Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
I’ve said it a hundred times; “Comparison is the thief of joy!” But that doesn’t stop me from getting a little carried away sometimes. As a parent, I find myself exceptionally quick to compare. One of the really great parts of being a teacher is that I get to see families in action. I am impressed constantly at the parenting I see happening in this community. I’ve seen tough love, gigantic humor, incredible logic, deep faithfulness and inspiring mercy. When I see a parent do something awesome I often say to myself, “Why didn’t I ever do that?”
I see parents who are more creative than I was, more patient than I was, more prayerful than I was — and I often feel like I should send my kids a note of apology … especially the oldest one! Knowing what I know now, there are lots of days I’d like to go back a couple of decades and start over because my kids deserved a mom who was more fun, more carefree, and much less … well … nuts about things like picking up socks and brushing teeth and all the other stuff I thought was a big deal at the time.
When the comparisons get me all flustered, I stop myself and realize I did the best I could and that the kids have a super-great dad who balanced me out. It’s about then that I also realize that the one thing I REALLY got right then (and now) is to pray for my kids dozens of times a day. That makes me sigh in relief because despite my shortcomings as a mom, God’s really the one in charge!
Sometimes I still look back and hope I got more things right than screwy! I hope I taught them enough lessons about truth, compassion, faith and kindness. I think as parents we sometimes get lost in the fear of “did I do/am I doing enough?” We second-guess ourselves and we compare. I think sometimes we hold ourselves to the most ridiculous, impossible standards.
We let Pinterest be our compass. We think if we’re sitting still we’re wasting time and we forget that the children are His, not ours. He made them perfect, and no amount of glow-in-the-dark slime, elite ball teams, or private lessons in anything will ever top the perfection with which they were created, nor will I ever be able to top the love and protection the Creator has for them.
Comparisons are not the work of the Father.
As we prepare for the first of the three little Wohlferts to get married, I was feeling sentimental, old, and inadequate. I was making this list in my mind of all the things we didn’t do, like go to Disney; let the kids play every sport they wanted; or take trips that exposed them to culture, art, and travel. We went to Grandpa’s in Kansas, went camping, and spent most of every summer raising livestock to get ready for the 4-H fair.
I got a little carried away, thinking I hadn’t done enough when I came across this letter written by a foster child from Oklahoma. It sort of put everything in perspective. The child was asked to write about the things he wanted in a family. Here is the response…
In my family I want food and water. Don’t hit on me. A house with running water and lights. I want love. Mom and Dad don’t fight. I want no drugs. Don’t kill my pets. Help me with school. Nice clean clothes. No lice or bugs in the house. Clean house and a clean bed with covers. Don’t sell my toys. To be treated fair. Don’t get drunk. TV in the house. Let me keep my games and school stuff. Nice shoes. My own comb. Soap. Nice safe house with a heater. A coat and a toothbrush.
After I finished my big ol’ ugly cry, I thanked God for my parents, then I prayed for the astonishing number of kids who could have easily written that letter and then I realized that things like trips, fancy stuff, and being the Pinterest Mother of the Year meant nothing.
Turns out, I gave my kids more than I realized … they were prayed for, read to, loved, challenged, and held responsible. They had to work and sometimes entertain themselves and figure things out. As I often do, I had let things spin sideways in my mind and left God’s work out of the picture, taking on the weight of it all myself. I suppose once again I got a lesson in trading comparison for gratitude!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the places you compare yourself to others. Pray with that list for a couple of days, then tear it up and ask God to help you replace those comparisons with gratitude. If you’re a parent, stop and say a prayer for each of your children right this minute and then go play; dinner can be late, laundry can pile up, and dishes can be washed later … just go play for a few minutes! If you’re not a parent, you can help one and all of us by stopping to pray for families everywhere!
Blessings on your day!
Copyright 2018 Sheri Wohflert