The moment I became an adoptive parent, I was already questioning myself.
And every little while I would just stumble into full-blown panic.
What if we weren’t successful as parents? What if our children didn’t follow the Lord? What if they grew up and rejected everything we taught them? What if they never overcame their past? What if they never accepted us as family?
What if we screw them up and just make everything worse?
We tell this story in our family, about the day when our daughter was having a hard time obeying. She wasn’t being terrible just… okay, maybe terrible. It was a rough day. So I sent her outside to run some laps around the house. “Go take five laps around the house and then come back in ready to sit down and do school properly,” I said.
She went out, then two seconds later came inside. “Look, Mom! I caught a robin!” She held up the bird and I raised my eyebrows in slight surprise. It wasn’t the fact that she caught one, that girl catches wild birds left and right, even when we suggest that maybe it’s not the wisest thing to do. (And I was enough in awe of the skill that I hadn’t forbidden it completely.) I was surprised by the speed at which she had caught it.
I nodded, smiling slightly. “That’s interesting, sweetie, but you’re not obeying. I told you to run off your energy. It’s not bird catching time, it’s time to practice obeying mommy.” It was a great line, really. And I was cool as a crispy lettuce salad.
At which point, my sweet, sugar-dumpling-of-a-daughter decided to huff and puff and let go of the bird. In my kitchen.
You know the Mama-Ain’t-Jokin’-and-You’d-Better-Obey-so-Fast-Your-Head-Spins voice that happens in emergency situations? Yeah, that happened.
She proceeded to exercise her bird-catching skills once again, (and yeah, she’s like the bird-whisperer) and as she stepped back out of the house, I told her to let the bird go free and run her laps. At which point she turned to me and screamed at the top of her lungs, “YOU JUST HATE NATURE!!!!!”
It went down-hill from there, with announcements that I was the worst mom ever and she didn’t even ASK for me to be her mom and I WASN’T her mom and I never would be and it’s not her fault she got adopted and obviously God didn’t love her to force her into a home as terrible as ours. Then my husband called about something else, heard her ranting in the background, and came home from work.
I ended up sitting on a bar stool in my dirty kitchen with my head in my hands.
I knew about kids and anger and spouting off things they didn’t mean. I wasn’t too concerned about her rants over me being a bad mom. I was more concerned with my own personal judgements about being a bad mom. Probably I should have just celebrated the bird? Been super excited instead of moderately interested and trying to hold a line for obedience? After all, the point of going outside was to get some fresh air and burn off energy. Why couldn’t I think faster on my feet?
And good grief, what if I wasn’t showing the love of Jesus in a way she could understand and she didn’t grow up to know and follow Him?
The good news is that day has gone down in family-lore, and it’s one of her favorite stories to tell about herself. And when she’s being ridiculous about something, she’ll pause and say, “Wait, Mom, is this a “you hate nature” moment?” And we’ll laugh and move on.
(note: when I mentioned sharing this story she said, “Make sure they know that was when I was little!!” So, please note, she was little when the “you hate nature” moment happened. 😉 )
But the questions I started asking myself that day? Sometimes they build and explode over me.
When we brought our son home and realized our daughter’s outbursts are at best, mild, the questions began beating into me– like a steady bass drum beat. What. If. He. Never. Heals. What. If. You. Fail. To. Show. Him. Love. What. If. You. React. Poorly. And. He. Never. Gets. Past. It. What. If. What. If. What. If.
So I went to God one day with all these questions because I was practically giving myself panic attacks at the thought of my children not doing well.
And it was then that my husband asked me, in genuine curiosity. “What exactly do you feel like success would be?”
Immediately, my mind formed the list I had created for myself. Success is my child accepting us as family. Success is my child functioning in society. Success is both my children following God. Success is a happy home. Success is…
Yet, none of my words were actually the Lord’s and I knew it.
God immediately brought to mind the words of Sabina Wurmbrand. A young man once told her all about how God had called him to start a church and he anticipated that since he had obeyed God, the church would be a success. She immediately rebuked him saying, “Obedience is the highest success!”
Success in parenting isn’t about how my children turn out, it’s about how I obey.
It’s about me listening to the Father and obeying His voice. In parenting, but also just in life.
I’ll mess stuff up. I won’t do it perfectly. But if, in the end, I’m choosing obedience– I’ve found success.
And the same is true for you.