Jack’s 9th Birthday – his dream was to have all of his friends throw a pie in his face!
I’m getting a little reflective as I start to see the blossoms of spring, thinking of my second-born Jack and his upcoming graduation. Can it really be time to send off this wonderful and crazy child of mine? Is he really a man now? I must admit…he is, he really is.
How I thank God for this special and unique young man given to us 18 years ago! He is TRULY a gift and he is TRULY one of a kind! I first noticed the pattern of his unique make up as I compared our annual Christmas letter each year. Through the yearly tradition of the “McGrath Kids Update,” I made a fascinating discovery about the make up of Jack (and each our children, by the way)…a discovery I found to be very freeing!
This discovery is that our children are hard-wired.
Their temperament, their personality, their strengths and weaknesses – in other words their bent – are as firmly a part of their make up as their hair and eye color. The Bible refers to this reality in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child according to his bent and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” As I leaf through these old Christmas letters, it is amazing how easy it is to see this fact.
Our son Jack was a funny little laid-back two year old, who belly laughed all the time. From the get go, it was clear that this boy thoroughly enjoyed the silliness of life. When he was four, we noted that he frequently had a little mischievous grin on his face and that he seemed to be living life on a different plane. At six, we recalled how, after mom tidied his closet, he responded like a robot in a trance, arms extended, “Must destroy! ….Must destroy!” At eight, Jack loved Garfield and would constantly recite the comics with great relish, amusing us and himself! At ten, he named himself “Cat Ranger,” donned a cape and jumped out of our second story floor onto a mattress and about twenty pillows. (DO NOT try this at home!) At fifteen, he declared that he was going through a sophisticated phase and was seeking a pen pal in Denmark. And just recently he has taken to wearing a real rabbit fur coat around town in His jeep, with a smile that lights up Hickory.
What can I say? Jack is wonderful Jack.
Whether strong-willed and ready to take over the planet, or gentle and quiet, forming Play-Doh shapes into pairs (just to make sure everyone has a friend ), our kids have been given distinct personalities by God – and He wants us to get on board. As I have embraced this reality – that each of my children are His unique design – I have found great freedom in my mothering. I’ve realized it’s not my job to strain against the bent his Maker gave him, but to faithfully train according to his bent.
Instead of trying to press him into a certain mold, or make him more like me (or my husband), I have learned that I need to work with his strengths and weaknesses, encouraging him to use his unique make up for God’s glory. And in doing so, I have learned to enjoy the precious creation GOD has chosen to place in our family.
Moms, let’s do our best to celebrate our children’s strengths: To the strong-willed child, “You be God’s anchor! Be a powerful, determined voice of truth for Him!” To the gentle one, “Keep on loving your friends so well, showing them God’s heart of compassion and gentleness.” Of course, let’s also do our best to help them strengthen their natural weaknesses, to help them learn to flex the weaker muscles of their natural personality.
As you work with your child, one key thought to remember is this: the standard of training your child to become more Christ-like does not change, but understanding their hard-wired bent makes it easier to have patience and perspective with their progress.
We have to remember that they are God’s first; after all, and He made them just the way He wanted to – to fulfill the plans He has for them in this world. (Eph 2:10).
When we realize that our children are hard-wired from birth, it also releases us from our tendency to take ownership of our children’s victories and failures. This enables us to keep our objectivity, not taking every behavioral issue as a reflection on us.
When we face daily resistance from a child, it keeps us from thinking we have done something unalterably wrong. When our child comes home with “stars for good behavior” in life, it keeps us from getting puffed up. Whether they have mud on their face or blue ribbons on their chest, they are His unique workmanship. All God asks is that we are faithful to do our part, training them in ways of the Lord according to their bent. What a blessing to discover and be a student of our one-of-a-kind children! I think God knew that His unique hard-wiring of our children would leave us scratching our heads and asking Him for help and wisdom as we raise our children – and that’s just the way He likes it.
In the end, how good it is to embrace these unique and precious gifts that God gives us for such a brief time. As I reflect, I wouldn’t change the gift of having my “Cat Ranger”, Garfield-loving, fur coat-wearing Jack, for anything. I am so deeply grateful that this young man, hard-wired by God himself, calls me “Mom”.
Long live “Cat Ranger”!!
- Julie McGrath
Train up a child according to his bent and when he is old, he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
- Make a list of the strengths and weaknesses you note in your child.
- Affirm their strengths frequently and do everything you can to channel them in the right direction – to bring glory to God!
- Pick out one weakness that needs addressing and start praying for your child in that area. If you are stumped, seek out advice about how to creatively strengthen this weak muscle.
- Seek out the counsel of God’s Word as well as the counsel of families you admire who have adult children walking with God.
- Remember to keep your sense of humor and enjoy your unique child!