Several years ago Keith and I sat in the church sanctuary with excited anticipation. Why? The preschoolers were singing in church in honor of Mother’s Day.
At the appointed time they all came in the side door with their teachers, the congregation “aww”-ing over their cuteness. We craned our necks, lifted our rears just a little off the pew, looking for Henry.
He never came. Keith squeezed my hand as tears filled my eyes, smiling anyway toward those children who were singing. No one had to tell me where he was. I just knew. He had one glimpse of what was expected and promptly turned around. A kind soul went back to the nursery with him.
It was the first moment I realized my parenthood wouldn’t look like I expected.
Today the third graders received their personalized Bibles from the church, walking one by one to the altar railing and having their name read in front of the congregation. As you might guess, this was not a tradition our family participated in. Henry will have his Bible, yes, but under no circumstances was he willing to stand in front of that many eyes.
When we left church after our morning classes, it was no big deal. I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel upset. Not even a little.
I knew Henry’s soul wasn’t going to suffer if he received his Bible privately instead. In fact, it would suffer more if the parents he trusted pushed him into a painful experience, after he pleaded with us not to participate.
It’s one thing to push a child out of his comfort zone for the sake of growth and even enjoyment. It’s another to force him to endure stress without a clear and justifiable reason. Learning to brush our teeth? Necessary. Learning to speak respectfully? Necessary. Standing in front of hundreds of people? Not.
Parenting is full of difficult decisions on a daily basis, but this one was easy.
Moms and dads, how do you decide when to pick up the sword? When is a battle worth fighting? I’d love to hear your thoughts.