MARCH UPDATE ON MY BOY . . .

J is growing and learning and struggling and flourishing all at the same time.  He’s got some amazing character traits, but like all 11 year olds, there are challenges in life. 

 Signed up for baseball.

Loves fish sticks.

His room is clean – like really truly clean.  Probably won’t stay that way for long!

He started snowboarding on double black diamond runs and is developing some confidence in some of his accomplishments. He’s found a good friend in a father of another school boy who takes him up for the snowboarding as many weekends as possible. It is wonderful to have a trustworthy Christian man who can step in and help to augment what we do with J.  Someone who has his own son, but treats all of his son’s friends as children to be shepherded and taught and loved.  Someone with a gift for teaching and knowledge that is different from what Andy and I have to offer.  Without this friend J wouldn’t be learning about physics and its everyday applications or applied chemistry – Andy and I just don’t have that knowledge base.

J’s  teacher described him as a leader in his class, fulfilling one of my dreams for him – that people will see him as a leader and he will handle that responsibility well.  We can see this, but it is wonderful to have it affirmed by another.

But, at the same time as the teacher explained to me that J was behind on a few assignments and needing some support to get out from under the emotional weight of what overwhelmed him.  His lack of organization skills brings a heaviness to his life when the snowball of “not quite finished” catches up with him.

Now this is a bitter-sweet moment for a mom hearing:  “your child is a leader with good character . . .  a bit of disarray with his organization . . . overwhelmed and a bit behind . . .wonderful addition to the class.”  So proud and so panicked all at the same time.

Suddenly I realize we left the little boy years and entered the pre-teen years.  These are the frightening years often described as difficult, challenging and somewhat beyond a parent’s control.  Some parents go into them assuming their child will be trouble.  A time of excusing bad behavior on the basis that this is a challenging time for kids.  I’m sympathetic to how hard this stage of life is, but I’m not willing to bend to the excuses. 

It is a time of challenge.  But it is also one of the richest times for growth opportunities that will ever come his way.  Instead of turning my child over to the whims of a rough few years in the name of “pre-teen craziness” . . . .  here it comes . . . I want to be PROACTIVE! 

I want to engage with my child during these times so he can learn from the challenges.  I want to be the mom who encourages him, walks with him through the challenges, not just to keep him safe, but to help him learn to navigate for himself.  He’ll fall flat from time to time.  I won’t pick him up.  Instead, it is my job to coach him to get up and go even with skinned knees and bruised elbows of failures. 

I don’t want to see him as black or white, good or bad.  I want to keep my eye on the joy while recognizing the need to help him mature and grow through the challenges.  I don’t want to turn a blind eye to his needs, nor do I want to see him only as a burden bringing an unpleasantness that will someday be outgrown. 

What kind of parent would I be to step away from those chances to mold and sculpt his character to look more like Jesus?  Why should I believe it when society tells me this is a hard time for kids and we should go easy on them?  I’m not proposing being harsh.  I don’t want to be mean or controlling.  But I’m not willing to just allow my child to float in a free fall until he gets through these years, and then try to clean up the mess. 

 Clean as we go, that’s what we need.  No habits of sass need to set in under the guise of “a phase.”  No catering to a hormonal angry child because it is easier to placate him than to work through his frustration.  No allowing an 11-year-old to run the family out of fear of offending him.

It is not logical to expect that he can grow in maturity without having to clean up the messes as he goes – the process of cleaning is the opportunity for maturing!

The question for me is, how to be a parent who supports and celebrates their child while not tolerating or excusing irresponsibility?  I don’t expect perfection or a smooth road.  I know I can’t control him into growing up.  I realize that it may take every ounce of energy I have to actively parent him to his potential.

So to my knees I fall searching for guidance and help.  Encouragement is needed, both for the boy and the momma.  And my heart is full of joy and celebration for the lessons that are being learned!  And a God who will faithful brings us through these times of great growth.

And I give thanks that I have a husband who brings so much to the parenting table – who tempers my tendency to focus on the need for change by celebrating the parts that are praiseworthy. 

I give thanks for my son who cares for people and their feelings.  Who has abilities and ideas and excitement for life.  Who sings while wading through what can feel like a mountain of homework.  Who tells corny jokes and laughs louder than anyone else.  Who daily asks for hugs because he loves the physical affection.  Who wears his faith on his sleeve and stands for what he knows is right.  Who has a heart for the downtrodden and a desire to reach out to those in need.

So, with that, here are a few things I’ve been thankful for the past week or so:

76.  Perseverance during a hard work-out

79.  The taste of goat cheese heated in a corn tortilla as a snack – yummmm!

82.  The sound of boys playing on a mild day with fresh snow.

86.  The contrast of thin branches hanging with bright rose hips and topped off with plump little gatherings of snow.

90.  A child adopted from Kazakhstan finding home in US 

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