As parents, my husband and I get the behind-the-scenes, down-and-dirty view of our kids. We know their faults and weaknesses. We know what we hope they will learn to do or stop doing before they leave our home. We monitor behavior and try to “nip things in the bud”. We give our kids a once over before they leave the house so they don’t embarrass us in public. (For the record, his jacket was zipped up and he was in middle school, so I deserve a break for failing to notice he was NOT wearing a shirt!)
Given this view, my conversations with others often go a bit like this:
Friend: “Your son is very smart.”
Me: “Yes, I just wish he would apply himself more. Right now he just cruises.”
Friend: “Your son is so helpful.”
Me: “Yes, we just need to tone down his enthusiasm a bit. He can get carried away at times.”
Friend: “Your daughter is so good with little kids.”
Me: “Yes, I just wish she acted that way with her brother!”
Friend: “Your son is so cute.”
Me: “Yes, but he really should be more polite.”
I am afraid I sometimes look at our children as though they were kid improvement projects. They look pretty good, but let’s see if we can’t enhance them with this suggestion or that expectation.
On Sunday, for a brief hour, I got to see my children through the eyes of others. Our oldest had been asked to give the sermon on Sunday. As it turned out he wasn’t the only one to help out. Our middle son was acolyte that day (a Lutheran version of an altar boy). Our daughter helped do the children’s puppet sermon. And our youngest, refusing to be left out of the action, helped his dad with ushering.
I sat in the pew, nervous, praying to the Holy Spirit that my children would do well. The Holy Spirit came through. They did. Then as an added bonus, I saw my children for a grace-filled moment in a different light. I saw them through the eyes of others. I saw their good hearts, their worries, their hopes, their efforts, their possibilities… all entwined together into four dear, shining souls. It was really a lovely thing. A view I burned into my heart.
That moment on Sunday was lovely, but we are now back to the normal down-and-dirty pace of life. Just as there is always work to be done on a home, it would seem there is always work to be done in kid and mom improvement. They need to study harder, calm down, be nicer to their siblings, and be more polite. And I need to always, always, always remember they are more than kid improvement projects. They are dear, shining souls.