Some of you are lucky enough to know my dad. If you fit that category, you just started smiling/laughing/shaking your head. Larry is legendary; to know him is to love him. And to marvel at his ability to wield inappropriateness and godliness at the same time. You kiss your wife with that mouth? Yes, yes he does.
My dad thought me and my siblings were the most spectacular children ever born to humans. From the time we took our first breath, we were encouraged within an inch of our lives. In the throes of teen angst but with no genuine parental grievances to moan about, we complained about Dad's long, never-ending encouragement tirades. ("Gah! It's so annoying how Dad is always affirming us and validating our passions and loving us. This house sucks!")
According to him, we were smart, almost embarrassingly gifted, our athletic prowess was Division 1 material obviously, and our collective skill sets should've been harnessed for world domination. Also? We were first-rate spellers. We could and should be varsity starters, class presidents, Most Likely to Succeed candidates, Homecoming Queens and Kings, National Merit Scholars, and award-winning break-dancers.
This was all obvious to Dad.
Also clear was this: Anyone who failed to recognize our awesomeness - teachers, Drew's 6th grade baseball coach, my 12th grade Media Arts instructor, the registrar at OBU, head hunters, colleagues, a smattering of ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, neighbors, youth pastors, arresting officers, principals - were not only imbeciles, but they were unfit for their careers and destined for personal ruin. They were, in fact, endangering civilized society. Can fresh water pertaining to your children and salt water regarding their enemies flow from the same mouth? Yes, yes it can.
What I'm trying to tell you is that I've been overvalued my entire life. My siblings and I grew up believing we were so incredibly important and special, that it wasn't until somewhere in our 20's that we realized we were just sort of medium. (Dad still refuses to swallow this pill and offers to contact my critics to "tell them a thing or two about what idiots they are." "Dad, I'm 37 years old." "Well, that doesn't make that guy any less of a fool. Fools need to be told they are fools.")
by Jen Hatmaker on October 19th, 2011
Dad is a country boy. He will be on Facebook the day Satan becomes a Christ-follower.
Say what you will about his tactics, but we grew up with a dad who had our backs, people. There was never any question where his loyalties rested. We were Club King, and he was our bouncer. Oppose us at your own risk; you will certainly pull back a nub.
Because of this, my sisters and brother and I were launched into this world loved. We grew up under the staggering weight of my parents' affirmation, and somewhere along the way, it accidentally made us secure. We never had to create enabling, pleasing personas because Dad battled injustices and taught us self-respect. We had no concept of the term passive aggressive. We didn't fall to (complete) shreds over every biting remark, because who cares what you think of me? Dad thinks I'm awesome, and he would never lie.
Along with a tangible love for Jesus, my parents gave us the gift of security - secure that we were loved and valued and precious and worthy of respect - and let me tell you, I'm not sure they could've given us anything more important.
And let me be clear: We didn't have cable, we didn't take fancy vacations, we didn't shop at the Limited. I had no idea kids my age went to Europe or had time shares. I often drove my mom's truly horrible station wagon (The Gray Ghost) to school because our family collection of Rabbits and Chevettes were all broken down. Our phone attached to the wall with a cord. We didn't consort with the famous or notorious or attend expensive concerts.
Folks, I got home perms.
We once walked outside and The Ghost was just sitting there, spontaneously on fire.
Do you know how often any of that mattered? Never. I didn't even know we didn't have money until I was an adult. What I did know is that my parents loved us; with words, with actions, with their presence. Dad covered us with encouragement in a near constant stream of words, then he lavished it after every failure or success. He spent copious amounts of time talking to us about our sports, our boyfriends/girlfriends, our clubs, our projects. Dad tried very hard to care about our stuff; before every single school dance, he told us we looked beautiful for "the prom."
