Thursday, September 03, 2015

Grace For My Boy

Today is a significant day for my boy and me. A day that he is altogether unaware of, but one that I pray will stay with us for the rest of this school year, and the rest of our life together.

This morning as I started the day with my vital two cups of coffee, I stumbled across these words:

"Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health
to the body."

My first thought? "Ah, yes, this is a gem to pass on to the kids!" After all, they have been at each other all week, cranky, rude, ungracious, mean, ugly, etc., etc. So I passed it on to them, I'm sure in one ear and out the other, and we moved on with the day, hopeful that any of the richness of that Proverb stuck even a little.

Fast forward to yet another aggravated exchange between my 11 year old boy and myself this afternoon. We went to a bookstore to find him a grammar/spelling book for school because in the chaos of packing and moving, his books are stashed away somewhere in a box, in storage. I'm simply trying to find a few things to get by over the next month or so that we are in home transition.

I found a book I really liked. I was thinking about how great it looked, how much I thought it would work well for Elijah's level, learning style, etc. I made the mistake of actually speaking out loud in front of him, sharing my opinion. I simply stated that I thought it looked like a great book. What did I get in return? He's 11 and is pretty sure he knows everything, so of course what I received out of his brain, heart and mouth was an overwhelming mix of defiance, sarcasm, and disgust. With a sneer that I didn't even have to see to know it was there, my sweet boy uttered the words, "Geez, if it's so great, why don't you get one for yourself?" I realize the words themselves are not that bad. It's not like he cursed at me or called me a name, but can you just hear the attitude? The lack of kindness? It broke my heart and made me mad as hell at the same time.

So how did I respond? With the same kindness and grace I was expecting from him? Of course not. I immediately fired back at him (because that's how our personalities seem to work with each other) and I'm ashamed to admit it, but I actually threatened to take him out of my house and put him in school, so that some teacher could deal with him. Deal with him?? I truly hate that I said that. And what words came stumbling over my hot head and hard heart in that same moment?

"Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health
to the body."

That Proverb was for me. Go figure. And in that same moment I realized I cannot and will not give up on my sweet child. I will not send him off to let someone else "deal" with him. He is mine, warts and all. And a lot of those warts he inherited from me. How can I possibly threaten to reject him? God, forgive me. Sweet boy, forgive me.

The fact is, if I am really honest, this life with all grade school age children and no more babies is hard for me. I miss the babies. My best gifting is teaching and loving babies and young kids, and now my son is an adolescent, and it is HARD. He challenges me every day. Every morning, when he walks in to the kitchen and greets me with, "Hey, Mom", the day begins and we are on our way. On our way to a day either seasoned with arguments, eye rolls, resentment, and frustration; or a day full of kindness, patience, soft hearts and gracious words.

Gracious words. They are hard to come by in some moments and in some entire days. It takes work. It takes a constant awareness and openness to our own weaknesses. Being able to admit when we are weak. Being able to admit when we are wrong - even to the smirking face of the know-it-all adolescent standing in front of you, who is also still learning how to show humility. And there's the key: Humility.

I need Humility to teach my children. I need Humility to know that I don't know everything. I don't have all of the answers, I don't know what it takes to turn out successful young adults, I don't know the secret of how to just be nice to these little people each day. I'm tired, I'm stressed, I'm overwhelmed, and I don't have a clue. In the moment that I can admit those things, that's when I am able to accept help from others, advice from others, and the all-knowing Grace from God in order to fill all of my gaping holes. God fills in those holes and wide expanses of a lack of knowledge with community, friendship, love, and a whole lot of grace, and then some.

In humility is where we find our gracious words, and it's in humility that I won't give up on my adolescent, challenging, sarcastic, sweet, funny, loving, caring, creative, boy.

Today is a significant day for my boy and me.


Vanessa said...

I can't believe sweet Eli would speak to his amazing mom that way! ;) Never before having kids did I imagine I would want to direct swear words at a 3 yr old, but I also never thought I would have felt so much indignation and frustration and anger boil up in me from something a preschooler said or did.

This summer I had a (re)revelation that my kids don't need me to be an awesome calm peaceful graceful merciful loving parent when they're easy and fun and awesome and sweet and I'm well-rested and on top of life (not happened yet). They need me to be those things when they are difficult and maddening and upset and frustrated and angry and defiant and feeling things they probably cannot even express. Kind of like in Matthew 5:46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same?"

I can tell you from my experience working with middle school and high school kids that the old adage "the harder they push away, the more they need to you to stay close" (and forgiving) is so true. He'll come back around if you can keep a loving respectful relationship, albeit one-sided at times. I know you know that and aren't going anywhere, but just encouraging you that this too shall pass!

Elizabeth Mai said...

Thank you for that, Vanessa!! I appreciate the encouragement and sympathize with the emotions and experiences you write about. I always respect and take note of advice you and Trey have given.