23 Jan 2012

On seeing our {kids’} mistakes in perspective

My first born, he’s just like me.

Starts the day out with a gold ribbon ceremony for showing honor, courage, responsibility at school and all he can think about is the reprimand that ended his school day.

All praise clouded out by a finger shaken in his direction. His breath fogs up the glasses that hide his eyes as we walk home. From the minute he shuffles down the school’s steps I feel the itch in him that something is out of place.

I try to hear him above the school buses and kids racing home toward the weekend. I bend and duck awkward toward his eye level to try and lip read his sadness.

“School is stupid. I always do everything wrong.”

The bright little golden ribbon stuck to his red shirt says otherwise, but it’s hidden beneath his thick coat now and the dread at having done something wrong is pasted across his face instead.

“But what happened?” and I try to get him to go back to the beginning and tell it to me step by step. How could a day that started with me taking his picture next to the principal end with him this defeated?

I feel the knot in my own stomach and the hairs of defensiveness rising on the back of my neck. I want to make it right, by pointing out how wrong everyone else must have been.

But the wind’s cutting off any words I try to get out and he’s so hunched against the cold and his sadness that I don’t think he can hear me anyway. My forehead is as scrunched up as his posture and I can hear the frustration mounting in my mind as I push the stroller, focusing on the puddle, the ice patch, the path with the too-close cars.

It’s the cold; it bites through my frustration and makes me notice other things. The minivan parked around the corner, the hill home, the Friday evening pizza and a movie night.

And then it hits me – I’m the grown up. I’m the grown up and Jackson’s just six and soon he’ll be seven, eight, nine, ten. I am not actually going to be able to barricade all disappointment or misunderstanding out of his life.

But I can help put it in perspective.

He gets in the car and slumps into his car seat- staring out the window. I pump the heat, look back over my shoulder and describe to him how the day started. We walk through the ceremony again; the ribbon, the hard work and 30 accumulated mini gold tickets it took to get him there.

And then, after I’ve heard the outline of what went wrong in the afternoon I tell him that’s ok. Even though it’s a bummer when a day starts out great and ends with a bump, that’s part of growing up. That I know how it feels because it doesn’t stop when you’re a kid.

Grown ups make mistakes too and wish they could have do-overs and feel frustrated when the one small thing they got wrong clouds out the big thing they got right. And it’s up to us to choose which thing ends up being the story of our day.

I suggest we make his Friday story about the gold ribbon. Hot chocolate at home helps the decision go down. As does an adoring baby sister, a little brother and a movie night with dad.

And somewhere in the middle there’s a moment – a moment when I get to look into the eyes that I know are mine and tell him that I don’t need a gold ribbon to know he’s special.

That I’ve known since a summer afternoon in Kyiv, Ukraine when I whispered to God what I wanted for my birthday. Since I walked Kreshatik street with Peter and met Heike and Cliff, Bob and Colleen, and all the Skinner kids for cake and ice cream at the Golden Gate restaurant. Since I looked up at the sun with squinted eyes and knew that God had saved the best till last.

Since I asked and God answered and the answer was Jackson.


I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him.
~1 Samuel 1:27.

No gold ribbon and no mess up can add or subtract from that gift.


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{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    I have to constantly have to remind myself that I can’t always fix everything for my five year old daughter. I know I have to let her make mistakes and learn from them sometimes, but it’s so hard. I will probably be reminding myself of this for the rest of my life.

    Being there for them, that’s the important thing.

  2. 2

    This is beautifully written. The privilege that we have to walk alongside another soul and lead them into right thinking and right relationship with God can be heartwrenchingly painful, but the fruit of that partnership is whole and lovely. I spent a year walking beside my daughter in seventh grade as she felt the sting of rejection from friends and adults she believed loved her. I watched it shred her spirit, but I stepped into the fray with her and God was faithful and turned it into good: he grew her faith in him. That is the ultimate reward in discipleship, and motherhood.

