Imagine with me Michelangelo, the great artist, standing before a huge mass of stone. It’s nothing but a chunk of hard material that looks rather ugly. But in his artist’s hands, under the sharp piercing chisel, the rock is chipped away and sometimes broken away in large chunks to reveal the underlying beauty. This is the image of myself, God and my little boys. My boys are that hunk of rough stone that God, the artist, is chipping away at by using me as the instrument. When I think about this illustration, it helps me to keep in perspective what I’m doing as a mom in raising my children. In this picture I’m reminded that chipping and breaking are painful but necessary. Isn’t this a counter cultural idea? That hurt feelings and pain are a part of life. To go one step further, the feelings that occur when we are removing the excess shouldn’t even be the main focus that we dwell on. What matters the most is the action being done and the accomplishment achieved. Really, do we marvel at the stone that the artist picks? No. We appreciate the effort and the outcome.
So if we’ve established that doing is more important than the feeling, how does that affect my mothering? I believe that a cultural shift has occurred were we have moved from achieving to feeling. Achieving a goal helps you move past the failures and to look for ways to do something better. It teaches perseverance. This morning I was reading The Cat In the Hat with my boys. That is a common household book for children. Did you know that Dr Seuss was rejected twelve times before he got published? Now that is perseverance. That is what I want to teach my boys.
Three things spring to mind on how to help my boys so they don’t have the feelings of entitlement.
1. When things don’t work, are hard or not working out in the way they want, I will encourage them to keep going. Remind them that part of learning is in the process of doing and finishing. The outcome doesn’t have to be perfect. There is greatness in the act of accomplishing something.
2. I’ll be considering the accomplishment before I dole out my praise. We’ve all been to the awards programs where every child gets praised for something. When it comes to those last few that are just grasping at straws, like the best smile in class, we all know that it cheapens the effect of the awards. So I’ll be considering the efforts of my boys and make sure that I’m giving the proper amount of praise. A childhood full of getting praised for jobs barely done leads to an adult who expects praise for whatever they think or do. Now that just screams entitlement.
3. Letting my boys feel the sadness that comes through hard work and sometimes failure. Oh how my mom heart doesn’t want to do this. I want to protect my boys and their feelings. The world says that hurt feelings lead to unhappy and unadjusted people. But what I’ve seen is that sadness and hurt strengthens the conscience and empathy towards others. I can look at myself for proof of that. When I’ve struggled and hurt, I am then able to understand what others might be going through. With that understanding comes grace that I give others when things don’t go my way. I’d love to think that everyone will just do what they are supposed to and it will all work out but that isn’t life because we live in a fallen world. So the sadness leads to grace and forgiveness. Grace leads to freedom and freedom in turn will give my boys a deep abiding joy of life.
May I continue to walk in the paths that I chisel out for my boys and go through the feelings with them. May I continue to learn through the hurt, to foster empathy and extend grace to others. As a mother, I’m being made into that beautiful masterpiece of God while my boys are being created under me and with God to be their own masterpieces. Let the feelings come but not reign over the accomplishments so we can become beautiful and throw off the grip of entitlement.