Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Meditation: Character

The other day while we were waiting on the metro platform I heard a boy (he was probably 10 or 11) say, "That's retarded. She looks like Alfalfa!" His friend nudged him and said, "Shut up!" and then I realized with horror that the boy was referring to my daughter, who was sitting happily in her stroller with two unruly braids sticking out of her head, looking very much like she could be one of the Little Rascals.

I was absolutely shocked for a moment. It never occurred to me that while I will always think the world revolves around my little girl, not everyone else thinks that way. I have only ever heard people praise her - this was the first time I ever heard anything negative directed towards her. I had a sickening realization that there will be people in her life who not only won't have a high opinion of her, but will criticize her and hurt her feelings. My instinct was to try to protect Mayumi from ever having to face that. I affirmed that this was one reason why I plan to homeschool. I began to devise ways that I could keep her unscathed from such callous comments. And then I remembered this quote:
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
~Martin Luther King, Jr
A few months ago I had an epiphany that has changed the way I pray for my daughter. I used to pray that she would be protected from all harm and pain and trials. I put a lot of psychological effort into shielding her and trying to make her life smooth and easy. But at some point I realized that a cushy, pampered, tribulation-free life would not be in her best interest. So I modified my prayers to ask God to give her grace, courage and wisdom to overcome whatever trials may come her way, and to help me give her the tools she'll need to be a woman of character and strength. It has been a shift that made all the difference in how I approach parenting and even my own struggles.

I still think that boy on the Metro platform was an idiot with bad manners. I still want to protect Mayumi from boneheads like that. But the truth is, the world is full of them. So instead of retorting something like, "Retarded, huh? She is the sweetest, brightest, cutest, most wonderful creature that has ever walked the planet!" I turned to the boy and I stared straight into his eyes to let him know I had heard what he said. I could see that he was embarrassed and uncomfortable and that was enough for me. I then bent down to hug my little girl and the sound of her laughter echoed through the station.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
~ Helen Keller


Jane said...

Nice post. You're right, it's tempting to want to shield our kids from all the bad in the world. But it will hit them one day, no matter what, so our job is really to help them be strong, confident and prepared to handle it. Home schooling is very uncommon here in Australia. But I read about it all the time on blogs from the US. Perhaps it's because our population is very much concentrated in large cities, with good access to schools? At any rate, I do wonder about the 'real world' preparedness of home schooled kids. Also I wonder how the mums maintain their sanity without a break, haha!

Isaac and Daniel Cook said...

Did Mayumi take an IQ test?

Janie said...

What a beautiful post. It's so crazy how many moments of heartbreak we have to face as parents that you never even consider. It's way beyond safety - there's exclusion, awkwardness, their fears, basically everything they feel and then some!
I want to homeschool too, but am afraid of holding my kids back socially, or protecting them too much. Lots to think about...
What a great and positive way to pray for your daughter. Thanks for sharing this! :)