Look at this sweet picture of a Junior High girls volleyball team. Do you see the camaraderie as they come together after a game that they had lost to be supportive and encouraging of each other? I hope it makes you smile, if not just a little.
Now look at their knees. What do you see? One of them, only one, has white knee pads on. You see, we bought brand new pads when two weeks into the season my daughter arrives home one day informing me that she “HAS” to have black knee pads. We didn’t have the money for another pair and especially when the first pair had just been purchased (but couldn’t be returned.) This was the breaking point on our wallet after money being poured out on three school retreats, football, and cheer. So we said, “NO, we are not buying you another pair,” talked to her about standing out, wrote the coach and asked if it would be a problem. So here she is in white knee pads in one of the last games of the season.
Yep, we are those parents. We are the ones who won’t buy the black knee pads because the white ones are actually brand new, because we just don’t have the money and actually tell the coach this information. Then last week, I became “that” parent in another way when I stood across from my son’s football coach frazzled and rambling trying to explain why I had to drop off some clothes to put in his bag at that moment in time. I know I looked like a crazy person. Just two hours ago my 16-year-old sat in front of an empty building waiting for 30 minutes past her guitar lessons, because neither my husband, nor I, could be in two places at once. Yep, I can be that one too.
In the last few weeks, I have encountered several posts, articles and even comments about parents which ministry leaders have to interact with. We are put into categories or considered as types so others might better understand our species. On a daily basis many will shrug at our antics, roll their eyes at our inadequacy, and whisper at how we ought to be different. Recently, I realized while I was once the one shrugging, laughing, and rolling eyes behind the backs of parents, I had now become fodder for these conversations.
As I stared at my daughter’s glaring white knee pads I realized three things:
I Don’t Know How I Feel About Labels
I don’t want to be a “type of parent.” These labels ministry folks provide (which quite frankly I have given as well) usually are not positive. (I even have a resource on working with challenging parents.) I know not every parent is easy and we do indeed need to know how to genuinely walk with them. Personally, when I feel like it applies to me, it makes me believe I am endured as my child’s parent, not celebrated, and that I am more of a stereotype than a person. When someone can just push me off and put me in that bucket with those folks, they have not heard my story or gotten to know me or my family. Instead, they think they know me based on a handful of interactions. I think we have to be careful to not use labels as a way to judge parents. Are we using them to help us understand a group of people or make excuses to ignore them?
We Give Students Grace But Not The Parents
How many times do we tell students they belong, and are welcome just as they are? We give space for youth to mess up, ask ridiculous questions and just be themselves. Unfortunately, I hear more often than not, that we try to find ways around parents, rather than inviting them in. This week I had to ask for some grace from some leaders in my children’s lives. Many parents who need it, won’t ask for it. Some of us have students whose parents don’t even come to church. How can we truly embrace them and let them know there is space for them to be imperfect, too?
There’s A Reason Why We Are THAT Parent
I have always envied the parents that seem to have it all together. I always feel like I am one step away from losing the one brain cell I have left. Yet, being this way has made me realize how rarely anyone asks me if I need help, or if there is more going on than what meets the eye. That permission slip is late because we are desperately trying to figure out if we have the money for the trip or need to just tell our kids they can’t go. Both answers take a huge amount of swallowing my pride. You see I didn’t forget the slip, I don’t know what to do with it. Before we point fingers or assume parents are too much or not enough, I wonder if we can see WHY a parent makes the choices they do? When is the last time we sat with them and asked how we can support them? I can say as a parent that it happens less than you might think.
So there might be times when we have to sit with our daughter and explain that she is going to have to have white knee pads in a sea of black ones. I feel more guilty about it than she does. Truthfully, less because she is upset about it, and more because I am afraid for being the fodder for the next “How not to parent” blog. Sometimes I am flakey because I can’t juggle it all. Other times I am over-protective, because letting your kids grow up is hard, and all the time, I love my kids so much I would do anything for them. I am realizing maybe each parent just needs a little more support than I have been willing to give.