“You think you’re unlovable, He says you’re unforgettable.”
– Jo Saxton
I was insulted when his kindergarten teacher told me “He’s a tricky one.” What are you talking about, lady? My child is amazing. He is lovable and funny and curious and … tricky. I don’t know about you, but it’s one thing for me to know something about someone I love and a completely different thing for another person to voice it. And yet right from the beginning of his life, he’s been a bit of a mystery. He talked and walked on the early end of the normal range. He was inquisitive even before he had the words to be. He’s an explorer, an adventurer, a climber.
Lucas is my baby who sent me into pre-term labor, but settled down until a few days post due date, resulting in a dream labor and delivery. Easy peasy. He napped and slept well as long as I kept his routine consistent. But boy oh boy was (is) he willful. Luke has challenged us in ways we never anticipated. If there are two possible roads to take, one easy and one difficult, he defaults to the difficult.
As a toddler and preschooler, he was subject to nursemaid’s elbow; a condition where the elbow gets displaced and has to be reset by a doctor. We were told to be careful … we followed the doctor’s instructions but because of his spirited nature, Luke was frequently in the emergency room in great pain, because he had somehow twisted out of our hands or jumped while holding onto someone or something and — nursemaid’s elbow.
Lucas is highly allergic to bees (a lesson we learned the hard way, after he continually played with them). He goes into anaphylactic shock — scary. I now carry an epipen with me and though we’ve never had to use it, I am keenly aware that I may at any point have to jab my son with a needle to save his life.
When he was seven he had a febrile seizure and was unresponsive … staring off into space for several minutes, until suddenly he began jabbering nonsense before finally crying out “Am I going to die?” All the while we were speeding toward the emergency room.
Luke has had two casts and more injuries than I can count. He’s thrown fits and I often have felt like I’m banging my head against a wall when I need him to do something that’s not his idea.
In first grade we watched our willful, but sweet, child become a different person. His school was not a nurturing place and although he had a good teacher, the playground had only three part-time aids for three hundred kids at a time. He became angry and violent and used language that he hadn’t heard at home, and the fun that we used to have disappeared as he spiraled into fear.
I never intended to be a homeschool mom, but when your child is scared to use the restroom at school and is acting more anxious than a six year old ever should, you do what you have to do. In the fall of 2012, I began teaching our seven and five year old at home, while potty training a two year old and nursing a baby. It certainly wasn’t perfect, and “way to go” all you mamas who make it work. I’ve seen it done so beautifully, but for us homeschooling was an act of love. It wasn’t our goal, but a means to the end, which was providing a place of rest and security for my boy to heal from shaming and bullying and to step into grace. Homeschooling provided an opportunity to pour love into my kids with every last ounce of energy I had, and it was right and it was good for that time.
My Lucas … Even though he’s been in an amazing school for the past year and a half, we are still figuring him out. He was diagnosed with mild ADHD last year, but medications only made daily life worse. School was a struggle, though he loved going and is so happy to have a good group of friends. Homework took my complete attention in the evenings resulting in the younger kids starving for my attention and a whole lot of take out.
At the end of last year, we painfully decided to have Luke repeat fourth grade. It was, to date, my most difficult parenting decision. He asked if he could meet with us and his teacher to discuss the possibility of him continuing on to fifth grade. During that meeting, we all tried to show him how repeating fourth grade would be the best thing for him. He eventually agreed to a “bonus year.” He was trying to look so brave and sure, but his face and neck were turning pink, and I know my boy, and I knew he was just barely holding on. I looked at his teacher as my eyes filled with burning tears, wanting so badly to give him what he wanted, but determined to do the hard thing, because it was the best thing.
This year has had its ups and downs, and Luke is doing so much better. Instead of walking him through every question of homework, I am only checking his answers. I have had to let go, and let him make his own decisions and learn from the consequences. It hasn’t been perfect, but it has been his year.
A couple weeks ago, when I was out of town, Luke climbed into the car with his nonna after school and told her he had failed his math test. Seconds later, Bethany got into the car and announced that she had received a principal’s award. Luke looked at Nonna and said “Yeah, she always gets things like that.” Pain and disappointment, achievement and rejoicing mingled messily in the car that day.
When I heard the news that night, I tried to be ok with it. I’m not mad when my kids don’t succeed, but when they hurt? Oh. My. Heart. In a hotel room, a thousand miles from home, I looked at Matt and said “I just wish something in life would be easy for Lucas,” and I rolled over and cried myself to sleep.
I’ve been thinking about my boy this week. When I look at him, I see my baby … his precious face, perfect freckle splattered nose, hair dark as his daddy’s and skin as fair as mine. I see the person who launched me into my life’s work as a mama. I think of his belly laughs and the many crazy places I’ve found him highly perched in his nearly eleven years. When I speak his name, I am reminded that his story is far from over. Lucas Emanuel — so often I don’t see light or a reminder that God is with us, but even though at times these things are hard to see, they are still true.
In a world so focused on our outward achievements, we can forget the most important thing in life. When we’re in the throws of a parenting battle, when we are fighting for love to win the day, when I’m struggling to pour grace into a situation, Luke sometimes feels like he is unlovable. He’s now old enough to recognize when he’s made a situation difficult, and I’ve heard him say “I hate myself.” These are the times when I scoop his gangly body in my arms and I reassure him of my love. “I don’t hate you. I love you. There is nothing you could ever do to make me stop loving you. If I could have chosen any boy in the entire universe to be my boy, I would choose you … every. single. time. You are mine!”
How I wish that being mine was enough. I wish that being the son of Matt and Lindsey Price would envelop all of the less than feelings Lucas has and that he could live boldly because he’s mine. There are times when I just want to say, “If you’ll do this and rest knowing that you’re mine and that I’ve got the best in mind for you, things will go well.”
Yet when I think of the way my big boy feels, I can completely relate. How many times have I done the thing that I wish I hadn’t? How many times have I spoken spitefully instead of with love? So often I look at who I am — this thirty-something girl living in a huge city full of success stories, and I all I can see is my insignificance. I’m just this girl who gave up her scholarship for her master’s degree, and instead got married and worked her husband’s way through graduate school. The girl who chose home and babies over career, and sometimes wonders if that was the right thing. The writer whose words are often trapped in her own head instead of typed, let alone published. I look at all I’m not, and I forget who I am. But “what’s beautiful about Jesus is that He calls to me in the middle of my circumstances” (Shelley Giglio).
Like Luke, I feel unlovable. I see what I haven’t done, the missed opportunities, the times when I’m less than …
Traveling alone last weekend, I had a lot of time to think and it occurred to me that a lot of my fear issues are rooted in my feelings of being unlovable. I look at my husband, and after sixteen years I still wonder why he chose me. I get distracted by all the things that other moms are able to give or be for their kids — I see my failures instead of the victories. There’s this voice that says “You’re nothing. You’re just a stay-at-home mom.” But my value doesn’t come from what I do, my value comes from who I belong to and who He says I am.
“I have called you by your name; you are mine“ Isaiah 43:1 NKJB.
He looks at me and says “I would choose you … every. single. time.” (Ephesians 1:4)
I am constantly trying to do the best I can for my kids, and like a good father, God is always doing His best for me — for you, the difference is He can’t fail. He will never fall short. His best will always be the best.
He’s calling me deeper into His boundless affection, that I may not just say that I am loved, but that I will truly know the depths of His love and rest in the knowledge that given the chance, He will choose me every single time.
Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin
Every month, I’m honored to write with a group of ladies from all different seasons of life. This month we’re talking about loving the unlovable. Read Allison‘s thoughts and then scroll through the circle.