I am convinced that sports uniforms suddenly jump through the Darwin hoops and sprout legs, crawl through the jungles of unfolded laundry, hide in the dank recesses underneath mattresses and marinate in the swamp bottoms of athletic bags. At least, this is the story that my oldest gives me whenever we start getting ready for a game or practice.
He’s been on this earth 7.5 years and by now, we know that he *actually* believes he’s looked everywhere. When clearly he hasn’t. Because when you legitimately look *everywhere*… you will find what you’re looking for.
To build a foundation for this story, I first must give you a snapshot of Josh:
He is highly sensitive and feels deeply. He cares what others think and he tries his very best at everything. His expectations of himself are extremely high, which is why he is crushed when he comes up against something that he struggles with. He tends to keep things inside and only mentions something when he’s held it close for far too long and it eats him up inside.
Out of all the children, so far, I feel the least capable of being his parent. When I look at Josh, I am confronted by the same weaknesses I’ve struggled with my whole life. I’ve only had mild success in “fixing” myself, per se. It is only the transformative grace of God that those demons haven’t destroyed me. Instead, I can live in the reality of being loved and accepted as a whole person by an infinitely Loving God– warts and all.
I get it. I find myself wanting to be the hardest on him… for the same reasons I’m hard on myself. So with Josh, it takes the *most* restraint and the *most* effort of stepping outside myself in the parenting journey. Doing the delicate dance of guiding him through this life with one hand and constantly taking the temperature of our relationship with the other hand.
Back to the problem… at hand. We need that uniform, Josh- your game is in a few hours. What? No, you can’t just go to the game naked. I don’t know where your belt is… I have three more kids and eleventy billion uniforms. You can’t find it? It’s the last place you left it… no…. no wait…. you don’t have time to mope and be sad. That won’t help you find the uniform.
Sometimes I remember to prompt them to lay their uniform out at night, but we all know my brain has usually ended up in the trash can by 8:30.
So this is how Josh ended up lying on the couch, melted in a puddle of dejection and sadness and no uniform. I wanted to tear my hair. I wanted to yell in frustration, “YOU’RE OLD ENOUGH TO FIND YOUR OWN STUFF!!!!” But just as God quietly comes to my side and whispers love and peace, I took a deep breath. And I stepped aside for a few minutes to ask for grace, mercy and humility. You know. The things I’m terrible at.
I walked up to Josh and patted his back and looked him in the eye. “Josh, I know you aren’t great at finding things. I see you. You’re good at a million other things. And it’s ok. However, it’s not ok to throw up your hands and say, ‘well, I’m just terrible at that, so I’m going to give up.’ It’s still your responsibility to keep track of your things, but it may be a little harder for you.”
“You know, I’m bad at some things. Like, really bad. And you know it. What kinds of things have you seen that mommy’s really bad at?”
Josh looked me level in the eye and said, “Cleaning. Mom, you are not good at cleaning.”
“Well, Josh… you are right. I really can’t stand it. I’d much rather write stuff or create stuff or play the piano or play with you guys… a million other things. Your dad is far better at the cleaning game. Let me ask you a question, just because I’m not good at cleaning, does that mean I can just stop doing it?”
“That’s right. It’s still my job to keep at it and keep after it even though I’m slower and not as efficient as your dad. Why? Because it’s my responsibility. I help dad care for you guys and care for this house. But it’s not as easy for me, so I put in a system to help me get things at least ‘livable’ in the house… not perfect, but livable.”
Then we talked about what a system was and how it could help us achieve our goals.
So we went from room to room together and turned each room upside down and then checked that room off of our list. After we had exhausted all spaces I looked at Josh.
“There is only one place left to look.”
He looked at me and nodded.
We said it together: “The dryer.”
The last stronghold of the clothing fortress. We both opened the dryer and half expected a wild animal to jump out at us. We held our breath knowing there just wasn’t any other option. We dug for a few seconds and emerged victorious with pants and a shirt.
We could never find the belt, but I let that go. His pants might fall down but at least he wouldn’t show up in his birthday suit.
Confidence. We can’t build it by fighting their battles. Doing so steals the confidence because we are taking an opportunity they have to wrestle with the problem. It is in the struggle that we either decide to fight or run. What we can do is walk through it with them. To say, “I see you and I see your weaknesses. I love you. I’m with you in this fight. You are safe in this space as we walk together and learn how to handle our responsibilities.” Together… because parents struggle too.
Lately, Josh has been having to learn a lot of tough lessons at school and at home. And we’ve had to call him out quite a bit. He’ll hold on to it and brood about it, taking it as a personal failure each time. I recognize that it’s his personality and journey he struggles with. But on the extra hard days, I whisper to him “Hey, stay down here awhile after we put your brothers to bed.”
He and I will snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie or show, just the two of us. We laugh and talk a little… not erasing the things of the day, but putting some ointment on the relationship that life had burned that day.
We decided to watch “Beat Bobby Flay,” that night. He and I are Food Network junkies and we yell at the television and guess who will win. I wanted a snack so of course, I asked, “Hey Josh, you want a snack?”
We are watching “The Food Network,” after all. I went upstairs to make us some hot chocolate but when I got up there, I realized I couldn’t see the TV. I must have put my glasses somewhere.
“Josh… have you seen my glasses? I cannot for the life of me remember where I put them.”
He pointed above the TV. “Right there mom.”
I smiled. My eldest and I. We are good at finding each others’ stuff.
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An American humorist, writer and author. When boiling down the chicken soup of life, she finds those golden, fried nuggets of truth & writes them long after the kids go to bed.