Last week I went to my son’s athletic awards banquet. As I listened to accolades, heard names called out, and watched well-deserving kids (including my own son) walk across the stage to receive their awards, I kept thinking to myself, “This isn’t who you are. You are so much more.”
And as I looked around the room at all the kids whose names were never called, I thought the same thing, “This isn’t who you are. You are so much more.”
Moms (and dads), our children are so much more than the sum of their awards, successes, test scores, elite organizations, college admissions status and friend groups. Because every single one of those things will one day wither and fade away.
So during this absolutely crazy time of year, when our kids are sizing themselves up everywhere they turn, I’m reposting the blog I wrote last year.
Let’s not buy into the lies. Let’s hold on to what stands forever -- the Truth about who and Whose we are. And who and Whose our children are.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
(Isaiah 40:8, ESV)
Original blog posted on May 18, 2018:
Ok, so maybe this blog should be called “the top 5 lies Jenny Klement hears at the end of the school year”, because it’s true. But I have a feeling I’m not the only one. ;)
Some call it May madness. The nonstop activity that fills our schedules - and our psyches too.
This crazy busy time of the year can bring such a flood of emotions into the heart of a mom - with graduations, award ceremonies, and banquets. Performances, test scores and report cards. Letters of recognition and letters of acceptance and denial.
We say goodbye to teachers and classmates; sometimes even schools. We close familiar chapters and anticipate the opening of new ones in the fall.
And then there’s summer - right around the corner. We’ll soon lose the comfortable routine of school, and find ourselves grappling with what we’ll do with our kids at home - every day, all day.
Whether your child is graduating from kindergarten, elementary school, high school, or even college, the end of the year sure can stir up anxiety in a mama‘s heart. Don’t get me wrong, of course there’s joy and pride over the year’s accomplishments, the thrill of summer freedom, and excitement about whatever lies ahead in the next chapter.
But over the years of having kids in school, I’ve felt a certain angst and restlessness in my heart – based on the whispering of a few lies in my head. At times these lies have stolen my peace and threatened to distort both mine and my children’s view of themselves.
I’ve chosen my top five to share with you. Of course, like every lie, these five lies skew our sense of identity and worth; and what makes us feel like we’re enough.
Lie #1 - My child’s identity and worth is based on grades, test scores, and academic performance.
I’ll never forget speaking at a youth retreat several years ago. A dynamic priest had also come to minister to the teens. He gave a mesmerizing talk, and heard countless confessions. If they didn’t choose to go to confession, the teens could just talk one on one with him.
Right before he left the retreat, he came up to me to say goodbye. He looked terrible; completely distraught. “Jenny,” he said, “My heart is absolutely breaking for these kids. I’m shocked by the stress they carry. It’s so disturbing to me, because the pressure they feel to perform and achieve is just too much. And you know what’s most tragic? The pressure they feel isn’t from their teachers. It’s from their parents.”
As a parent myself, his words hit hard.
Last year, my own sweet girl fell apart with anxiety about taking the standardized STARR test for the first time. She was so stricken with fear about the possibility of not passing the test, she said in tears, “Mom, if I don’t pass, I don’t think I’ll survive.” She was only in the third grade! I had never heard anything like that come out of her mouth. What a big wake up call for this mom, and the beginning of some very crucial conversations about who she is and what defines her. And I'll be damned if some standardized test score is going to define her.
Lie #2 - My child’s identity and worth is based on awards, achievements and good behavior.
With five kids, I’ve been to more awards ceremonies than I can count. I’ve felt my heart burst with pride when my child’s name was called for an award. I’ve also felt my stomach twist into knots when it wasn’t. And I’ve discovered a lie is whispered both in receiving and not receiving awards.
The lie our kids hear when they don’t win an award is: You’re a loser. You’re nothing. No one even notices you.
The lie they hear when they do win an award is: You’re pretty special. You might even be better than everyone else.
Sadly, sometimes us moms hear those lies too.
... Including the lie about our kids' behavior. Let's be real. Some of our kids have really struggled this year. Sure, we might have the child that’s every teacher’s dream - they follow the rules, they’re kind to their peers, respectful to teachers, and constantly earning good behavior certificates. And what a gift that is.
But maybe we have the kid that just can’t seem to get it together; the kid that earns demerits and detentions instead of awards. Maybe they’ve dropped out of school or even run away. This less than perfect “behavior” in our kids is humbling and heartbreaking. And while that behavior needs to and should be addressed, it simply cannot define our kids.
External behavior is never what the Prodigal Father sees when He looks at His prodigal child. All He sees is the child He loves. We need to see that too.
Lie #3 - My child’s identity and worth is based on what groups they’re selected to join.
Whether it’s making the choir, the band, or a part in the play. Whether it’s winning a student council position, making the basketball team, getting a spot on a select sports team. Whether you’re invited into NHS, a prestigious leadership group, Young Men’s Service League, National Charity League, or that desired college sorority or fraternity. In life there will be times our kids are invited in, and times they are shut out. And when they're shut out, you know what lie they hear? I don't have what it takes. I'm just not good enough.
