I am the first to admit that my adult children’s lives look nothing like I thought they would…but I’ll also be the first to admit that I didn’t really think about it all that much when they were younger. I mean, we were in the trenches back then and if everyone was fed, watered and breathing at the end of the day, then we were all good. My idea of the future was who we were going to play with that day and what I was going to cook for dinner.
I still remember when the first of my boys said ‘nope, not doing it’ as I was pulling out the matching khaki pants (with belts!) and the navy blue colored shirts before church one morning. I forced him, he was angry and sulky and it was a battle of wills…but dammit, I was the parent and ‘you’ll wear what I say you’ll wear.’ For me, though, it was more of a comparison game because I felt as though every other family had it all together. Their children all matched and had combed hair and probably had a hot breakfast lovingly prepared for them that Sunday morning, rather than a box of pop tarts passed around the car while we drove.
Because if they all matched, that was a direct reflection of the kind of parent I was.
That boy’s refusal that morning is the time where it all began to shift for me. The whole choosing your battles thing and holding on to how we looked to others rather than who we really were. I was going down a rabbit hole and was never going to have any joy if I kept comparing my boys to the seemingly put together family down the lane. That we would never measure up because no family with a houseful of kids is perfect, matching shirts or not. And frankly, hair and clothes just weren’t that big of a deal to me.
Those comparisons just never end, even once they become grown ups. The most asked question I get when meeting people is the most loaded question ever…the ‘what do they do’ question. Most of the time, that guy that I like so much and I smile at each other and give a brief overview of what their career paths are because hello, this is a very important question for us as parents. Here he and I are, the ones who have yet to read a parenting book (nothing wrong with reading parenting books, but we were young and poor back then and books cost money and food was more important) who are now about to prove that we did it all right.
But I am finding that it never sits well with me, that I am bothered that my children’s identity – their worth as adults, is being defined by what their career choices are. Like, if they do something ordinary (and what is even considered ordinary??), does that mean that we weren’t good enough parents? Or more importantly, that they aren’t good enough people?
I. Think. Not.
The thing about my trio…they are all just normal guys. They don’t always play by the rules and definitely don’t always follow their momma’s perfect advice. They cannot walk past each other without throwing out an elbow and they are totally obnoxious during sports games. Trying to take a picture of all three at the same time is impossible. But they all three individually are forging their own paths and the greatest joy I have is in their relationships…with God, with each other, with others. That guy that I like so much and I…we might have just done things day by day when raising them, but I’m thinking somewhere along the way we did something right.
I much prefer to answer the ‘what do they do’ question with what kind of people they are. Kind and funny, loud and sometimes smelly, hard workers who play harder. They make our family…and all who are a part of our little corner of the world, better. It hasn’t always been easy, but God sure made sure we were sprinkled with the laughter gene. And while I can’t speak for what happens tomorrow, I’ll take today.