"My son was receiving a D and F on his report card in his first quarter at a new school.

And it wasn’t because he was genuinely struggling in the subjects, but because of tardiness and sometimes cutting school altogether. Upon reading the email from his Counselor, I did what I knew I could do – I yelled and criticized his poor decisions. It made me feel like I had some level of control in the situation, but I knew it only created more distance in our relationship. Now, on top of feeling like a failure of a mom in our performance-driven society, I felt like an all-together bad mom for my reaction. “What kind of parent are you?” is what the voice in my head was still asking when I walked into the workshop that day.

These feelings and more surfaced as I journeyed through the Key Relationship lens. The lens uncovered feelings of guilt, of not being enough, and showed just how much my identity was wrapped in my son’s performance.  It also became apparent that although I wanted the relationship between my son and I to get better, I was more concerned about the image of failure in the eyes of his teachers and administration at the school. I was mad at him because I felt embarrassed. 

I didn’t get all the answers in that session, but it started a work within me that God continued for the next few days. He gently guided me to answer the question, “what would it look like for you to take full responsibility for both your children’s behavior?” It seemed like engaging that question would have sent me into a place of unbearable guilt, but I trusted the process and started to write down specific situations that caused my children pain.

For three days God and I journeyed “into the valley of the shadow of death” right into depths of brokenness and pain – both my children’s and my own. God specifically invited me to stand in their shoes and experience the distress of looking into their mom’s angry face as she blurted harsh words. He exposed ways I parented out of unhealed childhood trauma and led me to the reality that no matter how much I loved them and wanted the best for them, the root of  fear and inferiority within me would continue to cause pain.

I don’t know when it happened, but at some point the weight of fear started to be lifted. It allowed me to explore new possibilities for our relationship and approach my kids from a place of compassion instead of judgment. I reflected on the families of biblical characters like David and the father of the Prodigal Son. I started to consider how God “parented” me and how I could do the same. Most of all, my trust in God began to deepen.  Instead of fearing my kids future, I was more confident in God’s ability to guide them where I could not. By the time I walked through the door of my son’s school to pick up his report card, my heart was hopeful about the future and I wasn’t ashamed to show up. I pray that God will continue this work in me and am so grateful for TC2W and the gracious, supportive community it provides me.”

Tracy Mathews