I'll Never Do That to My Kids...

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a teacher. I wanted to be like those ladies who knew everything, or so I thought at the time. I wanted to have the power to help young children learn, and I wanted to be nicer than many of my teachers. I would be the most understanding, patient, and kind teacher to ever walk the earth. And then, I grew up and became a teacher.

I'm not the nicest teacher to ever walk the earth. My students often wondered if I had gotten out of bed on the wrong side. They asked me if I was alright, and got quiet when my reply was less than patient. My students loved me, and I loved them, but we had those moments that I swore I would never put a child through, and I did it probably as often as all my teachers did to me. I'm so sorry now, but there's no going back. I was not a compassionate paragon of virtue. I was a woman who loved kids and was trying to do the very best job for those children. And like all teachers who really want to do great, I had some not-so-great moments. I'm so glad that I became a teacher after I'd raised three kids. I was much calmer, kinder, and more patient than I was as a young girl who had barely grown beyond teen hormones and was still learning how to handle day to day living.

As a young mom, I had the patience of a flea-bitten, starved street mutt. I don't know why it took so many years for me to develop the ability I have now to be consistently kind throughout most of the hard parts of daily life, but to my poor children, it must have looked like my impatience and angry outbursts signaled a love that came in and out like a bad cell phone signal. I feel so sorry about those years. I wish I had been different. But now, looking ahead, I can totally understand why grandmothers are so much nicer than moms. We've finally learned how to do it right -- for the most part. (As of 2017, still not a grandma, but I can imagine...)

 I told my kids all the years growing up the exact same thing that my parents said to me. "You wouldn't have liked being raised by my mom. Now, you think I'm hard to live with. You don't even know what hard is." We weren't claiming to have been raised by evil people, but we were saying that our parents were harder on us than we were on our kids. For the most part, that was true. My grandparents grew up during the Depression. There was no food, so if you asked for a second serving of dinner at the end of the meal, you'd be beaten. It wasn't that they wanted to hurt their kids. It was just that they knew that the people serving the food had barely enough for everyone, and asking for more would expose that lack and embarrass their hosts. So kids back then were taught at the swing of a hand or a belt to mind their manners and never ask for more food. My grandparents tended to just give me the extra serving, because they had it. They didn't ever want to deprive their children (or the grandchildren that they were raising) of a good meal. They were happy that I felt full at the end of dinnertime. It was their childhood dream, and they were making it happen for me.

Did we bake cookies together, cuddle and snuggle in bed together in front of the TV, go on long walks and discuss what we saw? No, but I was dressed nicely, had good meals, and got a good night kiss every evening. They raised me better than their parents raised them. I baked cookies with my kids, snuggled in front of the TV, went on walks when they were tiny and gasped at the glory of a dandelion. We had our experiences, and I expected them to be deliriously happy.

But, of course, my kids found some of my efforts lacking. They had wished for me to play ball with them, to put them in sports classes like many of their friends, and maybe to have the house really clean so that they wouldn't be embarrassed to bring people home. Ouch, I missed the mark, too. But did I admit it? Not really. Like my grandparents, I said, "You don't know how much you have, things I could only dream of having growing up." I fell into the same trap.

I'll never lose my temper with my kids. Oh, that's what I said, but I did just the opposite more times than I want to remember. I'll be an active mom and play with them. But I didn't play ball, because I honestly stink at it, and because that made no sense to me. Why? I don't like sweating under the hot sun while everyone laughs at me. Grandma likes it, so let her play with you. Sad, huh? I thought that I was a great mom, and I really was as good as I knew how to be at the time. But I missed the mark.

What does this mean for your life? Well... if you're a kid, cut your parents some slack. Keep a mental note of things that hurt, so you can avoid them where possible in the future. For instance, the word "stupid" was painful to me, so I avoided it like the plague. Then, wink really hard and see your parents in the best, most flattering light. Forgive them, and forgive quickly. They're going to mess up a lot, and in huge ways, but you will miss the mark with your kids, too. And you'll wish that they had as much grace with you as you will extend to your own parents.

If you're a mom, cut yourself some slack. Not looking forward. If you're looking forward, do better now than you have in the past. Change something, no matter how little it seems to matter now. They won't say they appreciate it or even seem to notice, but God will reveal your efforts, and he will reward them. But looking backward, forgive yourself for everything. Don't keep a mental image of that one thing you never want to do again. Don't even do that. Just wipe it out and create a mental image of what you want to do now. Don't focus on the wrongs. Focus on the right. And if you do, you'll be doing exactly what every parent should -- helping their kids have a better life than they've had so far, as much as is possible, and as diligently as they can.


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