Today at school there was a big celebratory trip for the kids that earned it. My oldest daughter always earned this little reward for being a good student and getting good grades. In order to obtain the prize, you have to meet several criteria. I didn't even know this was happening today in the middle school my son attends until my older daughter told me after my son got out of the car at school.
Later, I saw a "selfie" post from a few of his closest friends on the bus, while on their way to this little trip. (Thankful we have staved off the social media craze... for now! )
Here's the thing, I think being rewarded for your efforts is awesome! But, here's the other thing, sometimes it takes less effort for some people than other people. For instance, my oldest has always had a really easy time in school. Growing up, school came very easily to me, also. But, school doesn't come easily to everyone. And, unfortunately, when you're in your teen years it's hard to see beyond the environment of school and your peers. My son is smart! He has always been intelligent. The hard part is, his intelligence looks a little different than mainstream intelligence. Also, he had some things he has had to overcome along the way in his school career. At the end of the last semester, when report cards went out, my son texted me to tell me he had all A's and B's. This was cause for MAJOR celebration at our house. Not because I ever thought he couldn't do this, but because I know how extremely hard he had to work to get there. Because I know that getting that B in math has been a huge struggle for him on many levels.
I saw the look on his face at the beginning of school when he asked me if he was in the special ed class for math. He's not in special education, but he is in that class to get some individualized help he needs. I'm grateful for that! I'm so grateful for the school system where we are, and the way they have worked with him to help him overcome his hurdles. My son falls in that grey area of not qualifying for school services, but struggling enough that it is much harder for him in some areas than other people. So, that can make getting resources and help a little tougher. The school system we are in has really, really worked with us. But, at 12 years old, no one wants to be in the "special ed" class. No one wants to feel different. No one wants to be left at school when all of their friends get to go on the special reward trip.
Stay with me, here, I am NOT saying this trip shouldn't happen! Like I said, my oldest always went on this trip and I was happy for her. But, I look at both of them and I see even though she may have better marks in school, I also see that she hasn't had to work very hard for it like my son has. And, so goes the education system. So goes life!
It is hard to find the justice in it all. We've all heard the old saying: "life isn't fair." And, that can be true. But as a mom all you really want is for your children to get what they have coming to them! Sometimes, that means discipline. Sometimes, that means extra help. Sometimes, that means rewards! But, struggles?
Nothing in this life has taught me more about God's love for us than having my own children. I just imagine that God looks down on us sort of the same way we look down at our kids and watch their lives play out. In life, it is so easy for us to start looking around at everyone else and wondering, "why me?" Why am i dealing with this particular thing? Why am I not as good as that person? Why did you not give me the gift that you gave them? But as I mature in my faith, I have started to understand that God has a plan, and that every one of my struggles has built me to be the person He wants me to become. I now understand that I am just living out my small part of the plan God has for this world. I can look back on my past struggles and insecurities and understand how they brought me to where I am now. I think, though, it is a little harder for us when it comes to our children, isn't it? We don't want them to struggle! If it's struggles they have coming to them, then we don't want to see that! Why is it we don't trust the fact that God allows our children struggles the same way he allows us our struggles, in order to mold them into what he wants them to be? Of course, that's what He is doing! And, for us parents, the charge is for us to present to our children a picture of Christ.
So, what is a mom to do when I look at my sweet son and see his discouragement? When I know that he has worked so, so hard but didn't achieve the same reward everyone else did? Well, what I'm going to do is reward him myself - in my own way. It won't look the same as everyone else's reward, it won't be in the same timing, and not everyone will see it the way everyone saw who got to go on the trip at school today. But, isn't that how our spirituality goes? Sometimes God rewards us when no one else sees it. Sometimes he gives us different gifts than everyone around us. Whenever we look around and feel inadequate, we need only go to God. Because, every time His answer to His children will be: My child, your best is enough. In me, you will always be enough.
If I do nothing else with this parenting gig, I hope I can instill in my children the ability to know that in Christ, they are always enough. And, for all you parents out there who are watching your kids struggle and fight for everything they get, but over and over again watch them fall short of their peers. Over and over, see that look of discouragement on their face. For every parent who feels helpless, watching your child get left out, left behind, or left without - know this: in Christ, YOU are enough, too. I know you don't always feel like it, but you are. You can fill in those gaps, and you can advocate, and you can pray, and you can encourage. And, when you feel like you can't anymore, God will give you what you need. Because, most certainly, when WE are not enough, our God IS. He was, He is, and He always will be. Go to Him. Teach your child to go to Him!
And, never forget that we are raising people here. We are not raising students. There is certainly a whole life after school where our "other learners" will be brilliantly polished and will stand out and shine bright!