It was going to be amazing.
I had my children’s childhood all planned out so perfectly.
It wasn’t that it would actually be perfect. It’s just that I knew exactly what they needed to create some amazing memories and a beautiful beginning. There would be slumber parties with cousins and trips to Grandma and Papa’s cottage. There would be lots of playing outside and games with all their neighborhood friends. We would play sports for fun, not competitively. I knew they probably wouldn’t be athletes, as we are not. But they would be on soccer teams and we would go hiking all the time.
There would be Bible camp and church friends, youth group and ski trips. We would definitely teach them that the world did not revolve around them and maybe we would live in the city, just as I had. They would be surrounded by racial and socio economic diversity and what amazing lessons they would learn. They would get good grades and have at least one or two really good school friends. We wouldn’t let them have any electronics but we would use our money to take them on some fantastic family vacations. We would definitely camp out on the east coast and take a 3 week road trip, exploring out west.
Oh man, It was going to be great.
We would hand them a neatly packaged faith because we had been through it all. We knew they would have questions, but we were here to guide and give the answers. Our faith would continue to grow and evolve into something beautiful and we would have a community of like-minded friends to surround our kids, guiding them through this faith process as well.
Wow, they were going to be happy.
I was not stupid. I knew we would have good days and bad. But we would make cookies and talk. We would watch movies and forget about the cares of a hard week. We would find a refuge in each other if the going got tough. There would always be a soft place to fall in our home. No matter what came our way, we had each other.
So, pretty much, I had planned their childhood to look exactly like mine. I took out all the hard parts, wouldn’t want them to have to sludge through that stuff. I had already done that. I knew how to get around it.
You know where I’m going with this.
I know you do.
While there are most certainly elements of these things in our kid’s lives, it’s really nothing like I planned.
Not at all.
You see, apparently your kids inherit not only the good stuff from you, but the bad. The struggles with sadness, the drive to perfection, the completely uncoordinated body and the struggle to fit in. And not everyone else around you is going in your direction. Only one of our siblings had a child, a child who lives hundreds of miles away and is too young to be a playmate. And while you do have some family near you, it’s not the same as being surrounded by everyone. And truthfully, maybe being surrounded by everyone wasn’t such a good idea in the first place.
The city dream was not the family’s dream. The diversity is here in suburbia, but greatly lacking. There are video games and iPods. There is church, but it isn’t the refuge you hoped it would be. Your faith has changed so much, it is slipping through your hands and you just hope your kids catch something. In fact, faith is nothing like you use to believe.
There are bad days. Followed by more bad days. And when you go to pick up your kids from school and it was another bad day, you just explode and then regret everything you say. Then the tears come and the heart breaks.
It’s not what I planned.
But, there is a single thread that is woven through it all. It’s the thread of Love. It’s not a perfect Love, but it’s a committed Love. It’s a Love that says we are in this together. It’s a Love that reminds our kids that they are valuable, even when it doesn’t feel like it. It’s a Love that says I’m sorry after words you regret. It’s a Love that tries again when you weren’t the soft place to fall. It’s a Love that won’t leave, even when there are long strings of hard days. It’s a Love that says I don’t know when the kids ask the hard questions of faith.
And I know that if we take a closer look at my “perfect” childhood, it would reveal some not perfect times. Many of them. It seems we often try to just scratch those out. But that same thread was woven through my own. That Love was there. It was never a question, there was always Love. It seems that is what brings us through.
Life is messy.
Life is beautiful.
Life is often nothing like we planned.
Wherever your life is today, remember- plans change, but Love remains.
You’re gonna have to roll with it.
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!