cancer battling for my life, they were both, in separate circles being bullied, called names, and why you ask? They were different, simply because they were not vulgar, because they were not educated in the ways of sex, violence, or because they were not sports rock stars. They were looked at as freaks because mom had a bald head, and our family made a choice to stop taking part in the competition smack downs going on all around us. As my son put it the other day he felt like the freak in the corner because he was different, because the kids around him told him he was not like them. He was picked on, bullied, pushed away because he was not willing to strong hand his way into their inner circle or to earn the respect of those who were so self-centered they would bully the kid whose mom was fighting cancer. A sad state we are in when the majority of kids today will choose to take part in the taunting and torment of those who choose character over intolerance! Truthfully, what made our son so different back then, and even what makes him stand out today is character!
Character is a gift cancer gives you even while she is planning to destroy you! It may be hard to recognize yourself, or even accept, but character is a gift guiding each of us through the impossible. The character my sons have developed I would not trade for anything; they are strong, bold and courageous young men who know who they are even if they struggle with how the world sees this very strength within them! I will not tell you I was not broken as my son opened up to me, pouring his hurts out into my own heart but I can tell you, when the pain of this cancer finally heals, when the jagged cuts of the enemy who wants to steal our joy fades and the scars are simply that, scars, reminders of how far we have come, hand and hand, together, the morning sun will light up the sky and our boys will have their eyes wide open, knowing they are not alone, seeing the impossible become the possible. Beyond their doubt and fear, His love will cover our past and heal each one of those painful words spoken, actions carried out, wrongs raised against them and the journey God has intended for each of them will open up, exploding with lights across the sky, leading them to become men with integrity and the leaders they already are inside will take the wheel!
Today all I can do is pray for wisdom, for the love to continue guiding our sons through these teenage years, to be available when they need us to be, to be quiet, able to simply listen, to speak up when they need encouragement and to always remind them no matter what storms may come they are both His beloved. It’s our responsibility to make our time theirs, no matter the circumstances; and through example continue to forgive those who hurt us, just as we must ask forgiveness of those we hurt. In His mercy alone, we have been given a second chance; in His name we have new life, freedom, and everlasting joy if we can only accept this gift. If we give our children nothing else, I pray we are able to give them the gift of servitude even in the midst of uncertainty, grace and joy despite the flood ready to breach the door, and confidence in His might, to stand up for what is right even when the rest of the world chooses not to. This may not be where we belong; not really, our character may not fit the mold of the real world because we have chosen to be bold, courageous, faithful and not ignore the cries of human need around us, and what I want our boys to know, to understand is that’s OK. I want them to be desperate not to fit in but for the presence of good, of grace and mercy. To rise up, to not be the words of a dying faith, but to be the hands and the feet of a living, breathing grace! My prayer is for endurance, and a deep knowledge because of His grace both Joshua and Micah are free to be themselves in a world who would rather run from different and extinguish these amazing lights inside them! Oh I ask my Lord, even when I am weak for the strength to continue to lead them to integrity and forgiveness, rescuing them, raising from the ashes of hurt, pain and betrayal and allowing the past to sink into His hands, forgiving those grievances as far as the east is from the west!
And so today, this is my resolution, to raise our boys to be men with character, compassion and integrity, to be an example of different, not to except normal, instead view it as overrated and to never stop believing in this grace enveloping our lives for our good. Together we will trust in You alone and take your words to heart: “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9b