My husband is reading James Dobson’s book Bringing Up Boys, an act I find mostly endearing. It’s a big job, bringing up the boy (along with three girls), and we work hard to get it right (whatever right is). I like it that Stone is a researcher. And I suppose there might be a few good ideas in the book even though I’ll never know because I can’t get past the anti-feminist, homophobic rhetoric that is Dobson’s signature style. But whatever.
Mostly I think it’s a blast bringing up Harper. He’s an awesome kid. He makes good grades, plays guitar at our church, and is very athletic. People like him. He’s funny and a natural leader. If outward things were all that mattered, bringing up my boy would be a piece of cake. However, as a Christian I believe there’s a heart in all of us that needs to be shaped, molded, refined. As Paul writes, “conformed to the image of [Christ].” (Romans 8:29 KJV) This is such a difficult process for me personally that I feel extremely inadequate to facilitate it in anyone else. And yet, I am a mother. It’s my job.
The other day I showed Harper my first blog entry and asked what he thought about it. I probably was looking for a little praise, another nudge to put it out there since it was finished ten days ago but I couldn’t bring myself to make it public. His response after reading the text: “This is good, Mom, except for the part about your hands sweating and shaking and your heart beating fast. You need to take that stuff out.” Then he noticed the picture of me in my pajamas. His eyes widened. “Oh my gosh! What’s with this picture?” He shook his head. “No, no, no. No picture in pjs.”
I asked him why—on both things—and he didn’t seem to have the words to explain. “Just, no.” He grinned. When I pressed him he said, “Who wrings their hands over a blog entry? That’s weird. And the other pictures are fine but not this one.”
The other pictures he was referring to are on my “About Me” page. They were taken by a professional photographer who is brilliant with Photoshop. The lighting was great. Plus, I had on make-up. Plus, I brushed my hair.
Brené Brown says the number one shame trigger for males is the appearance of weakness. (Number one for females is appearance and body image, to which I say YEP.) I’m pretty secure in Harper’s esteem for me, so I don’t think the appearance of my weakness embarrasses him or makes him love me less. At least if it does embarrass him he’s gotten used to it. Instead, I think his reaction was about protection. As in, “Mom doesn’t realize how ridiculous this makes her look to other people so I need to save her from the shame she will cause herself.”
I tried to explain to Harper that I’ve given up perfectionism; my aim is authenticity. Click To Tweet If that makes me vulnerable, so be it. I refuse to be ashamed of my appearance. I am more than cool clothes and white teeth and an ideal weight, and I am more than perfect grammar and nerves of steel. Even though I want all of those things and there’s nothing wrong with that—what’s real about me is so much more. What’s real about all of us is infinitely more beautiful than the Photoshopped version we often present to others. In fact, it’s in our weakness that Jesus most effectively shows His strength. (See 1 Corinthians 12:9, AMP)
I hope I’m bringing up my boy in such a way that he always remembers this about himself and others. On the day(s) I disappoint him. On the day his hands sweat and shake and his heart beats fast and he throws an interception. On the day he misses a note in front of the whole church. On the day he gets acne, or forgets an assignment, or loses a popularity contest, or whatever else happens that could be way worse than those things. I hope he remembers that his performance is not what defines him. He is so much more than some illusion of perfection. And so is everyone else.