Why I No Longer Pray My Son Becomes a Leader

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I sometimes wonder why God gave me boys.

Recently, my oldest son had to wear a team sports jersey for “spirit day” at his elementary school. I’m sure whoever came up with this idea imagined it to be fairly inclusive. Who doesn’t have at least one shirt for some kind of team playing just any kind of sport?

Well, our family, actually.

Jonathan and I would rather watch Masterpiece Mystery on PBS than college football, so if we raise a sports fan it will be despite ourselves.

The more children I have, and the bigger and more “boyish” my boys become, the more helpless and inadequate I feel as a mother. You might expect it to work the other way. Don’t I have years of experience tucked under my belt? This is true. However, if you look closely you’ll find years of doubt, years of second-guesses for every parenting decision I’ve made, and many spectacular failures. Nine years after becoming a mother, I am less confident than ever.

I’ve decided this is a good thing. It is good because I am praying like never before. I am praying daily and in desperate bursts. I am praying spontaneously, and I am praying systematically, bowing my head over scribbled prayer cards.

Lord, hear my prayers.

I’m praying, yes, but I’ve been struggling to pray for these boys. Who are they made to be? Who do I hope they will be?

I think a lot of mothers pray for “leaders.” They pray their sons grow up to be leaders in their families, in their churches, in their communities.

I try praying this, and the word leader feels like a pebble in my mouth. Whose word is this, anyway? Where did it come from?

Is this the right word for the boy who prefers the edge of the crowd to its center? The gentle boy who loves his baby sister so much he’ll spend thirty minutes trying to make her laugh? The compassionate boy with the quiet voice who would rather play alone at recess than roughhouse with the other six-year-olds?

I try out the word servant-leader. I hear a lot about that one, too. But there’s the pebble again, and I ask myself, “What’s wrong with just servant?”

In my mind, I see Jesus. He is kneeling in the dust of the floor washing feet. I may be uncomfortable with what counts as masculine in our culture, but even I find it difficult to pray this kneeling-in-the-dirt way of life for my boys.

But my son is teaching me how to pray for him.

Here he is beside me. We are bathing his baby sister. I watch as he takes the washcloth and leans across the edge of the tub. Slowly and carefully, he wipes between each little toe.

Lord, hear my prayers.


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