I have the kind of kids it’s easy to be proud of. Tall, healthy, smart. They look good in photos. My son knew his letters and his letter sounds when he was two. Even their behavior problems are traceable to dominant personalities and high intelligence.
Kudos for me, right? Super cool.
That ought to make it easier, I think, on those days when I can’t get anything done. It ought to make it easier that it has been four years since I started writing a book, and I know I’m talented, and I know I have a story, but I’m still not published.
I could just say, “Well. My greatest accomplishment of all is my three beautiful children.”
Now, listen. I don’t want to shame anybody who does say that. I don’t want to minimize that parenting is massively important and ferociously difficult. Or that it is often the thing you do ALL DAY. Certainly I am not going to try tell you there is anything sweeter in this world than the smell of my baby’s hair.
But this. My children are not my greatest accomplishment.
They are not an excuse for me to avoid my own work. They are not a shield between me and my frustration when I feel blocked or stymied in my own life process. They are not projects onto which I can turn my considerable creative powers.
They are people.
Bear with me, friends. Being a mother to these children – especially in this season of my life – is The. Hardest. Thing. I. Do. It is the thing I do for the most hours of the day. And I won’t tell you, either, that it isn’t the most important.
I love my children. It is my job to love them. But it is also my job to set them down, out of my arms, onto their own feet, eventually to let them walk their own way into this fragile, dangerous world. It is my job to let their lives come separate from my own.
My children are not my greatest accomplishment.
Because, yeah, it’s super great for me to take credit for my children when they’re early at reading The Cat in the Hat, but what about when they’re crying out in pain and I can’t fix it? What about when they’re making mistakes I can’t undo? What about when the thing that has been spilt is more than milk?
Every day of parenting brings me to a point of powerlessness. Every day I am reminded that I simply cannot control my children. They are not perfect reflections of my values or my interests, or even my strength. Every day I am reminded that I am not the power that makes my children breathe, nor are my children the power that gives meaning to my life.
And, folks, this is okay. It isn’t just okay. It’s right and true. I want this for my children, as well as for myself. They are not units of production. They are not gold stars on a chart. They are not the source of their mama’s self-esteem or self-worth or identity. They are nothing less than small (and wild) but fully image-bearing souls.
Our children are not papers that we’ve written that some shadowy teacher is going to grade. They are not our projects. They are people.
My children can never be accomplished. It’s never done.
Please, take this as a benediction, if you need it. Go on. Go ahead. Live your life, as best you can. And let your children live, free, too. Offer to them your authenticity, your courage, and your example of walking, sighted in faith. Let them see you following your heart and taking risks to live your most true life. Maybe this will be your greatest accomplishment, that you lived your one true life and your children got to see it.