Much of my summertime memories from my childhood involve spending inordinate amounts of time at the city pools splashing with friends, buying Laffy Taffy at the concession stand, and trying to build up enough courage to jump off the high dive. In fact, I spent four summers during high school and college working at the local aquatic center.
This summer I have once again found myself at the neighborhood pool almost daily. This time though it’s for my kiddos’ swimming lessons. Both my children like to play in water, but they both can’t stand the thought of getting their faces wet. This, of course, makes swimming difficult especially when so much of the swim lesson is spent working on swimming with your face in. the. water.
Knowing this about my children, my expectations for this summer of swimming lessons hasn’t been too high. There has been lots of “Just do your best” and “I’m so proud of you!” There have also been many huge smiles of success from my children as they have conquered a new skill they had originally been unsure of.
Just watching these two face their fear with bravery and courage makes my heart swell with pride! They might be behind the others in their class, but I know they are giving it all they have and doing their best to conquer their fears.
In their book, “Belonging and Becoming: Creating at Thriving Family Culture,” Mark and Lisa Scandrette share an idea that I want to embed in my heart and my parenting. They write, “At their best, our families gently hold our brokenness, affirm our belovedness and support our becoming.”
Isn’t that a beautiful, life-giving picture of the family? Family should be a place where we are safe to be who we are – faults, talents, dreams, failures, and all, while always being reminded of our uniqueness and value, and encouraged to become all we were created to be. I want this for me! And for my husband! And for my kids! After all, isn’t that how God is with us?
Last week, I came across a social media post from Erika Dawson at Faithful Moms which began, “In Jesus’ name, my child, I release you from the need to be perfect.” This prayer stopped me in my tracks and convicted my heart. I found myself wondering, “Are my actions, attitudes, and words telling my children that perfection is required? Or am I setting an example of grace?” I’m afraid I probably error on the former. In the task of teaching and training my children, I’m afraid I can get caught up in the correcting (and taking things personally) that I forget that my children are “becoming” – growing, being shaped, trying their best, just being a kid, etc. Imagine how overwhelming it must feel at times to not know how to do so many things!
Even in the midst of recognizing their fears in the water and being brave in spite of those fears that fill me with immense pride, there is also the moment when I was at the pool (in the water) with the kids to help them work on some skills. My son was having a hard time facing a particular fear, and I was trying to talk him through it. In general, it was a good talk until the words “Don’t be a wimp” came out of my mouth. Fortunately, Judah didn’t understand that W word, but I still felt incredibly convicted.
After our time in the pool as the kids played a bit at the playground in the park, I pulled Judah aside. “Hey Buddy, Momma shouldn’t have told you not to be a wimp. ‘Wimp’ isn’t a nice word and I shouldn’t have said it. I’m sorry.” To which, Judah replied, “What does wimp mean?” After explaining that to him, I told him “If Momma ever says that to you again, you can say ‘Mom, that’s a hurtful word.’ Because Momma shouldn’t use that word. And I’m so sorry. I’m actually so very proud of you for how hard you are trying. I know learning to swim can be scary.”
I want my home and family to be a safe place for all family members to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses while cheering each other on in our “becoming.” I know I need this… because Momma’s still “becoming” too.
Parents, won’t you join me this week in envisioning how our families can be a safe place for our children (and ourselves) to “become” who God has created us to be? Are there areas in your child’s life that you need to extend more grace and give them added support as they perhaps face a fear or work on a skill they find difficult? And, what do you need for your home to be a safe place for you to “become?”
Father God, please release us from the need to be perfect. Help us not to place that burden on our children. Let our homes be a safe place to be open about our weaknesses and struggles – a place where those weaknesses and struggles are met with encouragement and help. Help us to be patient teachers to our children and help us to be free to be open with our children about the ways we are still “becoming.” Because the truth is, You aren’t done forming us yet. Thank you, Father, for offering us all a safe place in You, a place to acknowledge our vulnerabilities and become all that You created us to be. Amen.