The school year has begun and the landscape of our families has transitioned to fall. Sports, extracurricular activities, homework, and early bedtimes are back in full swing. And along with the busy schedules of school, comes something else that can sneak up on us this time of year: Comparison.
Comparing our kids to others is easy to do, especially in the beginning of the school year when they are suddenly thrust alongside a group of other children. As their mothers, it is so hard not to compare and contrast. When my son recently started preschool, I was appalled when I saw his first “drawing” of the year compared to another child’s from class. Hers was very reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, while my son’s was a little more like a natural disaster.
It happened to me again a couple of weeks ago when a friend on Facebook shared how her 18 month old could identify every letter in the alphabet and read many words. I saw this and thought, Oh wow. My 2 year old can’t read. Heck, my 4 year old can only read two words: Popcorn, Start.
When someone else’s child is remarkable in an area, I automatically think my child is behind. I worry that my child’s brain isn’t developing quickly enough, or working well enough or that I should be watching for an issue. Just me? I start to think crazy things like, My 2 year old isn’t playing Mozart, and my 4 year old isn’t writing sonnets yet! They are SOOO behind!
The pressure for our kids to not only thrive, but excel beyond their age is a really hard thing to deal with in today’s world. It seems as though in an attempt to deal with this pressure, our schedules become packed with sports, tutoring, personal lessons, music lessons, and before bed, their own homework. To be honest, it allows unnecessary worry to creep in and it doesn’t leave much time to learn about important things, like living like Jesus.
But thankfully as believers, we don’t have to worry like the world does. We don’t have to become anxious if our kids seem ‘only average’ in an area, or a little behind in another. Certainly we want to address any struggles they have and help them improve, but as believers we are promised peace. God has called them to specific and incredible plans. Plans that God has equipped them to fulfill with the exact brain he has given them. And truthfully, plans that are greater than the plans our world has to offer.
God created us in his image, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Furthermore, God’s plans for us are mentioned many times in the bible. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Would God, who created our beautiful children, give them a mind and skills incapable of fulfilling the plans he has for them? Of course not. Our kids will have challenges and obstacles to overcome, but we as their mothers can have peace knowing God made them specifically for their calling.
“For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
What we can be doing is teaching our kids to live like Jesus? We can fill them up with his love and promises, encouraging them on the path he has for them. One thing I’ve found to help my kids learn to live like Jesus is to teach about the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5: 22-23). Interestingly enough, “academic intelligence” and “comparison” aren’t on the list.
Now, I fully believe in a good education. I believe in trying your best in school and using your intellect to glorify God. But what I want my kids to have above all else, is a close relationship with Jesus and to know how to love others. I believe that if my children have this, the fruits of the spirit will flow out of them, and they will lead purposeful, wonderful lives (regardless of their GPA).
So I’m asking myself daily these questions:
- Am I taking time to share about God?
- Am I praying with my kids?
- Am I teaching my kids about how we can be like Jesus?
- Am I demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit in my own life?
- Am I teaching them to care for others?
- Am I encouraging their desires that align with scripture?
- And am I promoting behaviors that bring fruit?
Last week I was going through the Starbucks line before visiting my sister, and my son said “Mommy, should we buy all my cousins cake pops and surprise them when we get to their house?!?” His brown eyes shined brightly, and his voice was filled with excitement. While I was thinking $2.25 a piece no way!, I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit, who pointed out this is a way my son wanted to show kindness. So we bought them, and his cousins were over the moon with Freddy’s thoughtfulness. It was an opportunity to show Christ’s love to others, even in the form of cake pops!
Ultimately, it’s not necessary for us to worry about our kids’ academic abilities, their extracurricular skills and especially how they match up to others. It’s never helpful to compare our kids to others! Instead, we are able to have perfect peace in God’s plans for our kids, whether they are above average in school or not. With less time spent working on over-excelling in comparison to others, we have more time to work on teaching Jesus to them, and more time to practice producing fruit with one another.
Sarah Gonzalez is a stay-at-home mom who loves Jesus and caring for her two young children. She loves date nights and walks with her husband, and using creativity and humor through artistic outlets like writing and photography. She is also a self-diagnosed quitter-in-recovery, and you can read about her journey to quit quitting at her blog: www.wheniquitquitting.com.