Springtime in the Ozarks is amazingly beautiful! With countless flowering trees that shower the mountainsides, clean water filling our lakes and the immeasurable anticipation of our favorite exclamation “Here come the Kampers,” we all sit daily on the edge of excitement.
With all the energy of getting out when the quarantine is finally over and spring fever building, as parents we see lots of smiles, lots of happy chatter and, unfortunately episodes that are disappointing or even raise to the level of anger. So how does a parent make wise word and thought and discipline decisions when the behavior a child chooses disappoints us? What do you do when a child breaks your heart?
Wisdom from my daughter, P’Nut (as I still call her today):
My dad asked me to write about “when your kids disappoint you” and it got me thinking about that time in a kid’s life when he goes from just frustrating you to disappointing you and what it is about that time that creates that change. When they are toddlers and grade schoolers, it seems like they just mess up and we, as parents, get mad or frustrated and then we all move on. But as middle school approaches, it seems like disappointment becomes a new (and reoccurring) feeling. I think there are two main reasons why disappointment happens in the life of a parent (whether the disappointment creeps in or dives in) and both have to do with expectations.
I think we become disappointed in our kids, as they grow older, because we ask them to behave a certain way and typically these expectations aren’t bad. We have done a great job as parents raising them up and teaching them, and then they do something so stupid and we’re disappointed because we know that they know better. Not only do we know that they know better, but we want so much more for them BECAUSE WE LOVE THEM SO MUCH.
I think the second reason we become disappointed in our kids is much more ugly and falls much closer to home: our own pride. We are disappointed in our kids because they have done something that makes us feel like a bad parent or look like a bad parent to other parents and we begin to feel disappointment because we’re embarrassed. Our pride rears its ugly head and we feel inadequate as a parent because of the choices our kids are making and instead of recognizing our hurt pride, we become disappointed in them (because we love ourselves so much).
I am in a season with two of my kids where I am finding myself disappointed in them more often than I am proud of them, and I find myself lying in bed at night either crying or looking at the ceiling and wondering (often out loud) “why?” I wonder “why?” for those same two reasons. I wonder why would they do _______, because they know better. They know the difference between right and wrong and they are making the wrong choice. I am disappointed because they are not making the choice I have raised them to make. I am disappointed because I want their life to be full and wonderful and free from pain and they are choosing things that make life exactly the opposite. But I am also disappointed in them because the choices they are making make me look bad. I wonder why they would do _______, and I am sort of ending that thought with the words “to me.” And the decision has nothing to do with me, but I make it so personal—my pride makes it so personal. Isn’t it crazy how we let disappointment creep in because we are worried what other parents are going to think about us? (And then I get disappointed in myself, but that is a different topic for a different day.)
It is so hard to love our children so much and then to watch them make choices that you know they shouldn’t be making. It is so hard to watch them make the wrong choice when you know they can discern what the right choice is. It is so hard to watch them make the wrong choice when you know it is going to hurt them. For me, disappointment is the feeling of my heart breaking for them. Often times, disappointment becomes much uglier and selfish than just a broken heart, but at the end of the day, it is always rooted in my heart breaking for my kids.
I know that I shouldn’t expect perfection from my kids, and yet they disappointment me when they aren’t “perfect.” I know that I shouldn’t try to be seen as a perfect mom in front of other parents, but I am disappointed in my kids when they “make” me look imperfect. I think both of those are the ugly side of disappointment. But, I do know that, at the end of the day, I want my kids to thrive and to make the right choices for the right reasons and I am disappointed when that doesn’t happen because I love them so much. I am disappointed in my two high school freshmen often right now. Sometimes my disappointment is the ugly kind, the unrealistic kind, or the prideful kind, the kind that often leads me to anger. But sometimes my disappointment is the broken-hearted kind that lead to tears and crying out to God because I love my boys with my whole heart and I wish only the best for them.
My own take away from this is that I need to check my expectations and my pride and my response to disappointment.
This is Jamie Jo’s dad closing out this honest, transparent look into our kids’ hearts and a glance into the mirror. When P’Nut, as I call her, was in 9th grade she was making all the right choices. She was going through a lonely time at school because she didn’t participate in parties, gossip and the things “everybody else does.” Fortunately, her Kamp friends always pulled her through.
But I was disappointed – not in her, but in the whole parenting process because she didn’t like me! I don’t think either one of us knew why but it was just another page out or our book of life. It hurt a lot! (Probably for both of us.) I’ve always been (and still am) her biggest fan and number one cheerleader. The days of guidance and appropriate discipline were hard, to say the least, with all of my children but it is funny and wonderful how time, faith in Jesus, loving, praying, encouraging, and lovingly correcting our kids washes away our disappointed and disappointing hearts like love letters in the sandy beach of the seashore. As I look back on all the crazy years when our four were in the house all I see is the snowcapped mountain peaks of joy. Thank you, Jamie Jo, Courtney, Brady, and Cooper for being my “besties” and the forever 4 apples of my eyes. Thanks for forgiving me for the times I disappointed you.