I perch on the edge of the plastic chair, too rigid with tension to sit back in the seat. Others walk by in the hallway, laughing, talking, relaxed. I wonder what that feels like, to be here, now, and relaxed, not afraid.
Had they ever been afraid, or worried, before? Do they lay awake at night, praying, pleading for God to make a way? Or is it all butterflies and rainbows at their house?
The door next to my elbow opens. “Mr. and Mrs. Gabrielson, I’m ready for you now.”
We stand. We enter the room and try to fold ourselves into the tiny blue chairs. My heart racing and my palms sweaty. I kind of want to cry.
She sits in front of us across the desk, taking one of our hands in each of hers, and bows her head, lifting us up in prayer, lifting up our boy to God. Asking for wisdom, grace and guidance as we sit here and plan out his path.
Our parent-teacher conference has begun.
Every day I wake up, thankful my children are able to attend a school full of adults who love them, but more importantly, love God. Shepherds to guard and guide their souls as well as cultivate their minds.
We survived that teacher’s conference, just as we survived all the others. With boys like these, conferences aren’t usually butterflies and rainbows. They are problem-solving sessions, solution-oriented, brainstorming on how we can make these boys feel successful while still conforming to some semblance of a daily pattern. Helping them build character, learn integrity, but still finish their spelling homework by Thursday.
In this, I struggle to relate to my own children. I was a good girl, a rule-follower. If I missed an assignment, I was devastated, mortified. I always knew what was due and when. I studied for tests even when I didn’t have to. And I never, ever, lost my homework.
My boys are different. Both eerily intelligent, but quirky. One would rather build a spaceship of tape and twigs than do homework, and it’s really not important to him whether he gets good grades or not. The other would rather make the class laugh than focus on his schoolwork.
Somehow, I bred these boys, flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, yet entirely different in a myriad of ways from me. They are wild, I am orderly. They carve their way through the world, I meekly walked in others footsteps.
They fall down, and I carry their failures around my neck like a noose, burdened and responsible for their choices, as if those parent-teacher conferences are reflections on me, not them. I’m 12 years old again, sitting in the principal’s office and sobbing because the other girl threw tanbark first and I just tossed it back, the new girl, not knowing it was forbidden. Not knowing I had broken the rules.
Why do we, as mothers, wear these children like a garment, a forever reflection on ourselves? We are responsible for them, but only to the point at which they make their own choices. We would like to think we are ultimately in control, but truly, we are not. I am more than my sons’ successes and failures. There is more to me than this, but I struggle to find what that is. I struggle to be confident in myself when I feel so very responsible for them.
Deep down I see the answer — it is trust— trust in what I cannot see, cannot know. Trust in a future that is uncertain, undefined. Trust that there is One who loves them more than I, a million times more.
‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
I find myself awake again, a 3 o’clock night, my mind beginning to spin but this time, I stop the cycle and slip out from under the covers to a safer place. A quiet place. A place where my soul can be at peace.
To my knees. Surrendering them up to Him once again, surrendering my unmet expectations for His ultimate purpose and plan.
They are a gift, these wild boy-men, shaping me even as I am shaping them. Sharpening my faith, bending my will, honing my trust.
Who is really in charge here? Not me. But sometimes, I forget.
Your Turn: Have you ever felt like you carry your son’s failures like a noose around your neck? What is one thing you can do today to help you remember that you’re more than your son’s successes and failures?