  3. 3


  4. 4

    Good job mom! You handled it well. Time after time God keeps showing me how I need to curb my mother bear instinct to make everything right and to throw everyone away who does mean things. The world is full of disappointments and we need to walk our kids through them and not protect them or dismiss them.

  5. 5

    BEAUTIFUL post!!! I am so inspired by your wisdom! You handled this so beautifully! This post really spoke to me as my newly-turned 7yr old daughter is started to experience those disappointments…You rock, Lisa Jo!!

  6. 6

    I wish I could adequately convey how deeply I am touched by this — how I find myself and my firstborn (heiress to my DNA) right in the middle of your story. This ministers to me so much today. Thank you, Lisa Jo.

  7. 7

    I cried at your words today, friend. For many reasons. One, for the ways He gives us an ache for something we’re completely incapable of doing perfectly–parenting–and how He provides the strength, the words, the lessons…

    And for how I do that, too–the holding onto what makes me feel defeated, and how there’s so much power there, and how it makes me so angry.

    Your words give life, friend. Truly.

  8. 8

    I know a woman with grown children who have had difficult journeys as adults. She once told me, “If I had it all to do over again, I would have let them fail more.” She realized she protected them from failure instead of letting them experience it, and teaching them how to pick up the pieces after it happened. So, when the became adults, they didn’t know how to fail well. They failed big, and then were lost about how to get back to where they wanted to be.

    I still consider this some of the wisest parenting advice I ever received. Sometimes, our maternal instincts kick in too early. We think about giving kids a happy childhood instead of a content personhood. We shield them from the realities of life in a way that makes those realities a shock when we cannot protect them anymore. But we are not raising children, we are raising future adults.

    I love how your words have added to this wisdom by thinking of not only failure, but disappointment. What a valuable lesson to teach kids perspective. To remind them that neither we nor God see them through the lens of their mistakes. I’m glad you were able to give your son that perspective.

  9. 9

    Wow. My eight year old is so similar to your Jackson. Thanks for sharing this. It gives me perspective and affirmation. I love my sweet son and so want to shield him from disappointment and failure, but I also want him to know and experience the amazing grace and restoration of a God who loves Him so.

    Love your posts. I read them everyday!

  10. 10

    This post is SO incredible. Just beautiful. Sunshine

  11. 11

    I love this post, your words, your conclusions, your insight, your emotion, your heart. REALLY good writing, thank you for sharing from your heart, and encouraging us in a journey that can so often feel defeating for all of us :)

  12. 12

    Beautiful words, Beautiful mom.

  13. 13

    i showed you how MUCH I LOVED THIS by re-tweeting, sharing on fb, and PINNING:} ‘nough said:}

  14. 14

    We just moved overseas in December — the first time for all of us, adults and kids alike, to live outside of the U.S. Interestingly, we also chose to place our oldest son in kindergarten here. I’d been previously homeschooling him, and I’ve found the crush of emotions to be strange and powerful these past few weeks since he joined his class. I’ve yet to deal with a situation as you described here, but the conflict of wondering what to say and how to say it –or whether to say anything at all– I am there. I get that so very much. As always, your grace and perspective have given me encouragement.

  15. 15

    Oh, what a sweet post. This is a story repeated often with my son. He is so tender. It is hard for him to let go of mistakes and failure. What a wonderful reminder of how we need to support and love and show balance. Thank you once again for such an encouraging word!

  16. 16

    So true and so hard. Wonderful how you handled that situation and turned his hardship into a blessing – for him and then for us. Thanks so much for sharing your struggles with us!

  17. 17

    I can feel your heart on this one. My oldest started Kindergarten this year. One the first day, I got a call from his teacher about an incident at school! I instantly got defensive in my head, but didn’t say anything. But I was so bummed that the teacher couldn’t just let things slide on his first day. I wanted his first day to be special. And sure enough, she’s never had a problem with him since and even says how much she adores him now! Oh well, you’re right, we can’t shield them from disappointment. In any case, congrats on the ribbon…good for him!

