It is 10:45 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. My son is bouncing on his tiny trampoline behind me as I work at my desk. He is chanting, “I will develop myself in a positive manner…” Breaths come in puffs between the words, making him sound like a chuffing train.
I – puff – will – puff – develop – puff.
I smile. He has been working on the “Word of the Belt” memorization requirement for his Martial Arts class. We work on the saying each morning before remote school begins.
Slow, steady, repetition of words.
It is one of the things I am teaching him.
I am also teaching him good manners, how to write his name, how feeling multiple emotions simultaneously is okay, and how to roll out tortilla dough. Sometimes, I teach him about movies or music or books. Other times, I teach him curse words. (hey, it’s tough times we are in ….#quarantine.)
One of my greatest joys as a parent is the passing on off knowledge. Giving the torch to the next person. Showing my kid how “things are done”. Sharing my tough experiences with him to help make his experiences a little better. Additionally, as a follower of Jesus, my faith compels me to share with my little man how to live life as Jesus would. We share with others. We live compassionately. We are kind. We show love to each other and everyone we encounter.
My church of origin would have called this type of parenting, “Bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (quote from the Saint Paul). More than once I was admonished in my youth that, upon having children, I should “raise ‘em right”. They told me that children are one’s legacy. They said that one should teach them what is important in life.
So, when I became a mom, I realized that I was supposed to impart wisdom. I was required to leave an indelible imprint of information, knowledge, and morality on my son. I was supposed to be the information center for his brain, his heart, and his body.
Could the pressure be any heavier?
In 2014, a newborn baby was placed into my arms—red, wriggly, and wrinkled. I thought my heart would burst with sheer love in that moment. I realized more than ever my complete lack of competence. The nurses didn’t even send me home with a ‘how-to’ manual.
Apparently, I was intended to figure out this parenting gig on my own.
Over these 6 years, I have stumbled over my words, uncovered my flaws and been distressed at my weak points. My Achilles heels began to ache all the time. Was I parenting enough? Was I making sure my son knew the things that would make him stronger, healthier, more resilient? Of course, I have not been alone in my parenting journey. For this, I remain overwhelmed with gratitude. I have a partner who parents untiringly next to me. I have friends and family and a church. I have a community that surrounds me with encouragement and information.
All of this understanding floods me as I listen to the squeak of the trampoline’s springs and the recitation of the “Word of the Belt”.
It is in this moment I realize that the scale was tipped too heavily in my direction.
I am not only teaching my son.
I am also being taught…
This 42-inch, 38-pound bundle of humanity is teaching me so much about life and God and faith and love and hope that I can safely quote the Apostle John who wrote “I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25) if I wrote down everything my boy is teaching me. As the grown-up in the relationship, I automatically assumed that I am the one who is meant to be the master while he is the student.
There was much arrogance in that assumption.
When Jesus had His earthly ministry, He welcomed children to His side. He told His disciples that unless they became like “little children”, they would not see the Kingdom of Heaven. In the culture of Jesus’ time, children had no rights or voice in society, yet He admonished His followers to emulate them.
If the Creator of the Universe is pointing to children and saying, “Learn from them”, then I would be remiss if I did not listen to His direction.
So, lately, I’ve been leaning into to hear what my son has to say and sitting closer to him to watch how he views the world.
He’s showing me how to laugh at silly things.
He is teaching me to love with complete abandon.
He is helping me say, “I’m sorry”, more often and with less shame.
He is asking me questions about faith and God and proving to me that it is okay to doubt.
He is teaching me that sometimes life is messy and beauty lies right there in the brokenness.
He is teaching me that sometimes failure happens, and it is okay to try again and again, refusing to curl up in a corner and give up.
He is demonstrating to me ways to express emotions that I had never previously allowed myself.
He is proving to me that God shows up in the ordinary, every-day-moments of life. If I rush recklessly through my day, I just might miss the Divine.
The Psalmist states that the fruit of the womb is the reward of God. He wrote that if you have a “quiver full” of children, you are blessed. The older I get, the more I see that the children in my life – my son and any other child I’m lucky enough to be around – are sheer gifts from Heaven, proving that God is good and wants to give us an abundant life.
I do not necessarily need to impart lasting wisdom to my son in order for him to be successful and happy and whole.
I simply need to let go and love him.
Whatever tidbits of knowledge and experience I can relay to him will pale in comparison, I think, to what I have gained from him. Thus far, this small human has shown me more grace and beauty and love than I could ever have envisioned seeing from one who only has 6 years of life under his belt.
I have no idea if I’m raising him “right”.
I only know I’m sharing with him all that I can from my heart to his.
And he is teaching me right back with all the gusto and bravado and uninhibited zest for life that God created him to display.
I can’t wait for his next lesson which I’m sure will start right after he bounces off the trampoline.