When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, the first thing I felt was excitement. I couldn’t wait to share the news with Dan.
The second thing I felt was an immense amount of responsibility because of the gravity of the situation: I was officially responsible for someone else’s wellbeing. Dude. That’s a lot of pressure!
But before I got lost in the enormity of that awareness, I was overcome with the most important of all human emotions:
Responsibility grounded me, but hope gave me wings. I felt lighter because I had hope that this child growing inside me would give me a chance to get things “right.” I wanted to parent in a way I myself hadn’t been parented. (Not that I was abused or badly mistreated, but I wanted to do things a little differently than my parents had.) I began dreaming of all the joys I would help my child experience in this world: roller coasters and sunshine and fireworks and ripe peaches. I would get to help her celebrate joys and navigate heartaches. I couldn’t wait for this baby to arrive so we could get started LIVING. I had so much for her to learn because, you know, I’m an expert. Yep, me! I’m an Expert on Living because I’ve done it too! This baby was gonna be so lucky to have me as a mom to show her the ropes because I am an ASSET, by golly! [Would you believe I even wrote her a letter called “Tips on Living Written for My Unborn Child” and sealed it up so we could read it together later? (Ha. Is that even a question? Of course you would believe something like that from me!)]
That pride stuck for many years. Eleven, to be exact. (And it still has a good hold on most days!) But somewhere along the way, the feeling that I am an asset to my child was replaced by the feeling that I’m a liability. The hope I began the journey with was tarnished by reality because, in some ways, I reverted to the type of parenting my parents used with me. I repeated phrases I swore I’d never say and said things I didn’t even know I knew, because that’s how parenting was modeled for me.
When my daughter’s personality started shining through, I discovered a basic truth in the Nature vs. Nurture debate: human beings are born with an inherent nature that is part of their DNA. Realizing that half of my daughter’s DNA came from me caused me to flinch. I knew that Katie would inherent some of my struggles and my personality quirks, plus the Nurture part of the debate meant she would pick up some of my less-pleasing qualities because she watched me model them to her. Oh, man! The pride I felt from being an Asset quickly morphed into guilt for being a Liability.
I soothed myself with the reminder that everyone is broken. Everyone has faults. Katie is human, and her flaws would be unavoidable. “Oh well,” I thought. “It’s just the price of living.”
And then one day a few weeks ago, I sat with a friend whose child is struggling with the same illness my friend had when she was younger. I watched my friend’s tears fall as she cried out, “Why does my child have to carry the same burden I did?” She wondered if maybe SHE is the reason her child inherited this illness. In her grief, she wondered whether she “gave” it to him and then said, “Why couldn’t he struggle with something else?!” And that’s when it hit me: her child is BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE to have a momma who has walked the same road before him. He got a mom who knows the triggers and the relapses and the potholes and detours he will face with this illness. What if he had a mother like me, who didn’t know how to handle it and couldn’t recognize the warning signs? I asked my friend to look at me and I told her this truth: she is a blessing, not a curse!
God, in His sovereign wisdom, knew this child needed a very specific mother to walk the path with him. Those very same things we consider liabilities in ourselves are the most important assets we can give our children. These “liabilities” bring experience, which is a priceless inheritance we can bestow on our kids. In God’s resourceful economy, nothing is wasted.
The longer I live, the more I see the truth that all of us humans have a brokenness inside our beings. My kids are no exception. I don’t yet know the full extent of the burdens they will shoulder throughout their lives. Maybe it will be lupus or insecurity or an addiction or an abusive situation or lack of confidence or depression or any number of aches. But I do know that if their burdens even remotely mirror the ones I’ve carried, God will make me an asset for His use!