By Shawna Scafe
I’ve read that we start parenting our children before they are yet born. We give them little nicknames – usually based around produce type and fetal size. We joke about them kicking us like soccer players and essentially put into life little ideas we have of their soon-to-be revealed persona.
Then your kid comes and they are nothing like you expected.
I mean, of course your baby will cry more than you wished they would and then your toddler will have tantrums over all the things. But lining the momheart are fading layers of the family she envisioned before she was ever a mom.
For me, I envisioned a daughter who was empathetic, patient and laidback. I imagined sons who were outgoing, compassionate and inquisitive. Of course they are all of these things at different points and in unique ways, but that golden-hued projector image I had of my kids doesn’t carbon copy into my real life.
And thank the Lord for that!
It had taken me a better part of two and half decades to be struck with the holy notion that the way we’re made is not a mistake. All of our strengths, our weaknesses, our coping strategies, our outlook, our personality. They are all on purpose and we often expend a lot of fruitless effort to be someone we aren’t, constantly struggling to shove our rough edges into this mould we think all admirable persons must fit to be accepted and loved.
My oldest son has been in speech therapy for a couple years. At one point his therapist spent time with him at his preschool. The next week, we sat cross legged on my living room floor for a therapy sessions. At the end of the games and lesson, she told me her school observations were that my son was very reserved, almost disengaged at times. I wasn’t really shocked at this, but I was surprised. Surprised because it hit me how much I had wanted him to be that outgoing boy I had envisioned.
Over the year we would spend a lot of time trying new outings and new places to help him feel confident and safe in social settings. Sometimes he would surprise us and be more than outgoing. Yet, so often he would snug up to our legs. He would tell us how he was feeling shy and we would tell him that’s ok, but he should try and be brave too. We would watch as his little sister ran into random crowds of kids like she was reunited with her besties. We would watch as he held back and missed out on something that would be so fun for him.
I remember the first time we said it out loud to each other, ‘we wished he was a little more brave’. We struggled with pushing him to change but still honour who he is, and was made to be.
But then we started noticing something….
He’s not always the type of child who will run up to anyone at anytime and ask them to play. He might be ready to jump into something or he might feel shy. New social settings are hard for him. He hates being the center of attention. He’s not outgoing, but he was made brave in a very special way that many people aren’t.
He is brave through his desire to help. He is always the first to offer help. He will step up for someone being hurt and tell off a bully. He will protect his siblings. He will ask us to help him figure out a way to help someone else. He will try and solve any problems that someone else has, and make a pirate treasure map to go along with it.
He isn’t brave like we thought he ought to be. He’s braver. He will put himself out there in ways that are hard for even most adults. He may not give you an instant smile but he will give you his cautious heart and hands.
Next month he will be five. He is the lanky, tall kind of preschooler that looks older than he his. But sometimes he curls up giant legs onto mine and I wrap my arms all the way around him and tell him that God made him just who he is for a very special reason. I tell him that God made him to be a great helper who is brave and kind and super fast. And we hope that never changes.
Shawna is a LadyNerd and stay at home mom of three toddlers. She writes at Simple on Purpose, a site about succeeding and failing at minimalism and intentional living.
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