When my son Joshua was little, he was extremely shy and did not like big social settings, which included school events, fall festivals, Christmas parties, family reunions, Easter egg hunts, and neighborhood parades. In my mind, he didn’t like all the fun stuff.
When he was three years old, I dressed him up in a cute Hershey’s Kiss costume to wear to our church’s indoor fall festival. I envisioned taking lots of photos of him and his best buddy smiling and posing in front of the bales of hay. But instead, as soon as we walked through the gymnasium doors, Joshua clung to my leg like a koala bear. He refused to go play with the other kids and would barely say hi to his best friend.
I tried everything to get him to stop hiding behind my knees, but nothing worked. Chatting with other parents, I envied how their kids were jumping in the bounce house, chasing each other, comparing costumes, playing games, and posing for photos. I wanted Joshua to have fun, but I also started to feel a little embarrassed.
A few mom friends tried unsuccessfully to talk him into playing with their kids, and I got the impression some thought I should push him a little harder to socialize. And I wanted to walk around and see all the decorations and festivities without a little boy holding on to my leg for dear life.
It kills me to admit this now, but, in situations like that one, I wished my little boy was like other kids: talkative, outgoing, and playful with his peers. It wasn’t until I accepted Josh for exactly who and how God made him that I was able to get to know the unique ways he processes life (and crowds) and the depth of his heart, mind, and soul that brims with wisdom. You see that little boy became a teenager and eventually graduated from high school, moved out on his own and got married. He is now a young adult who I love hanging out with and who I frequently go to for advice and wise counsel.
God uniquely designed our children (friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers) with unique preferences and individual personalities. Listen to how King David describes the intricacy of God’s creativity and the intimacy of His knowing us from head to toe:
You created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:13-18 (NIV)
Just like us, our children have a God-given longing to know their parents’ delight in them, quirks and qualms, as well as ideas and interests. There is no one whose approval and acceptance matter more to our children than ours.
Accepting our children is not always easy, especially if they don’t match what we expected or hoped for when we envisioned being a parent. It’s challenging when our children don’t have the same interests or personalities as we do, or when our hopes and expectations don’t fit into the way God created them. That is when we have to open our hands and let go of what we wanted, so we can get to know and enjoy the child God gave us.
I know this isn’t easy. It’s especially difficult to give our children acceptance and approval if we don’t offer ourselves the same. I’ve found that sincere and lasting acceptance for my children and for myself can only come from an overflow of finding my true worth from the One who created me.
God invites us to come to Him every day and to let Him remind our hearts of how He sees us and how much He cares about us, just like King David did. The more we receive God’s acceptance and believe His affirmation, the more we will have to give away.
Let’s look for and celebrate our children’s natural tendencies and unique traits. When we do, we will discover a child who makes the world a better place because they are in it!
Lord, I confess expectations have sometimes blinded me from seeing the unique way You created those I love. I want to not only accept my child and others but really delight in them. Teach me the language of approval and affirmation as I hear You speak it over me so that I can speak the same to them. Help me to slow down and see my children and others through Your eyes and cherish the unique way You made them and the interests You’ve given them. Amen.