It occurs to me now more than ever, as we have two children in our family now who've been wounded so deeply by words, that I have all the tools I need to become a healing parent for them. I learned the most important tricks of the trade not at an adoption conference, not between the pages of a book, but at 315 Basswood in Haysville, Kansas, growing up as Larry King's daughter.
I don't have to give my kids the motorized cars they've been begging for since arriving in America. (Thanks, All My Friends Who Own Them.) Because it's not the fancy cars that will heal. Nor must I ensure their playroom is stocked with hundreds of toys they'll play with for three days then forget because their choices are so vast. It's not the toys that will mend what is broken.
I don't have to be perfect or give them some perfectly controlled life. I don't have to wield adoptive phraseology with precision every time. I don't have to create the ideal environment where struggling is minimized and sanitized. I don't have to make up for a lifetime of their losses with a new world of unchecked materialism. I might not even need to make perfect injera.
My task is to tell my children they are beautiful and wanted, that God thought long and hard about how to create them exactly right, and the heavens burst into applause when they were born. I'll tell them that Jesus sometimes sent grown-ups away but always called the children right into his lap. I'll make sure they know being abandoned was not their fault; they are innocents in their trauma. They are good and precious and special and important. By gosh, they are first-rate spellers.
Like my dad, my job is to study Remy's artwork and act like Picasso himself would shrink in insecurity to compare his little silly drawings to hers. When Ben accomplishes the task of breathing deeply and controlling his anger, I will lavish praise on him as if he learned to split atoms. When my big kids show mercy as their moments are once again hijacked by the heavy needs of their new siblings, I will kiss their cheeks and hold them tightly and marvel at how proud I am to see so much Jesus in them.
I read this post by Christine Caine last week, and it really stuck with me.
It is the words we use that will raise our children out of the mire, healing words of love and belonging and affirmation. Similar words that God took great care to speak over us through Scripture, reminding us that even in our pain and sin, we are loved, adopted, important, valuable. It is not coming unglued over spilled drinks and lost shoes and daily mistakes, choosing not to further injure their little spirits over non-essentials.
This will never be encapsulated in one moment or even one year. It isn't wielding an adoption/parenting dialect better than the next frazzled Mama. It's thousands of ordinary sentences filled with millions of loving words spoken to our children while they live under our roofs. The collective impact of years of encouragement will imprint our children with ideas that will become so intrinsic, they will never question their truth:
You are loved.
We believe in you so much.
We are for you, always.
You belong with us.
You are valuable and important.
You are forever safe with us.
Will we raise little narcissists who think the world revolves around them and owes them a happy life? Listen, I'm not talking about neglecting discipline and allowing our cherubs to turn into miniature terrorists. Nor should we cushion every blow or clean up all their mistakes so they won't feeeeeeeeel bad. Believe me, we keep it real in the Hatmaker house. You open up a sassy mouth and you're gonna pay the piper. (When Gavin told me they were the only kids on earth who didn't get an allowance, I told him: "Listen, kid, I'm not going to pay you to live in my house. You want money? Get a job.")
But trust me, this world stands ready to criticize our children, mock their dreams, underestimate their potential, and pulverize their spirits. They have an enemy and he wants them destroyed. They will encounter antagonists and haters, and they'll be wounded by wounded people. They will get their fair share of humiliation. Our children will be betrayed and disappointed as sure as I'm sitting here. We need not worry about keeping our kids humble by withholding verbal praise or being stingy with affirmation and quick with criticism.
The world will do that for us.
Our job is to make sure our children know that no matter how messy life gets, regardless of how epically they fail, they will always find an open door at home. That family is forever, and our well of love for them will never run dry. And if along the way we accidentally make them believe they are the most gifted, hilarious, clever, wickedly talented children on the planet, well, perhaps it will just become fodder for their blogs one day, and they'll have to email us special links with instructions on how to open it because, BLAST IT, we can't figure out this newfangled technology these days on the internets and our laptops have scuff marks and dents where we banged them on the desk in frustration (hi, Dad).
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