Two things happened this week to get me thinking about parenting, performance, and our perception of God’s love.
The first was that my friend and fellow parenting author, Jeannie Cunnion, wrote a terrific opinion piece for Fox News. She said that today’s kids feel “overwhelming pressure to get it all right” because their identities – and, in fact, their “lovability” – is linked to their behavior, their accomplishments, and their performance. “If I am good,” the thinking goes, “you will love me more.”
The second thing that happened was that I got my dad’s kindergarten report card.
My mom and John are downsizing, and as part of their domestic purge she is unloading pretty much everything she thinks her kids and grandkids might want. (And more than a few things we might not, like a c. 1978 how-to book on napkin folding that she gave Hillary at one of her wedding showers. But that’s material for another blog.)
Anyhow, I wound up with a box of old photographs and papers. In it, I found this gem:
That’s my dad, Allen Rundle. He was a kindergartner in 1944, and from the marks on his report card (also in the box), he had some growin’ up to do. I was relieved to see that he was clean, but he clearly had a ways to go in a few other areas, including walking (seriously?), using a hanky, and and…wait for it…breathing with his mouth closed.
Oh my gosh. What did my grandmother think, when she got this report? Was she like, “Allen! Close your mouth!”?
That’s how I would have been, if he’d been my boy.
But even if he had sat there, staring at me with his tonsils hanging out, I wouldn’t have loved him any less.
I mean, things like being a mouth breather (or missing a free throw, or flunking a test, or pouring the fat back into the macaroni and cheese, or any of life’s imperfections) don’t make or break our love for our boys. Or our girls. We love our kids just because they are ours.
Which is pretty much what Jeannie writes about in her article. And she brings it around to the bigger picture – the one that has to do with God’s love – by reminding us that nothing we do could make him love us any more, or any less. Because it’s not about what we do. It’s about what Christ did. He’s the one who makes us lovable.
If that idea runs counter to what you’ve always thought, you’re not alone. Most of us have been there – and as Jeannie knows, the performance mindset can make it really tough to be a parent. “I was once the mom who put unbelievable pressure on herself to be a perfect parent setting a perfect example for her kids to follow,” she confides. “And because I wasn’t accepting God’s grace for myself, I couldn’t give grace to my kids.”
I won’t steal any more of Jeannie’s thunder; click here to read the piece for yourself.
I will say that I hope my grandmother was into the whole grace thing. I didn’t want to show you my dad’s whole report card (some family secrets are better kept that way), but she couldn’t have been happy with how he scored on “Originates stories and poems.” (But maybe that’s just hard to do, when you breath through your mouth. I don’t know.)
At the end of the day, though, it all worked out. My dad shut his mouth, learned some rhyming words, and wound up at Harvard Business School. Plus, he married a gal who knew how to make a napkin look like a lobster.
What’s not to love?