I hit the jackpot with Tim and the boys as my family. Even when we have gone through our hard times it has been relatively easy. When outside forces come knocking, or even the inside ones, threatening to make a mess on our living room floor, we have gotten through. We all made it out alive. I got lucky with them. They are my people; my small little circle is tight.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our fair share of issues. Marriage stuff, parenting ordeals, relationship crap. Everybody has it, just like us. It’s different of course, because it involves different people, different situations, different everything. But then again, it’s all the same. We all have our “stuff” just the details and characters have other names.
Tim and the boys have always been a safe warm place for me. They are my home. My sanity. Our zip code has changed, some have come and gone from our outer circle, some have stayed the same. We’ve weathered a lot and grown up immeasurably, but it’s always been the four of us and for that I’m grateful.
When I say I got lucky with them, I guess it’s really not luck at all. It’s been an enormous amount of hard work and many a time being crumpled up on the floor, teary and red faced. Tim and my boys are my safe place, not because it’s been easy and the world has been kind to us, but because we all practice grace. Emphasis on the practice part. Mess-ups happen, hurtful words spewed, bad decisions made by all parties. But here’s the funny thing about grace and forgiveness, even when you screw up those very concepts, you can still move on to higher ground. Even un-grace-filled times can be covered over later. Each day the sun rises and we begin anew, some days its each and every minute we have to begin again and move on, but the fact remains, restarts are a way of life when grace is your umbrella.
Last week, Tim and I were sitting in each of the boys’ classrooms. Their teachers raved about what good boys we had. I waved their comments away with, “Oh, yeah, we got lucky with our boys.” I don’t know why I said that. That is even my usual response to compliments like that. “Pshaw, yeah, we got lucky.”
It’s not luck though and our good fortune didn’t just fall into our laps. We put a huge amount of thought and effort into our family relationships, but that doesn’t fully explain it all. Tim and I fully know we are going to make mistakes in how we parent the boys. We don’t know it all, but that won’t stop us from trying to learn how to improve. We will always be in search of creating closeness and trust and love with our boys. As their needs grow and evolve, so will our love and support.
We also have a goal to make sure they don’t grow up to be total assholes. Yes, they’ll probably end up sitting on their therapists’ couches talking about their abundance of issues, but I sure hope assholeism won’t be one of the diagnoses.
Our hard work and parenting effort does not produce “good” boys. I don’t agree with that because the adverse is also not true. If our kids were “bad” it would not be because we are “bad” parents. They make mistakes as kids, so do we as parents, but the mistakes do not define us. The successes are not our trademark either. The new beginnings, the restarts, the grace and forgiveness, that is what I hope is our calling card.
When our boys step out into the world, I hope they can use this relational practice. We don’t even have to create synthetic scenarios, all four of us make enough mistakes as it is. By the time they become adults, I’m sure the list of authentic situations will be too large to count.
This is not to say I want them to stay in damaging or abusive relationships. That is a whole different bag. Critical thinking and emotional intelligence will come in handy if they ever encounter something like that. I just want them to know that people are messy and that it is normal. They themselves are allowed to be messy too, as long as they show grace to themselves and to others in the process.
I think that is what the teachers see in our boys. When they say they are “good,” they aren’t talking about merits or the fact that they checked off boxes of rules followed. I know this because I’m pretty sure “good” boys don’t end up in the principal’s office. My boys are not strangers to getting in trouble at recess, but again, those mistakes don’t pigeon hole them. They have their ugly moments and their beautiful, standing in glory moments. Isn’t that what life is all about, embracing both kinds of moments? And never being defined by one or the other. That is what is real.
It takes a lot of guts to be okay with the face down in the mud times AND the head held high moments. I hope my boys will be brave and real and not let either singularly represent them. I hope they learn from both the highs and lows. Mostly I hope grace and love will be their ultimate goals. I want them to be mine too.