We grab the list from the local box store and make sure our kids are stocked with supplies. Suitable backpack? Check. All the paper? Check. Ziplocks and Kleenex and anti-bac wipes or whatever else they are requiring this year? Check, check, check.
But what if we’re missing the stuff our kids really need from us this school year? What if we’re serving up supplies for surface success while failing to even think about what our kids actually need to thrive and grow in the year ahead?
Here are five things your child desperately needs from you that will never make the supply list.
Yes, begin here. You have morals that may bump up against the school’s ways and means this year. Your child needs your courage here. You dictate the schedule, mediate the crazy, administer the yeses and no’s that determine how much your family is together and apart, how much space there is for quiet growth, slow conversation, and the boredom that makes way for creativity. It takes courage to say no to good things in order to make space for the best things.
A Different Metric for Success
I recently read the book Spark (brilliant, by the way!) in which John J. Ratey spoke of a PE teacher who changed the metric of success for his students. Instead of grading by completion times on his students’ required runs, he strapped heart monitors on them all and began grading by exertion. The results were fascinating. Kids who weren’t naturally fast were working as hard as, if not harder, than kids who finished first. This turned his grading rubric on its head.
We desperately need to do this as parents as well.
We love quick and easy, measurable results – when our child scores 24 points in the basketball game, finishes with an A, lands us an honor student bumper sticker. Those metrics make us proud, but are they measuring what matters most? What about kids who can do hard things, are learning to apply themselves, aren’t afraid to take on new challenges and give it their all even when that does not land them first across the finish line or at the head of the class? Those kids may sit the bench on the basketball team and go right out and change the world. Let’s be brave enough to re-define success for our children, to see and celebrate the small, quiet and slow-growing fruit the world does not typically applaud.
I sat with a more mature mother recently and asked her for wisdom. She had one foot in the world of empty nesting, older kids making their way into the world, and a few children left at home still. I asked her what has changed – how her perspective has shifted as she parents the few she has left at home. She gave me one word – loyalty. It caught me by surprise but it shouldn’t have.
We spend all of these early years trying to raise well-adjusted kids, trying to carefully harden them up like spring tomato plants and let them know life isn’t fair. But as they grow in these tween and teens years and beyond, as they strengthen their flight wings, what they really need to know is that we have got their back fiercely. We are for them. Yes, they will need to grow their own brave, but we will be endlessly on their team.
There is a durable freedom, tangible courage we grow in our kids when we say you are mine and I am for you.
I stood by a gentleman at the grocery store yesterday, all four of my kids in tow, and he made small talk about my hands being full. If I had a penny for every time I heard that one, friend. My mind raced through the canned responses. I wasn’t feeling the “if you think my hands are full you should see my heart.” I debated jumping ahead with a snide, “yes sir, and yes, they’re all mine, and yes, I know how this happens, thank you.” But thankfully I kept my mouth shut and smiled.
He proceeded kindly, “My wife and I had six. That’s my wife over there with my youngest. We’re dropping her off at college tomorrow. You can’t even imagine how fast this is going to go.”
I think I felt the lump in both of our throats.
Perspective, friend. This hard year, this hard day, this awkward stage and the frustrating season won’t last forever. I don’t want to weave through the days mournfully, but I do want to number them wisely, knowing we are growing something slow and beautiful here, even when it’s hard.
I hate to think about how often this is my last resort rather than my first line of defense. The words “all we can do is pray” make me cringe, especially when they come out of my own mouth. This lifeline of communication with the Creator of the universe is not intended to be solely a desperate concession, this is our offense. When those sparks of fear for all that is ahead for my kids, socially, intellectually, physically, spiritually ignite, prayer is the faith-filled petition that changes both them and me.
So as we zip up lunch pails and backpacks, double check the supply list and make sure our kids have everything they need this year, let’s pause and make sure we have the things we need as well. We have an incredible opportunity, a front row seat in our children lives. It’s hard and humbling and beautiful. Let’s do it bravely.
This post originally appeared IChooseBrave.com and was republished with permission.
Katie Westenberg is a wife and mother to four, who is passionate about fighting fear and living brave. Married for 15 years, she lives in Washington state, enjoying life outside the city limits and any adventures that involve friends and family. She writes at IChooseBrave.com encouraging women to fear God and live brave.