  18. 18

    Wow what a beautiful story we can all relate too.

  19. 19

    Loved this. Really helpful. Thanks so much! I mostly feel defensive about school for my fellas these days. Trying to find the balance between encouraging & loving them & letting them experience the reality (sometimes harsh) of school or go in and kick some butt. :-)
    I too lived in Kiev. In 1996. Kreshatic–brings back such great memories!

  20. 20

    What a sweet and beautiful post!

  21. 21

    This is a great post! I appreciate your insights…and I think we have all been there..
    I am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.

  22. 22

    Parenthood is such heart aching gift. I’m struggling through so many emotions, my ten year old sounds just like your son, seeing the one cross and missing the other 19 ticks. My eldest is starting out on her first serious relationship and I’m so scared, considering locking her up till she is at least 21.

    I love being a mom but am so thankful that their heavenly father is watching over them.

  23. 23

    There have been a few times that something has happened at school which made me frustrated that I wasn’t there to protect my child. Each time as I stared up into the sky and asked my frustrated “Why?” I have received the same answer.

    “There are lessons this child must learn in order to build character. You have made home such a safe place that she cannot learn these things there. It is for her benefit that I teach her these things outside your home. I am pleased that when she returns home to you, you will faithfully provide her with the comfort and direction she needs. She doesn’t always need your protection because she always has mine.”

    I’ve tried a couple of times to argue, but it really goes nowhere fast. I always love your writing, Lisa Jo. Thank you for all the ways you bless and encourage me.

  24. 24

    What a beautiful story. He sounds so much like my own son who is now a Dad with a son of his own. That sensitive spirit is what makes him such a good father. Your words took me back and brought tears to my eyes. So beautifully written.

  25. 25

    This. is. golden.

    Can I give you 30 mini-gold-tickets, and a gold-ribbon ceremony for these beautiful, tender words? =)

  26. 26

    A big *yes* to this and to the comments here: thank you for sharing your mama’s heart here today. It’s a gift to walk with these little people: they need to learn to put things in perspective, and don’t they can learn it best from the perspective of being known and loved? Isn’t that the definition of nurture? I think it should be… Thanks for this, Lisa-Jo.

  27. 27

    I wish more parents would talk to their children the way you talked to your son here. I thought you handled it very well, and the advice you gave will benefit him in later years. Job well done!

  28. 28

    Thank you. Exactly. Since I have a 6 yr old who works so hard for perfect and gets so disappointed when one small thing goes wrong, I love your words that I can share with him. To focus on the good on the day. I don’t model it well. I get stuck in the rut of the wrong. To help form in him (and me) the ability to see past the failures and to relish the triumphs. Thank you!!

  29. 29

    If only we could protect them, if only the disappointment wasn’t, as you said, part of the growing up. I know all too well what damage can occur in a person when they’re never faced with disappointment, never having to deal with the undesirable and move on.
    Wonderful post.

  30. 30

    Beautifully written and so relevant to my week! On Wednesday my daughter’s school held an awards assembly for everything from academic excellence to leadership. We were notified of it last week and told that if our child was to be recognized we would receive an invitation by Monday. Sure enough, despite a good report card and no behavior incidents, my kindergardener was one of 3 kids in a class of 25 that did not receive an award. Talk about stinging! I contemplated keeping her home for the afternoon to spare her the pain but decided to not only send her but to attend as well and show her my support no matter if she was awarded or not. We also talked about the importance of cheering on our friends and continuing to work hard in class. She held back tears throughout the hour long assembly in which kids were awarded everything from highest math score to fastest runner. It was heartbreaking to see her pain but I was glad to be there to help her talk through it afterwards. Yes, my initial instinct was to turn to the teacher and ask why she was overlooked but in the end decided that not receiving one this time would make future awards that much more satisfying to her. Still such a hard thing to allow them to be bumped and bruised by the world.

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