In theory, we have a rule in our household: church comes before anything extracurricular.
That’s in theory… it sure was easy to naively decide what the rules and values were going to be for our little family when we were early into parenting, before any of those rules were actually ever tested. How pompous we were as young parents! Or maybe we were just optimistic. Like everyone else, we wanted what was best for our children. We thought we had it so together.
Here are some of the ridiculous promises I very overtly shared early on:
I once vowed my kids would NEVER watch more than half an hour of television in one day.
Family movie night is an almost weekly ritual at our house now. And that’s just the planned part.
Oh, or what about the one where our children would NEVER under any circumstances EVER drink soda?
Pretty sure I barely even grimaced when my husband ordered root beer for both of the older boys at lunch after church the other day. I told myself, It’s not like we do it every day. Or every week even.
Oh, here’s a good one. I, being an educator myself and having suffered the burden of some well-meaning parents, promised myself I would never become a helicopter parent.
I made that covenant long before my first even started preschool. But then big bad kindergarten came. And I was forced to trust a total stranger who had never taught kindergarten before to act patient and caring toward my little tornado, yet still have the presence to challenge him academically. And as if kindergarten wasn’t tough enough, then came We-barely-survived-oh-my-gosh-we-have-to-do-this-at-leat-two-more-times-with-the-other-kids first grade. You think the adjustment to kindergarten will make you lose your mind? First grade is what I now consider the first “real” grade. The “I’m eating carpet every morning. Lord, take care of us today” phase. Ok, when I feel desperate, I become dramatic. But seriously big changes here– no more nap times, y’all! No, the teacher won’t help you tie your shoe. Figure it out or stuff those loose strings into your sock. No more adjustment period. Now you really do have to be silent and still in the hallways. And warning! You’ll be in the hallways a lot son, because now you have five teachers and will rotate classes every time you turn around.
I’ve made a conscious effort the last two years not to be the helicopter parent, but I cannot say with honesty that I succeeded at every turn. The world is scary. And now, more than ever, even school feels scary. My child is one of many in a classroom and I need to make sure what is in his best interests isn’t being neglected. And now I rarely apologize for the times I’m labeled as the helicopter parent (Though, speaking objectively, those times are few and far between. I really do value a trusting relationship with my kids’ teachers. I don’t need people coming into my classroom telling me how to run things. I certainly don’t want to turn and commit that sin in the boys’ classrooms.)
Another rule gone with the wind (and this is bad, y’all) the “Church comes first” rule.
For as long as I’ve pictured myself with a family, I have envisioned myself as the parent who boldly and unwaveringly takes a stand against sports or other activities if they demand participation on Sunday or coincide with a church related event. In my mind, I’ve made a phone call to an imaginary head coach a dozen times, practicing a polite if smug apology– No, we’re sorry our son won’t make it to the game this evening, but we feel like going to church is more important. We’ll work with him at home over the weekend and be ready for practice first thing next week.
I’ve practiced that call in my mind more than once. Yet, the time came recently when we could have made that call to a real coach.
And we didn’t.
#1’s little t-ball team was in the playoffs to be city champs, and until that particular week, were undefeated. And that particular playoff game was scheduled for the exact same time as the big, culminating concert to end a very spirited week of VBS.
We couldn’t do both, no matter how we tried to work it. And believe me, I tried every possible angle. Then we did what I never thought I’d do; we chose baseball.
Much of the anguish I felt that day stemmed from the fact that I felt a little blind-sided. This is our eldest; we’re still very much learning as we go. And while most of our “rules” (more like flimsy expectations) have already been debunked, the “Church comes first” one is not one I ever imagined I would be facing so early. For some reason, I always pictured my athlete in middle school or high school when that phone call had to be made. T-ball family! My son plays T-BALL! I had no idea I’d be disappointing myself this early in his short life.
In the end, that’s what it all comes down to, I think. Our expectations. The vision of how we want life to be, sometimes how we want our children to be, versus what really is. My sister once quoted on her own blog (ucfpeggy.wordpress.com): ”What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.” How it is supposed to be. There’s a fine line between setting high expectations and unrealistic ones.
Oftentimes, in my blundering ways I can’t tell the difference.