The Handy Man and I are in an elite group of parents. We have children spanning 22 years, which means that while we are reading nursery rhymes and teaching our younger kids to read, we are also trying to encourage and, in some cases, guide our older children as they leap into the world of adulthood. Sometimes that transition involves a lot of bumps, and sometimes it is easier. But always, and I mean ALWAYS, we find ourselves at the intersection of prayer for our children and faith that God is working it all out for them according to His glory and HIS plans for them.
The hardest thing for us has been allowing the consequences of behavior to do their work in our children. For one child, it has meant severe legal consequences. We have had to love him from afar….praying for him diligently, hoping that he would repent and find God’s grace to be enough, even as we trust that God would do in his life what we were not able to do. For other children, it has meant watching them struggle. It is always a balance between watching the struggle (and praying, of course!) and knowing when to step in and offer assistance. Sometimes intervention has been necessary, and sometimes we have just sat on the edge of our seats and waited for it to all play out.
I remember when my children were small…particularly when the older two were 9 and 10 years old, and we had the next three, who were ages 3, 2 and newborn. I was exhausted ALL THE TIME. We had not learned much at that point about training our children, and the demands of motherhood seemed so completely overwhelming. I remember so very well. I wish we had been better at helping our children understand God’s unconditional love for them. That was the most important thing we could have taught them, and I am not sure we succeeded. My younger children seem to have a better grasp on that. How does that happen? How do we impart to our children the most significant truth that God demands our holy perfection, that only Jesus met that demand, and that he not only obeyed in our place,but he also died in our place so that we could live? It happens one faithful step at a time, one conversation at a time. I missed so many little moments when my children lisped their concerns to me, but I caught some moments, too. I didn’t listen nearly enough, and yet, somehow, my children do come to me with a lot of the big stuff. Trust is earned, even as a parent, maybe, especially, as a parent.
Hold those little hearts carefully, sweet mamas. You are teaching them whether or not they matter to their Heavenly Father! As my children have grown, I have watched them learn to trust God….and they sometimes even talk to us about those things. Sometimes they need to see us trusting God with the big stuff in order for them to know they can trust God with the big stuff.
When God gave us the last three children…so much later than the others…we were more seasoned in our parenting,better able to deal with the exhaustion, and we had finally figured out how to train our children to HELP. Lindy, Dee and Star Child were particularly helpful when Little Princess, Lil’ Adventurer and Curious George were born. I learned how to give myself grace….things like permission to sleep if we had had a rough night. I was older and needed more sleep, too!
Mamas, it is okay that you need rest. It is okay that you sometimes feel overwhelmed. Rest will come, and God is enough to shoulder the burden. In fact, it is only when you come to understand that your shoulders cannot do it that you will yield it all to Jesus. It really is the best place to be!
It might be a natural assumption that as your children grow up, it gets easier. Having teens brought a whole new level of concern into our lives. Take, for example, DRIVING. All my grey hairs have come about because of teens learning to drive and then being set free to drive. And then wrecking the cars they were driving. But it wasn’t just the driving, or the fact that they got jobs and suddenly their schedules were full, or even that they were gaining independence. No, now it was that they wanted to talk….and I LOVE that my children want to talk to me….but it always seems that the important conversations have to happen some time after 11 PM. So we had little ones who needed my attention all day (and sometimes all night) and we had the teens who needed me when their brains and hearts were full. The struggle with exhaustion was no longer just physical; it was emotional and spiritual, too. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we could do it all. And even then, sometimes, we failed. Our humanity and frailty doesn’t go away in parenthood. It is magnified.
Now that half our children are legally adults, we find ourselves in a somewhat different chapter. Our adult children are making their own decisions. Some of them are bringing home potential spouses. One of them has already had a marriage that failed. It is both exciting and nerve wracking. These are our babies, MY babies. All grown up, making (mostly) wise decisions, and yet still needing guidance. Sometimes a broken heart is involved, and it such agony to watch your child hurt and know that only God can heal the wounds. The great challenge for us is to know when to offer advice and input and when to be silent. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes, STILL, we get it wrong. We are so grateful for the grace and mercy our children show us. And it is so very hard to let them go earlier than you thought you would have to. It is a physical ache and an emotionally draining experience to realize that your children not only don’t need you, but they do not miss the nest at all. Oh, yes, they come to visit and love on their siblings. They sometimes drop by to talk. They bring their friends. But the small things, the everyday things are gone.
Silly as it sounds, the thing I miss the most are the musical moments when all my children would sit around the table and sing. Sometimes the guitars would come out, but mostly it was acapella two, three or four part harmonies as we sang our hymn of the month or maybe some praise songs. My grown children scoff at that now, but I miss the music. My younger children are not yet skilled enough to sing harmonies. I hope music fills our home again one day.
Our goal has always been that our children would glorify God as they become gospel arrows shot into a broken world. They are not perfect, they will fall into sin, they will make huge mistakes, they will learn hard lessons. We cannot prevent this. We can only love them, give them open arms in which to come and be nurtured, offer them input when it is needed, and pray diligently. It is our prayer always that our children would know how much God loves them and how much we love them, and that even in our imperfection, we can show them what it looks like to live lives of repentant thankfulness and grace. And still, I hope I have the grace to let them go.