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This school year, let’s dial back the emphasis on achieving to make room for becoming.

Back-to-school season has a way of bringing out the best and worst in me. The best? I get organized and hyper-attentive to my kids. Good food, clean clothes, long conversations. The worst? I get organized and hyper-attentive to my kids. Neurotic micro-managing, over-thinking, and obsessive concern for them.

It’s hard to watch your heart walk out the front door. And somehow when you mix love with a truckload of fear, and a few choice idols, you can morph into the worst version of yourself. So here’s to hoping you’ll learn from my mistakes as I share five of the worst attitudes I’ve adopted in parenting.

Be Motivated by Shame

Late for carline again — I’m such a terrible mom. And look at this car! Maybe I can stuff my purse with garbage while I’m inching through line. Hurry! They’re about to open the door! Ach, just missed it. Gosh, my family’s disgusting — is that oatmeal in the cupholder? (Yes, it is.)

Pressure Your Kids to be Everything You Weren’t

Oh my golly, did I just see talent in my child? This is so exciting! I was terrible at sports at his age! He could get a scholarship with that arm. He could become an Olympian. Quick, sign him up for some clubs. And city leagues. How much does it cost to install a home gym? Never mind, I already ordered it. It’ll be here in two days.

Never Say “No” to an Opportunity

I know these kids are exhausted, but if they miss the birthday party, they might not make friends, and then their self-esteem will suffer, and they might slip into depression, and we’ll need a therapist, and my heart will just break when they end up in prison because they never made any friends in Kindergarten!

Shift the Blame Whenever Possible

My child did what?! (How mortifying. I feel like such a failure!) You know, it’s probably not her fault. She probably started a water balloon fight in the cafeteria because the food isn’t healthy. Sugar to the brain — what can I say? It’s like heroin. We need to reform that cafeteria menu immediately. I’ll start a committee.

Absorb Your Children’s Problems

This is terrible. Why is God allowing my kids to suffer? Why does she have this learning disability? Why are his friends so mean? Why is life so hard for them? Sorry I’m sobbing beside you, sweetie, I just feel so sad when you’re sad! I just feel — can you hand me that tissue? — I feel so bad for you! It’s okay. You don’t have to console me. I’ll make it through this.

Final Thoughts

Gosh, I love my kids. When I think about why I slip into each of these unhealthy attitudes, I see love gone askew. Love that’s lost the framework of the gospel.

If Jesus was made perfect through suffering, why would I assume God would grow my kids any other way (Hebrews 2:10)? Why would I work so hard to protect them from hardship? To excuse them from taking responsibility for their mistakes or ownership of their problems? Why would I model shame and hopelessness instead of faith in the steadfast love of God?

I’ll admit it — I daydream about greatness for my kids. I imagine them scoring the winning point, crossing the finish line first, being chosen to give the opening speech at whatever event. Never once have I daydreamed about them being average, working really hard, making terrible grades anyway, and being picked last for the team. I don’t like those images, but isn’t that where character is actually forged? In the ordinary, painful, disappointing moments of life? The moments that teach us to persevere, to be humble, and to put our hope in Someone greater than ourselves?

It’s so easy to buy into the lie that popularity and achievement are the fastest paths to happiness. But the Bible says the true path to happiness is narrow and difficult (Matthew 7:14). It’s a path of suffering and pruning — a path that might wind its way directly into the principal’s office at times, or onto the bench during the championship game, or behind the bleachers to cry. And if that’s the place where Jesus takes our children’s hands in His, it’s more beautiful than the peak of any cheerleader’s pyramid or the crown of any homecoming king.

This school year, let’s dial back the emphasis on achieving to make room for becoming. And let’s celebrate the beautiful, painful, messy-as-oatmeal-in-a-cupholder process.

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