Learning to Love the Child You Have (and Not the One You Want)
I think it is safe to say that as a species, we tend towards the desire for that which is better, faster, more comfortable – that which is the best. In general, we find it hard to settle for what we have. And these desires also have a tendency to crop up even in regards to the children that God has given us.
Why is that?
I think it's because we were originally ordered towards the good, towards perfection, and there is no one more perfect than Jesus Christ. No other human being can possibly fulfill our desire for perfection the way He can. And even then, we know that others have had a very different preference for the Son of God.
The so-called "defects" you see in your child may be the precise reason why you were chosen to guide them, to teach them, to love them, to cherish them – they are opportunities on your journey towards holiness.
We don't just expect better from others, we expect it of ourselves, too. We think, I could have been smarter, or taller, more jovial, or more social. I could have – and probably have – fallen short of any parent’s ideal child, and yet, here I am. Here you are. You have defied odds; you have surprised many; you have given numerous people a reason to hope and a reason to be proud. You have changed more lives than you will ever know or understand and still, you have to admit, you may not be what someone would have ordered if the menu was in front of them.
Why do I say all this?
Many parents are far too infatuated with a child they don’t have. They want an athlete either because mom is one and wants to relate, or because dad isn’t one and he wants to live vicariously through the child. Some want a child who is an academic, either because they deem it would be beneficial for them in the future, or because they fancy the idea of a Ph.d. in the family.
And still others, looking at the child’s temperament or attitude or dreams for his or her life, consider it all a terrible mistake that this parent and this child were brought together – a tragedy; quite possibly, a sad divine error.
But this way of thinking suggests to me that we're missing something.
Look at the eagle. Yes, the bird that soars thousands of feet in the air and is able to see a whole landscape all at once. And while I may only see a stone’s throw down the road in front of me, the eagle might possibly be able to see ahead of me for miles. It can see what I can’t see. And because it can, it can avoid what I can’t.
This is why the earliest Christians chose the eagle as the symbol to represent the Gospel of John, by the way. Because unlike other books in the New Testament, the author of John seemed to catch everything from God’s perspective, pointing out details that were missed in the synoptics.
My point in all this is that every parent needs to get up in the air (figuratively speaking of course!) and look at their child the way God looks at them. He loves you, that is a fact. He loves your child, that is a fact. And yes, unlike you, He can see way down the road.
The so-called "defects" you see in your child may be the precise reason why you were chosen to guide them, to teach them, to love them, to cherish them – they are opportunities on your journey towards holiness. The "difficulties" you experience with them may, in God’s time, be that which sanctifies you both.
God has a plan for the child He has given you. It is awesome and it is custom made.
Take your head out of the menu and be thankful for the child you have.
Patrick Sullivan is a Catholic Speaker and the President of Evango, a Catholic Media Organization that seeks to build a culture of Catholic evangelization and missionary discipleship. Patrick travels internationally to speak at Catholic events, parenting conferences, and to lead retreats and parish renewal missions. He is the creator and host of Me & My House, the Catholic parenting program that is transforming how we minister to parents in our dioceses, parishes, and communities. Patrick lives in beautiful Barry’s Bay, Ontario with his loving wife, Kyla, and their nine children.