Our children do not fit in a box! (and neither do we)

kids in a box

This afternoon I read Max Lucado’s book, The Oak Inside the Acorn to Elle and Johnny before rest time. It’s a precious story of how a little acorn had to let go of his mother oak, even though he was afraid, and go off into the world to be the oak God made him to be. It ends well and has a great story line that includes the importance of not trying to be anyone but who God created you to be. However, my sweet four-year-old Johnny could not get past the part where the frightened little acorn had to let go of his mommy oak tree. Johnny welled up with huge tears and continued to silently cry throughout the book. Upon finishing, he looked up at me completely heartbroken, wrapped his arms tightly around my neck and said, “Mommy, I don’t EVER want to let go of you!” (melting!)

In the midst of Johnny’s big emotion, I was intrigued by Elle’s reaction to him. She leaned over and whispered to me, “Why is Johnny crying?” Elle was not be condescending nor teasing. She genuinely did not understand what had upset him so much. She did not feel the same great devastation of letting go that Johnny and the little acorn in the story had. It amazes me how my two children, raised exactly the same, are so very different in nearly every situation.

After putting the kids down for a nap, I reflected on the whole scene. Neither child was wrong, or better, in their response to the story. In fact, when we were given that story a year ago, they each had different responses back then. I was tempted to post something cute on Facebook about Johnny, but immediately thought of all the comments/feedback I would receive. It would be easy to take our experience from today and label my children for the coming years: “Johnny is so sweet and tenderhearted, but Elle doesn’t even think about it.” Or maybe, “Johnny is such a mama’s boy but Elle is very independent.” All common things you hear parents say about their children. I believe these comments are never said with ill intentions, but they are common, and possibly harmful, non-the-less. So my question today is: Why do we put our children in boxes? Aren’t they in process? Don’t they deserve the space to grow and change. Today, that story hit something for Johnny that evoked him to display precious and wonderful emotion that I will treasure forever. But is that how he will react next year? Next week?

Better yet- Why do we put ourselves and each other in boxes? Don’t we deserve to also be in process and to change? Sure, it is helpful to come to know ourselves better as well as what we value, what feeds our spirits and what deflates them. But doesn’t that also change as we go through life experiences like marriage, crisis, parenthood, etc. I am pretty sure the only person who is the same yesterday, today and forever is God. But on that note- don’t we constantly try putting God in our box as well? I think we need to give Him space to blow up our boxes!

There is a sign someone painted at our church that says something like, “If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshipped.” We are made in His image and every day we seek after Him and His plans for our lives, we become more like Him. We are not the same yesterday, today and forever because we are constantly in process. Our children are constantly in process. Lets all have a little more grace for ourselves, and each other, and stop wasting time permanently labeling people with our nuances. Instead lets celebrate the beauty of our process and stages and energize each other with life-giving encouragements.

After cuddling Johnny and assuring him he would not have to let go of mommy the way the acorn did, I hugged both of my children and told them how much I love their hearts. I told them that I love how God is shaping their individual personalities and that I get to be their mommy. I am guilty of at times labeling my children. But today, I celebrated the moment and tried to just allow it to be that- a wonderful moment. In ten years, Johnny may still be very emotive and Elle may not, or visa versa. But today, I will not label them and convince them they are to be any one way. I will celebrate the wonder of the present and be open to what God has for each of them.

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