Last June I wrote a blog post about our two strong boys. I prefer the term “strong” to stubborn or strong-willed because those terms are often used with negative connotations. It’s true that our strong boys likely require more hands on parenting and supervision than children who have personalities that predispose them to more compliant behavior. It’s also true that strong boys might be more prone to being seen as problem children by folks who don’t have the privilege of living with them.
But it seems like what most of the outside world sees when it comes to strong boys (please note I’m using boys because that’s what applies to our circumstance) is bad behavior. They see the public tantrum. They see sassing. But they don’t see everything.
We see the little boy at the dinner table as he whizzes through catechism questions while eating ice cream. We see the boys who can jump into any crowd of kids and feel like they are instant friends. We see the boy who loves to watch cooking shows and then help Mom make dinner. We see the boy asks to watch rocket launch videos on YouTube after seeing them in person on a trip to Kennedy Space Center.
We see a trip to Sea World this past weekend and compare it with a trip to Sea World last April. This trip had no major meltdowns or tantrums even though this time we had both boys largely running free out of the stroller rather than in it. We see the boy who cries after he realizes he has done something hurtful. We see the boy who cries when he realizes that some of his friends have PCS’d (an Army move to a new duty station).
Because we live with them, we see the incremental progress made over the course of months and years. But for the parents of strong boys, that progress can seem like a fragile thing. A public outburst or an embarrassing incident can leave the parents of strong boys wondering if all that progress is an illusion or if the work we are putting into raising our kids is bearing any lasting fruit.
But then we sit down at the dinner table. Maybe it was a bad day. Maybe there were tantrums. Maybe the brothers spent more time beating on each other than they did playing together. Maybe we are at the end of our rope and just want to get the kids to bed so that we can have a few minutes of peace. We wonder if anything we are doing is sticking when we hear these words from our oldest, “Daddy, we need to do catechism tonight.”
And as I get out the sheet of paper with the dates written down next to the questions when our children learned them I ask, “Who made you?”
“GOD MADE ME!”
Yes, he did. And he gave you to us. He made you and your brother strong boys and he did it because strong boys bring him glory. That’s a good thing for this dad to remember. God made my strong boys and their strong personalities are not mistakes to be wished away. Those strong personalities are gifts. Gifts that take a lot of work and a lot of refining but gifts that even now we can see glimmers of what might be. And that makes this dad hopeful for what these boys could do with their lives precisely because of their strong personalities.