Toward the end of his junior year of high school, my son received a letter stating he didn't make the final cut for “Red Jackets”. Red Jackets is an extremely prestigious group of senior leaders at our high school. I'll never forget the look on his face as he opened and read the letter. He was devastated. He'd worked so hard for it. I knew he felt like a total failure; like he just wasn’t enough. My heart broke for him and for myself. I wanted him to be selected just as much as he did. But I knew I couldn’t waste one minute before speaking truth into the lies I knew he was hearing in his head.
“Kolbe, who you are has nothing to do with wearing a red jacket next year. It’s just a stupid jacket! This ‘denial” does not define you. It’s not a rejection, Kolbe; it’s God’s redirection. He has something different in store for you next year; something even better. You just have to trust in His plan.” And believe me, every word I spoke to him I was also speaking to myself.
Lie #4 - My child’s identity and worth is based on what school they’re accepted to.
Ironically, just a few months ago, during Kolbe’s freshman year of college, he was invited to join a highly selective and prestigious group at A&M. But what a roller coaster my heart rode. Because the very next day after Kolbe received that exhilarating news, my senior in high school received the devastating news that she had not been accepted to her dream college. Even though she had already decided to take a gap year, that letter of ‘denial’ stung with the pain of rejection. As she shared the news with me, with her eyes full of tears, I poured into her the same truth I had poured into Kolbe two years earlier...
“Clare! This is not a rejection of you; this is God’s redirection for you! The same faithfulness God showed Kolbe yesterday by opening a door for him, is the very same faithfulness He is showing you today by closing a door for you. God is confirming for you what you already knew in your heart - that He has something different for you next year; something even better. Keeping trusting in that!”
I remember hearing once that "our kids were made for heaven; not Harvard". So why do we focus so much time and energy on Harvard, instead of heaven?
Lies #5 - My child’s identity and worth is based on what friends they have.
As the school year winds to a close, the time comes for our kids to leave behind classmates, teachers and often schools. The transition from what’s familiar, to something new and different, isn’t always easy. And there’s no guarantee our children’s friendships will stay the same. As our kids grow and change, their friendships do too.
Throughout my own life and my kids' lives, I’ve watched friends come and go. I’ve seen friendships fade and others remain for years. Some stay superficial, while others deepen. Friendships can change for a season, only to return again in another. At the end of the school year, change is definitely in the air. The friends our children have walked alongside this year may not be there next year, for a variety of reasons.
As my daughter graduates from high school, I know how scary it will be for her to let go of her dearest friends and watch them scatter to new places - with new friends awaiting them there. There's always that fear - will I be replaced? Will our friendship stand the test of time apart?
“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.” Sirach 6:14, NAB
True friendship is a gift. At times our kids will find sturdy shelters in their friends, and at other times they won’t. As parents, we can remind them of the most faithful Friend they will ever have, Jesus. He will never change, and He is their surest and most Sturdy Shelter. And as we pray for our kids and faithfully walk alongside them, we offer ourselves as a sturdy shelter amidst the change in friendships life may bring.
Moms, if we’re really honest and transparent with ourselves, our kids aren’t the only ones who buy into these five lies. There’s a desire deep in our mamas’ hearts that causes us to wrestle like crazy with these lies too.
🖤We want our kids to be special in this world.
🖤We want our kids to do something special in this world.
🖤We want them to have someone special (true friends) along the way.
And there’s nothing wrong with those desires. But guess what, moms?
Those desires have already been fulfilled!
God our Father has the same desires for our children that they have for themselves, and we have for them! St. Paul reminds us,
“You are God’s masterpiece, created to do the good things He planned for you long ago.” Ephesians 2:10, NLT
Our children are far more than “special”. They were chosen into this world; uniquely designed for a specific purpose in this world; planned long ago by a loving Father who is walking beside them and fulfilling that plan all along the way.
And moms, we were too.
We need to cling to these words and let them change the way we view ourselves and our children.
I think we also need to hear the sobering words of Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the famous British band Queen, about what really brings true fulfillment. Freddie had it ALL. And yet in an interview toward the end of his life, he admitted that he was desperately lonely…
“You can have everything in the world and still be the loneliest man. And that’s the most bitter type of loneliness. Success has brought me world idolization and millions of pounds, but it’s prevented me from having the one thing we all need - a loving ongoing relationship.”
As parents, let's not prop our kids up on false pedestals that lead to emptiness and loneliness. Let's refuse to allow the lies of the world to define them - not in what we think in our heads, feel in our hearts, or say with our mouths - and dare I add - what we post on social media.
This is why we roll up our sleeves and pray, girls. For ourselves and our kids. That we might experience what Freddie Mercury so deeply longed for - a loving ongoing relationship.
Only God our Father can truly offer us that. Through His faithful and unconditional love.
"We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, (or our strengths and successes),
we are the sum of the Father's love for us."
- St. John Paul the Great