Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A kind heart

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 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.


TanyaLea said...

Oh Angie ~ I think I am your twin at heart... (don't I WISH!!) But we both have that sappy, emotional heart, and just reading this, I am in tears, too. I'm so proud of the way you handled that and how you took that moment to search your heart for wisdom and the right words to see your son through that moment the way that Jesus would want you to. You are SO right... we have to parent "intentionally" and not let the busyness of life allow us to float right on over that 'intentional' part that is such a key to raising and training up our children in the way they should go, so that when they grow old, they will not depart from it!

I will most certainly pray for Gabe's heart, and for conviction upon the boys' hearts who said those mean words. Mean hurts, and it can stick. So I also pray there are others that recognize this and take a stand for Gabe in a mature manner, not a thrash-back-at-ya manner, just enough to let them know it's simply NOT COOL to be mean!

I love your Gabe, and I have yet to meet him in person, but I just want to jump through this screen and give him a big hug for being KIND in a world where {you are SO correct!} seems to be losing this good trait.


Tara Anderson said...

This one hits close to home. My Chloe has learning struggles and is actually being tested for dyslexia. A big portion of what should be "fun" time at school is spent with her getting extra reading help. As her Mom it's hard enough for me to know she's struggling with something. Like your Gabe, she has the BEST heart. She is so selfless and loving. She enjoys simplicity and doesn't ask for much.

I'm afraid if someone called her "stupid" my reaction would not be as godly as yours. Someone might have to bail me out of jail before I even get to the part about grace. :) You're very right, though...we HAVE to be intentional about training our children. They WON'T just grow into Christ's image without us pointing them that way. And ultimately, that's WAY more important than reading scores and report card grades.

I said a prayer for your Gabe...and his Mama. I know this isn't easy for you either. Keep encouraging your boy and training him along the paths of righteousness. These mean kids are most likely a tool God is using to "prune" away the things that don't need to be there...but that's hard on kids and their Mama bears. :)

Jboo said...

Oh my -- he is an incredibly sweet son! I know how hard it is for us Moms to hear this type of news and try to guide our children in the right way. You did a fabulous job. Will say a prayer for your Gabe and your family.


Unknown said...

Oh Angie, I anticpate some of these type moments (for different reasons) and I am trying to prepare my daughter.

I couldn't agree more with parenting with intent. On our way to school we pray just before we arrive and I am going to make sure we specifically add being kind to others as well as not saying anything if somebody is unkind to us.

You are a great example teaching love & kindness through your parenting.

Abundant Grace at the Sanders home!

I will remember Gabe tonight in my prayers.

God Bless,


Football and Fried Rice said...

You are so blessed to have Gabe for a son! And he is blessed to have you as his prayer warrior mama! I get so disheartened when I let my mind wander to what our kids go through at school and what they will go through in breaks my heart that there are mean people in the world who are mean for no other reason then they want to be!

I'm so proud of Gabe, as I know you are. I pray the Lord will keep his heart soft and that others' lives woud be changed because he has decided to stand apart.

Kim said...

I will remember Gabe in our prayers tonight.