Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Imperfect Parent, Imperfect Child

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The smile melted and slid off my face as the words slapped me and then hung in the air taunting me. I looked around wishing there was a place to hide. I wondered how many around me heard the cautionary words another mother directed at her son as mine walked up. “Remember, if he uses foul language, you call him on it.”

I eased into the group wondering if I should stay or go. In that instant, my entire day changed. Happy chatter filled the air as the other mothers exchanged greetings and pleasantries. No one seemed to notice my heart laying in pieces in the dirt around me.

Yes, it was my son she was speaking of. Yes, I was a failure as a mother because my son had what she considered a potty mouth. “Why,” I wondered, “did she have to invoke caution in such a public way? Could she not have taken her son aside privately? Was it necessary to announce, in such a passive aggressive way, that I was a failure, and my son one of 'those kids' you'd rather your child not rub up against? Will her child always be so perfect,” I wondered further. “If he slips beyond her iron grip, how will she cope? Will she look back and remember today and how she made me feel?”

It was the most hideous of times. Son #2 had been bullied and tormented till he was beside himself. Tsunamis of anger threatened to wash him away for good. My happy-go-lucky son had disappeared. His last days of childhood destroyed by the tempest that engulfed him. We had been horrified at the changes and helpless to erase the damage done. One day he was safe and life was happy. The next, he'd come inside trembling with anger and spewing vile about his tormentors. He never knew if the day would be safe or scary. After a while, he quit taking chances. He just stopped going out to play.

The day came when he told us about his new vocabulary. “I talk to them the way they talk to me. It is the only way I can make them leave me alone.” If only my 'friend' could have been with me that day. Perhaps she would have seen my son, my foul-mouthed son, in a different light. Perhaps instead of publicly chastising us among our homeschool friends, she would have put her arm around me and told him how glad they were to see him. How glad they were that we had sought refuge among friends where we would be safe and accepted. No matter how we struggled.

We feared we would never get him back. He gravitated to heavy metal music – the kind that would cause many Christian, homeschooling moms to shriek and run if they saw us coming. He wanted navy blue hair down to his waist. He was only 14. We hunkered down and wondered how much worse it could get. We cried out to God, “If you don't help us, no one can.”

With fear and trepidation, we sent him off to camp the 1st time. Terrified of the potential outcome of sending our angry, head-banging, metal-head to a Christian camp, we spoke at length with camp staff and church staff. They agreed to keep in touch during the week. The fraidy cat in me was adrift in a sea of panic. He couldn't take much more rejection. What if there was more rejection?

He came home with clearer eyes and some of his former energy. He had been the “Tigger” in our household until it was bullied out of him. The return of his 'bounce' gave us hope. Maybe we had turned the tide? We still had much work to do to tame the lion of anger that possessed his soul during the months and months of bullying.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
We joined a church gym to give him an outlet for his energy. The senior citizens that populated the place looked at his long hair, surly scowl, and middle-of-the-school-day presence. Their looks said he didn't have to open his foul mouth for them to know him. He was one of 'those kids'. It was the park all over again. We were judged wanting, my desperate son and I.

The miracle began to happen in bits and pieces. He'd run to hold the door for a couple as they arrived or departed the gym. From under the hair that hid his scowl, he'd allow a pleasant, “Hello.” They'd take a second look and harsh countenances began to soften.

Before long, the grandpa's were asking to play pool with him when his workout was finished. The desk staff would break into a smile when they saw him coming. They knew him by name. Some would reach out and pat him as he walked by. He wasn't one of 'those kids' afterall. Every gesture was a band-aid to my crushed heart. I watched him begin to flourish as he became everyone's grandson.

Oh, fraidy cat, this story is not all told. Do you know this kid? Have you been that parent? You don't have to explain a thing. All fraidy cats are welcome here, especially if you've been rejected on the playground of perfect parenthood.

This son of mine has taught me something I want to share with you. His story isn't over. He's still a work in progress; aren't we all? You'll be amazed at the rest of the story. I can't wait to share it! When I do, I pray you'll see hope where you may now only sense dread. Love you long and strong. See you tomorrow?

2: Corinthians 2: 7(Amplified Bible)
So [instead of further rebuke, now] you should rather turn and [graciously] forgive and comfort and encourage [him], to keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive sorrow and despair.
 Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010

Galatians 6:1 (NIV)
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.


  1. Love wins. Thanks be to God.

  2. We still hold our breath some days, but the trend is toward 'recovery' and continually emerging faith.

  3. This is a long road with these boys. Mine teeters back and forth. I just keep praying and believing, God knows we are working hard for them and will not let them go.

    1. Yep! I saw a great post today on being embarrassed by our kids. Did you see it? I'm telling you, I loved it bcz it alleviated such a heavy load I felt re allowing them to 'be' kids and make mistakes and still trust God with the outcome. It was wonderful! I need to figure out how to do a link back or get or to do a linky so others can read this and then read hers!