Made me think hard. That’s good!
We never stop being parents.
Ok, that’s out of the way.
True confession time: I am the parent of adult children. Three beautiful, wonderful, frustrating, loving, drive me crazy, adult, married children who all have children of their own. But am I their friend? Good Question.
I will be the first to tell you that I am a faulty parent- so will my kids. By that I mean when they were young it was “whose fault is this?”; “it’s your fault…”; and well, I’ll spare you the rest.
I am also a why parent: “Why in the world would you do that?”; why in the world do you want to do that?” Yup, that has come from me, too.
I also became the what parent: “what were you thinking?” “You want to do what?” followed closely by: “you did what?” and “What was I thinking?”
So, you get the picture… not pretty, not perfect and definitely pretty dumb at times. It’s hard not to parent like you were parented especially if you didn’t have stellar examples. But, I love my grown up kids with every breath of my being.
Parenting is beautiful, awe-inspiring, rewarding, punishing, aching, heartbreaking, instructive, back breaking, -that’s two for breaking- here’s another one- will-breaking, painful, joyful, work and a whole host of other things. And that, my friends, is just on our side as parents.
Whether you are the parent who prays with them, does daily devotionals with them, puts notes in their lunches that you make (forgive me moms- I made my kids do their own lunches from day one), or wakes them up with a praise song every morning. Or whether you don’t or didn’t; whatever you do FOR them, WITH them, or TO them- it’s from your perspective and from and for your heart. I’m not talking about selfish love here. I admit, the things we do as moms in regards to our kiddos generally make us feel better about being a mom.
I say this because I think they see it all from a completely different perspective. In the back of their minds- we will always be there (faulty reasoning but it’s there nonetheless) When they are little we are the best-est mom in the world; when they are school aged it’s I can do it myself now, mom; when they are teens we are the worst mom in the world; when they become parents we become the go-to mom; when they have become experienced parents themselves we become the been-there-done-that, mom or we are back to the I can do it myself now, mom. Sensing a little negativity here on my part? Actually, no. Just realistic. And glad they have made it this far!
There are always at least two people in a conversation. No matter how you have raised your children, their perspective can be in complete agreement with yours, polar opposite of yours or somewhere in between. I found this out when my children became teenagers. Conversations on every known subject of the universe we had, still do. Conversations that had satisfactory endings with all in accord. Conversations where they stomped off pouting. Conversations that deteriorated into shouting matches (ashamed). And, the proverbial conversation that ended in slammed doors- theirs or mine. (not my shining moment). As adults, the conversations with them sometimes end with agreeing to disagree with mutual respect.
I love my children; but I can never love them with the love that God has for them. They know that.
I care for my children; but I can never take care of them the way that God has and will continue to do.
I weep when they do something out of character; but my heart hurts very little compared to the way that His hurts for them.
I could and would die for them if needed; but my death can never accomplish what Jesus did on the cross for them and me.
I can be a friend; but I will never be the comforter that the Holy Spirit is.
As parents of adult children: we listen, give advice when asked, revel in their accomplishments with them, ache when they ache, love our grandchildren as much as they love them as parents (they are after all a genetic extension of ourselves), admire their parenting skills (where did they learn THAT?), rejoice when they grace us with their presence and help when they ask for help. And some of us wonder in amazement, how did they get there?
And now, for something completely different (but related):
Some of us have been given great gifts and opportunities in a child who is “difficult.” Life does not go as we scripted in our heads. Nor, does any day pass with ease. More like less pain than the day before-that’s a good day-… Some of those children we do not understand at all. We feel like God made a mistake in bringing us this child, at times. We do not know what to do with them, every thing seems wrong. Just saying “Good Morning” can be the middle of a minefield.
We do remind ourselves that we love them and that life is what is difficult, not the child. We respect them for who they are; we don’t apologize for them being “difficult.” More seems to become the litany every morning. As they reach adulthood, we trust God more. We pray even more for this one. We cry more. Sometimes, it’s I can’t take any more. We let go. And, if God wills it, they return like the prodigal. If not, we hold them in our hearts anyway.
Here’s the little I’ve learned along the way:
· Tell them you love them every time you are with them, end a phone conversation with them, write them an email, whatever. Tell them. Everytime. And mean it!
· Communicate with them frequently, not just text or email. They need to hear your voice as much as you need to hear theirs.
· Only bring up the good, funny, dumb, silly and slightly embarrassing moments. Never the moments where you were ashamed to be their parent. Those moments are for them to bring to you. Or not.
· Teach them total dependence on God and total independence from you as they grow up. Umbilical cords were designed to be cut. This means teaching them about everyday things they need to know and Who to go to for healing broken hearts.
· Teach them what good looks like so they can recognize evil when they encounter it. This means The Word. Get it into their hearts when they are young.
· Remind them when they are children and adolescents that you are accountable before the Lord for them until they are adults. And that’s why you are the meanest mom in the world. What they do then is between them and God.
· Hold them accountable for their actions. My children still tell me the one thing that stuck with them was that I told them that I prayed they would be caught and held accountable when they did something or said something wrong.
· Tell them over and over: they are not yours. That God created them in His image, for His purpose and that He has a plan for them. That He saw fit to make you their parents and that they belong to Him and have done so since before they were born. And believe it yourself.
· Don’t hold onto them a minute longer than necessary. If it’s difficult letting go; go ahead, cry your heart out and express it to the King of the Universe – He knows all about that. Yeah, I did that, too. It hurt. Still does.
· Accept that their choices in life are not yours to make. Trust God. He is working out HIS plan for them-not yours. They were created for Him not you, hard to admit, but true. Trust Him.
· Let them know your prayer needs and they will let you know theirs.
· And, finally where I started: love them, really love them and let them know that you love them every chance you get. Even if you don’t like them very much some days.
· One more: do not forget the importance of touch. For you and them. Greet them with a hug and say good-bye with a hug. Hug them like you mean it, not like you are hugging someone because you feel like it’s expected for the occasion. You know what I’m talking about.
· Last one, I promise: pray for them like you’ve never prayed for anything else in the world. They are up against it in so many more ways than we were as their parents. They are fighting battles every day for their minds and hearts and the minds and hearts of their children.
I don’t offer any guarantee. Those don’t exist in humanity. But God does offer the guarantee of eternity.
O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old—what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. Psalm 78:1-7
Train up a child in the way that he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off —for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39
There may still be some hiccups along this part of the path of parenthood. Take those to the cross and nail them there and just to be sure, super glue them, too! Active parenting is for a season, but you never stop being a parent. Just love them. No strings- just love.