This year has been interesting for me as my firstborn child, Matthew, began his primary school education this year. Before the start of the year, I had promised myself that I wouldn’t fall into the trap of being too caught up with schoolwork and results. Little did I know what was in store!
That first day when I watched him go off to school with his oversized backpack, looking dapper in his crisp white shirt and blue shorts, I couldn’t help feeling excited yet anxious for what was to come. I wasn’t sure I trusted myself enough to not be THAT crying mother at school, so my husband brought my son to school.
All morning, I worried. Would he be able to make good friends? Would he be able to find his way around? Would he adjust to after-school care? As it turns out, there was nothing to worry about. Matthew has taken to primary school like a fish to water. It has been a joy to watch Matthew experience many firsts: having pocket money, choosing and buying what he wants to eat, going to the school library to borrow books and so on.
However, there have also been other firsts. First tests, show-and-tells, and of course, the dreaded “ting xie” (Chinese spelling test)! While Primary 1 started innocuously enough, with each passing term, I’ve found myself stressing more and more about his studies. This has led to teaching sessions that have resulted in tears and frustration, for both Matthew and myself! After a particularly frustrating teaching session, my husband pulled me aside, gave me a hug, and reminded me that Mattie was still little. “Remind Matthew”, he said, “that he is your son first and foremost.”
That stopped me in my tracks. It appeared that during the course of the year, I had morphed into the kind of mother that I told myself I would never become one who was focused on academics and results. I had forgotten to see Matthew for who he is, my son, whom I love no matter what. From the way I behaved during our study sessions, I’m not sure that love was the message Matthew received.
It’s a parent’s job to worry for our children, it comes with the territory. We want them to excel in their studies because we assume that good results equate to good lives for our children. So we place huge emphasis on their results, and perhaps along the way, we’ve lost sight of who our children really are.
Even those of us who aren’t parents worry about the youths that we have influence over. Every year from January to March, Truthmin runs a discipleship programme called Trackers. Through that programme, we have the privilege of guiding and speaking into the lives of youths who attend.
Just because they aren’t my biological children doesn’t mean that I don’t worry about them. I worry in motherly ways, but I also worry about their overall development when it comes to matters of faith and maturity. Too often, we’ve let the world invade and dictate our lives. We need to see things the way God sees them, and set an example to teach our children likewise. Our children and youths need to know that first and foremost, they are loved, not for what they do or don’t do, but just because they are who they are.
There will always be firsts and struggles that they have to overcome, but if we teach them the right things first to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and to “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31), then surely we give them the necessary tools to live lives that are pleasing to God.
I know Matthew and I still have many challenging teaching sessions ahead of us, but I’m choosing to put my worrying thoughts into prayer and to thank God for my lovable and cheeky firstborn, Matthew.
REMIND your children and youths that they are loved for who they are, not the results they produce.
Annabel Ang is a full-time youth worker with Trinity Annual Conference Youth Ministries (Truthmin), and worships at Pentecost Methodist Church.