“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9
I hesitantly logged in to the school’s online gradebook. One click later, tears welled up in my eyes. It was worse than I had feared. Just six weeks before the end of the school year, and my 14-year old son’s grades had plummeted again. This time they had hit bottom.
I know I’m not alone–parents have survived their teens for centuries. But it’s so easy to guilt ourselves into the “If only…” trap. If only I had checked his grades earlier, if only I had intervened more aggressively back in 5th grade, if only he hadn’t fallen out of the shopping cart and landed on his head as a toddler… just kidding. But sometimes I question every word I have spoken, every battle I have ignored, every action, every reaction, every aspect of my parenting.
Since the fifth grade, the downward spiral of my son’s grades have become dangerous, and the discussions about his homework louder and more frequent. A modest effort yields As and Bs—he has proven that many times.
There’s the stigma of having a child with poor grades. I know the focus should not be on me, but rather on how to get my son through this season and successfully into adulthood with our relationship intact. I hope my sanity will also be intact.
And then I struggle with imposing my own values on my children. I put a high value on academics, so his lack of caring about anything intellectual is especially disturbing. My motto is, “What can I do to become better?” His seems to be “How can I get away with doing absolutely nothing?”
Let’s not forget about falling into the trap of comparing my son to other boys his age. I wince when other proud parents report that their children take some personal responsibility for getting their homework done, studying for tests and playing sports. But, unlike his friends, he’s satisfied just standing on the sidelines. It requires no work. While his friends are training, reading, studying, succeeding, he’s… not. By choice. Apparently he doesn’t want to do anything that requires any kind of effort.
The worst aspect, though, is the shattered dream. I had expectations, dreams, of what our family would look like when we got to this day. My dream didn’t include a white picket fence, but it did include a close, caring family. Parents and children who have faults, but who love each other, and laugh together. In my dreams, I saw our family interacting with respect, understanding and caring toward each other. My son used to be like that. Now? He doesn’t want to be within 50 feet of us. When did he start disliking us, and why?
When I entered parenthood, I anticipated that my son would begin pulling away from his parents when he reached the teen years. It’s normal and natural. But I thought that meant he would venture out on his own more frequently. Demonstrate independent thinking. Rely on his parents less and less. I thought we would start treating him more like an adult, and he would start behaving more like an adult. More decisions, more freedom. I didn’t anticipate that he would completely reject anything related to our family.
I’m just as upset at myself for my behavior (labeling, comparing, imposing my values and dreams), as I am at my son for his behavior.
But here’s the truth. When we don’t get what we asked for, when our dreams don’t come true, don’t we get upset? Don’t we feel that we’ve done something wrong? Something that’s keeping us from God’s blessing. Not getting what we want tends to rattle our faith.
And the opposite is true, too. We believe that when we are faithful, when we’re obedient, when we do the right thing, don’t we expect that life is going to turn around for us? That God is going to deliver his blessings? Our kids will turn around. Our marriage will get easier. We’ll land the “right” job.
We must look at the process, not the end result. Our faith must rest on God’s identity, not his activity.
God promised a harvest of blessings. I’ll keep doing what is good, and what is right, and I won’t give up. I will reap that promised harvest. I have surrendered the dream of what, exactly, that harvest will look like. I won’t ask when that harvest will be delivered. God promises that there will be a harvest that is pleasing to him, and that’s good enough for me.
It’s the process that’s important. So I’ll never give up.