January 13, 2013

The Agony of Defeat

I am possibly the only person in greater Colorado -- or at least the Denver metropolitan area -- who did not watch the Bronco game yesterday, but I know they lost in double-overtime.

I imagine that there is plenty of Sunday-morning quarterbacking going on.  Even I know that they decided to run down the clock with 35 seconds to go and let the game go into overtime.  Maybe that will be the source of the second-guessing, or maybe it will be something else.  "If only they had..."  "If only they hadn't..."

I have done a lot of day-after second-guessing of my own life.  I give myself my own dour locker room shake-downs.  I'm both the head-shaking coach and the down-cast, uniformed lineman, my helmet in my hands.

In no part of my life am I harder on myself than in my parenting.

It seems like yesterday (Wasn't it?  Or maybe the day before...) that I had a tiny infant in my arms, full of promise.  Don't get me wrong -- my children are wonderful -- just not in quite the ways I had imagined they would be.

When I held those tiny babes, I thought I could have a kind of influence that I do not.  After almost 17 years as a parent, I am still surprised by my own expectations and the depth of my disappointment when they go unfulfilled.

I suspect all of us do it, whether as parents or in our work.  We -- I -- have a vision for how I want it to be, how it should be.  I used to believe that I could re-make the world by having a family.  I was going to hold out the bad, only let in the good.  As a result, my children would have all the things I wanted as a child and didn't get -- parents who stayed married to each other; piano lessons; all the time they needed to play and be kids before they had to grow up.  I knew how it would all turn out too.  We'd have a close-knit family.  We'd all want to do the same things and be together.  We'd all have exactly the same values.


Allow me to say it again:  I have wonderful children.  They have had all those things that I wanted for them and more, by the grace of God.  We are close and we do things together and spend time together and mostly share the same values.

But my children are not me.  I didn't think I wanted them to be, but I did.  I know, because, when they don't want what I want, or what I want for them, it bothers me.  It used to bother me a lot.  It used to make me mad.  Sometimes it still does, but, usually, it makes me sad.

I'm not sad for them.  I'm actually happy for them. They are becoming their own people, and I want that for them even more than I want them to think like I think and want what I want.

I'm sad for me.

I'm sad for my persistent inability to let go.  It's another layer of surrender I'm being called to, and I am still fighting it.  It feels like defeat -- and it is.  I've fought to be god in my children's lives, to control their worlds and create them in an image of my choosing, and I'm losing the battle, and thank goodness for their sakes.

It's still hard, and I still go down fighting.  Then I'm on the turf, dirtied, maybe even a bit bloodied.  The clock is running out.  I have a moment when I want to get back up and keep fighting, because there's a voice in my head that tells me I still need to win.  But that's the lie.  If I win, my kids lose.  I need to go down and stay down.  In fact, I need to take off the uniform altogether, empty my locker, and walk away.

And as I do, the game is over, and everybody else can quit too.  Then there's a chance for us to pick up the ball and play -- without playbooks and scoreboards and winners and losers.  We can all be on the same team.

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