Do I think my kids are perfect? Absolutely not. I KNOW they are not perfect. No one is, after all. Goodness, I'm certainly far from it. But, back to my kids.
While I know they are not perfect, I do have to say that one thing they are...they all are...is kind. Maybe not always, but for the most part, they are all kind kiddos.
Now I may sound like a bragging mom, and if I do, I apologize. There's nothing worse than a mom who thinks her kids are perfect when they're not. Or a mom who is always tooting her own parenting horn. But please know that is the last thing I'm attempting to do. Lately, the Lord has just caused me to really see how kindness is rare in today's word, where attitudes and rude comments are so much cooler. Where it is so much more the tendency to be in competition with others than to be their teammates. Where it's more common to see others tearing each other down than lifting each other up. And I am so proud that somehow, the Lord has blessed my kids with kind hearts. Tonight I want to talk about Gabe in particular.
Gabe is my oldest, and he is a smart kid. He's clever and quick and understands so much more than I probably give him credit for. But Gabe also learns differently than others. Gabe has dyslexia. And although it's just a label in essence, it does help explain his struggles. His letters get turned around and make it extremely challenging to read. And because reading is a challenge, Gabe has to have some extra help at school.
The extra help started off being no big deal to him, maybe even fun to get a break from the classroom. But now this extra help has possibly made him a target for those bullies that exist in every class.
Gabe has come home from school before and nonchalantly mentioned that someone called him stupid. But he usually brushes it off and moves on. Gabe is definitely a confident boy in general and doesn't tend to let what others say bring him down. Gabe has also been blessed with many good friends. But tonight, as he lay in bed and recounted the day with me as he always does, his eyes got watery and he grew quiet. I knew something was wrong. And as he asked me, "am I stupid, Mom?" my heart sank.
I of course asked him why he would think he's stupid. I've gone out of my way, anticipating the day when he would start to associate his different way of learning as being a negative, and have always told him that he's smart but just learns different than the average classroom is taught. That he just needs a little extra practice and it will all make sense. But as Gabe shared that on the playground today *Joey told him he was stupid, that he reads like an idiot, and that *Jimmy agreed that Gabe was dumb, it all made sense. Our words are piercing. They can go right through the heart of another, and make a lasting hole where they rest. Words can exist forever in the quiet echos of our minds. Words can hurt.
And as I once again told Gabe how smart he is and how he can do anything he sets his mind to, I then asked him what he said in response to those unkind words. "I didn't say anything, Mom. I knew I didn't have anything nice to say back, so I didn't say anything."
Yes, Gabe is kind.
Trying to hold back the tears as the words, "am I stupid, Mom" played over and over again in my mind, I attempted to think of words of wisdom to impart to Gabe. And of course, our ultimate role model came to mind. We talked about Jesus, and how people were cruel to Him. How they said unkind words to Him. Gabe chimed in and added how people threw rocks at Jesus on the cross and said, "Kill Him, Kill Him," even though he had done nothing to deserve it. And yet, through the midst of it all, how Jesus continued to show nothing but love and grace, and now calls us to do the same to others. And Gabe then told me that's what he tries to remember when people are cruel. And, he asked for me to help him pray for his 'friends' who were unkind. (Please know that these are not close friends of Gabe. But to Gabe, everyone is a friend.)
As you can imagine, by this point in the conversation my heart was not just heavy, but breaking. Why is it that this sensitive mom is always the one who has to field such tough problems with my kids. Dad was still at church teaching the high school youth group, so I tried my best to get through the prayers. But as I ended by thanking God for Gabe's kind heart, I lost it. And to lighten the mood a bit, Gabe started to laugh at me hysterically. "Mom, why are you crying?" he said, as he giggled. I told him that sometimes moms are so overcome with love for their kids and so very proud of them that it comes out in tears. He said, "I love you too mom, but don't cry."
I guess if there's one piece of encouragement I could offer to anyone who happens to be reading this, it's just to think of parenting as intentional. Kids don't accidentally learn how to be kind to others. It's our job, in words and in actions, to teach them. To show them. If we leave parenting up to chance, the world will take over. And God warns us of the things of this world. Who wants their kids under those influences. And we cannot assume our kids know by watching us. We have to tell them. A simple reminder before your kids leave the door in the morning to 'be kind to your friends' could do so much more than you'd ever think. Perhaps it could have saved my son from thinking he's stupid. And perhaps not. But I know that the Lord will grow Gabe into a man of character through the adversity. Because, thank God He takes our weaknesses and can turn them into strengths. He takes our hurts, and turns them into love for others, even others that may hurt us. And on that, I rest my heavy heart tonight.
And one last request. I know I have so many wonderful, believing friends who may be reading this tonight. If you could, say a little pray for my son, that his heart would continue to be abounded in Christ's love and kindness, I would really appreciate it.