Todd and I have a newly adopted, thirteen year old, Mexican son named Tyler. I keep saying 80% of the time, things are really good (leaving the 20% difference up to your imagination.) We do have mostly good days, moments to capture for Instagram, when he’s learned a new skill, or is wearing a new shirt, and it looks like we’re all caught up in a big God-story. Then there are hard moments, when past trauma and history crash into his new life and in fear, he acts out. Behavior is the language of a child. The voice of my friend, staff child expert, Jayne Schooler, plays in my head.
In that moment, what is he trying to say to me? Am I listening or busy correcting him?
What exactly should I say back to him? What does my behavior speak about?
I have wrestled this last 100 days since he’s been home with being everything Tyler needs me to be. How can I be patient (when it’s running out), or wise (when I am not sure what to do?) How can I be loving, or peaceful, or joyful in any circumstance, and not just the easy ones?
There’s only one way.
I have to go to Jesus to fill my cup. He will give me every day exactly what I need for this holy assignment (and all others.) This morning, I was thinking through how do I get him ready for school? How do I point out to him what needs adjusting for his assimilation into American junior high? In those moments, I was focusing on what he wasn’t, instead of what he was and felt convicted when I later read these words of Jesus…
Matthew 7: “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.
We have to see our kids in terms of their assets and not their deficiencies. It will spill over into our view of the world. What do we have in our hand? What do we have to offer? What can we celebrate?
He has thrived this summer with its more relaxed schedule, lower expectations and increased family time. Really, all the children have. We’ve been investing in his heart and I don’t want that to change as school begins this fall. It’s my back-to-school covenant. In between homework, and bedtimes, I want to be sure the center of the bull’s eye isn’t soccer practice, or test scores, but it’s love. I don’t want any critical spirit boomeranging back to me, I don’t want to wait until someone does or doesn’t do what I hope they will. I want to ask myself what I want people to do for me, and then instead, take the initiative towards them. I want my behavior to say loud and clear, “I love you.”
I think we’ll still have our fair share of rushed mornings this fall, and school conferences, but I am going to keep this rule-of-thumb in mind and listen for the language of my child.