It was my son’s 13th birthday the other day. Like many other kids, he had some birthday wishes. (Totally doable ones IN HIS HEAD.) They were easy, he said. He explained, with great enthusiasm mind you, that he only wanted a snake (bless) or a dirt bike (you know the kind that he would ride on the street, with cars). Now listen, I’m not judging any other parent that thinks that these are reasonable gifts, but I actually had to ask him if he knew me at all?!!! (Jury is still out on this.)
- I will NEVER (and I say this with all confidence) willingly live in a home with snakes. PERIOD.
- My 13 year old doesn’t even love to shower all the time, I’m thinking he’s not ready for the rules of the road until we can get some of life’s basics down. Wouldn’t you agree?
Long story short, he ended up with a very nice set of golf clubs. In my head I thought these were truly a great gift. He has amazing natural talent in golf, and the way I see it it’s a great business tool for his future. Giving the gift that keeps on giving is what my seasoned mind was thinking.
This may sound spoiled to some, but he was seriously disappointed. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him this upset, to be honest. It showed in his face at first, and then his words later. It’s not that he wasn’t grateful for being given a gift, but his heart’s desire and mine, for him, didn’t look the same and he was clearly in REAL conflict. He actually voiced some pretty hurtful things to me. I listened. (For awhile, I was internally laughing a bit because in no world, that I had a say in, were those other two wishes going to happen, but I was letting him get it all out, anyway.)
Let’s stop for a second. Have you ever seen a kid throw a tantrum and in your head you’re like WTH. We judge. We all do it. Or better yet you’re judging the parents for not doing a better job. For a split second I was having my own out of body experience, judging him and myself, because he was actually not acting like himself and my immediate response was to get mad and be completely hurt. You know with my rational brain I went to that place that thought that I had completely failed at this parenting thing.
At that moment I wanted to walk away from him, and not talk to him for the rest of HIS day (the mature thing to do, ha). I couldn’t do that, however, because whether it was justified or not, he was disappointed. I didn’t meet his expectations, even if they were unreasonable in my mind. He wasn’t happy. I needed to love him through his disappointment. The circumstances weren’t going to change, BUT either was my love for him and he needs to know that. My love isn't conditional. True love leans in, not out. Even though I have the ultimate authority to make these decisions while he lives under my roof, that does not negate the raw emotions attached to his unmet expectations. I may be the parent, but I need to honor his REAL feelings. The truth is that disappointment, fear, and pain will never look the same from person to person. Unlike one of my other kids, with this one, I don’t have to guess how his heart is feeling, because this dude is going to let me know. I don’t necessarily always like the words or action, but I love him just the same.
I stopped and thought about this kids heart. He is so kind and so funny. In large part he is the glue in our house when someone is sad or feeling agitated. He can read people and situations better than most adults and he has this uncanny ability to see deep into other people’s hearts and souls. He loves well and is one of the most compassionate people I know. I adore him. (On days like that day I needed to remember that.)
I didn’t give in, I leaned in. Within an hour or so, I felt a hand on my shoulder, a head on my chest. I heard some sweet words being spoken. The door then opened and the golf clubs went out with the kid. He was out hitting balls in the backyard, swinging for the houses (sorry neighbors), with the biggest grin on his face. What I realize is that his gratitude for the clubs and his disappointment about not getting the snake are not mutually exclusive. He legitimately feels both in a real way! I needed to understand this. We ALL have our ugly sides but we all also have our beautiful sides. He's no different than the rest of us. We don't always LIKE all sides of everyone, but AUTHENTIC LOVE gives grace and understanding, many times, when we deserve it the least.
Romans 11:6 NIV
And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.