When I was a kid, I spent about 75% of my growing up years outdoors. We lived in the country, where peach orchards mostly surrounded our house. We had a horse, a dog and two cats. We had a couple of neighbor kids too, all of whom were boys and around the same age as me and my older sister.
My mom would let me go outside and peruse the country on my bike or on our horse, Wally. I skated and climbed trees and built forts. I shot about a million basketball hoops in my neighbors’s front yard, and then in our own yard after I got my own hoop for my 9th birthday. The neighbor boys and I would build ramps for our bikes to jump off of and we would take turns flying over them on our bikes. My bike was a used but good quality girl’s Schwinn — a pink frame with a brightly flowered banana seat and “U” shaped handlebars. We built these ramps higher and higher and had great fun until one of the boys took a tall jump on my bike (I guess there’s no shame in riding a pink bike like mine you’re only 9?), landed incredibly wrong and broke his arm. Sadly, that put a swift end to our bike jumps that summer!
My childhood was a little messy at times, but I had a Mom who gave me guidelines and set boundaries and then set me free to play and master all sorts of skills outside. She was in no way a helicopter parent, nor was she ruled by fear. At the same time she was intolerant of disrespectful behavior and was constantly on me for my “attitudes.” She and I battled a lot over this issue until the Lord saved me when I was 12. From that time on, I remember very few battles with my mom, and my Mom still marvels at how much the Holy Spirit transformed me quite immediately following my conversion.
Now that I’m a Mom, I find myself looking back at my childhood through a new set of lenses. I have great respect for my Mom, who worked full time from home with 4 kids, one of which was disabled. I don’t know how she did it, but she carried on well and still does as she cares for my disabled sister.
She let me make mistakes and she let me fail, often. I still remember sitting on my bed in my room, sobbing my eyes out. I was 11, and I had just gotten kicked out of horse back riding lessons. I had my side of the story, and some of it made sense at the time, I guess; but the bottom line was that I had given up, and that I was stubborn. When my Mom came to pick me up from riding lessons that day, my instructor told her that she couldn’t teach me anymore. I was officially expelled. My Mom didn’t try to fix the situation or make excuses for me. We got in the car and came home, and I was sent directly to my room. Later, my mom calmly came in, sat down on my bed, and told me how utterly disappointed she was in me. I’ll never forget it, because I felt utterly disappointed with myself as well! I had to grapple with that shame, and although it brought a lot of despair at the time, it contributed greatly toward propelling me straight to Jesus.
She also let me fail in piano lessons (also kicked out), school (not entire grades, but in several projects and tests), and in friendships. She let me learn from my mistakes. And for a driven, people-pleasing person like me, I still remember a bit of the ache of rejection that came from those failures. But even more so, I remember the lessons that I learned.
So when I think back to my childhood, I’m thankful for my Mom, who undoubtedly had way more on her plate than I ever realized as a child. I’m thankful that I wasn’t ever coddled and that I rarely ever got away with stuff, because my mother happened to be incredibly perceptive (I just thought she really DID have eyes on the back of her head!). I’m thankful that she let me run around and play without hovering. And I’m thankful that, as much as it hurt, she let me fail. Because I would quickly discover that there was nothing on this planet but Jesus that could heal those wounds.