Posted by: minnow | August 5, 2015

When Your Children Aren’t Who You Wanted Them to Be

dna_istock_rustycloudThis is a post mostly for Moms.  Dads and others feel free to read it but I’m primarily addressing a particular group of Moms–those Moms who wrestle with on-going disappointment.   I belong to a private FB group of women who do quite a bit of wrestling as one or more of their children make the announcement that he or she isn’t straight.  Some feel like their whole lives have been knocked off balance.  They didn’t see it coming and were completely shock.  Others sensed the announcement’s arrival and prayed fervently for God to make it not be true–afraid of what IT will mean for them or for their children.  A few, took the news in stride but until last month’s SCOTUS decision, felt they needed to let go of the hopes and dreams for themselves as mother-in-laws and grandmothers.  All these ladies faced the difficult work of adjusting to their new realities while clinging to their children and reaching out to God.

All of these ladies are my heroes.

Many have felt the need to leave fellowships they grew up in because these fellowships no longer showed them the unconditional love of Christ.  Once their children shared their secrets (usually as teens or young adults) most of these Mamas felt pressure from others to condemn their own children, to shame them, and even to reject them if that’s what it took to “get rid of the gay”.  Instead, these Mama Bears, as they often refer to themselves, chose to let go of life long friendships and faith connections.  While their hearts were breaking from their own loses (but even more excruciatingly due to the pain their children experienced at the hands of those they has assumed would have their backs) these moms found themselves following God’s call to love their children–alone.  It takes a special brand of courage to make those kinds of choices.  And these Mama Bears are a special brand of courageous!

I realize children don’t have to identify as a LGBT to face difficulties in life.  Lots of issues bombard our children–like mental illness, learning disabilities, and physical illnesses–just to name a few.  The list can actually feel endless.  Most Moms, especially when our children are young, would like to spare them every broken heart, scraped knee, second of embarrassment, or momentary set back.  Yet, what sometimes happens when we hang on so tightly to our children, taking on their pain and disappointment, is that we forget that they are not us.  We being to enmesh more of ourselves into their lives than what we should and we try to control more of their experiences and responses to life than we actually can.  Our desire to spare them rises up from deep within and we don’t even realize we are reacting, or rather interfering.  In other words, we are blind to their autonomy.  Their pain feels like it’s our pain.  Yet our interference can actually stunt their emotional growth.

One of the most difficult requirements of a good parent is to watch our children experience discomfort and do nothing to disrupt the experience.  From the moment they are infants we begin to interpret their cries in order to meet their needs–hunger, a dirty diaper, a cold, the need to burp, the need to cuddle.  Our natural tendency is to put ourselves between their experiences and their emotions–to rescue them from pain.  Yet, even infants need to figure out how to self sooth, and how to put themselves back to sleep, as well as how to better and better express the needs they can’t meet for themselves.   If we want our toddlers, youngsters, adolescents, teens, and young adult children to grow successfully into their next stage of development we must allow them to experience the pains and frustrations that motivate them to become problem solvers, self-sufficient individuals, and ultimately confident members of society.  Rescuing them from themselves impedes their learning and development.

I often hear mom’s say, “I just want my children to be happy.”  Believe me, I get it.  The problem is sometimes our assumptions about what will make our children happy and our dreams for their future look a whole lot less like them then they look like us.  If we are grieving over something as trivial as the color, length, or style of our adult child’s hair or if we allow our teenage children to throw tantrums, use hateful language, or blame us for the pain in their lives that we haven’t caused–we are too ensnared.  We have not made healthy boundaries for ourselves and we have not successfully taught our children (or given them the opportunity) to be autonomous and own their choices/behavior.

It is never too late to learn to set boundaries.  While those have gotten use to playing the victim might not like the change very much, our biggest resistance to the boundaries we need to set won’t come from outside ourselves; our biggest resistance will come from within.  Most of us have thoroughly absorbed the messages delivered by our culture, our religion, and our own upbringing that our value is directly connected to how we walk out the role: Mom.  Even if we have prosperous careers or impactful ministries outside our families, our children are often the barometers by which we are measured.  These messages provide a powerful motivation to make certain success (however it has been defined) is achieved.  Trusting our children to choose is tough enough when their happiness is on the line. but when our worth is tangled up with the choices they might make trusting them can feel impossible.  Yet, if they are going to have a true chance at happiness we must let them determine what happiness means for themselves.

SO Moms–(and dads, if this applies to you) while you brought your children into the world without their permission, the umbilical cord has been cut.  Your job from that moment on-ward, is to let them cry.  Their lungs need a full breath so they can ultimately learn to breathe on their own.


  1. Reblogged this on The Beauty of My Life.

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