As we are preparing to launch our senior to college next year, I am astutely aware of this unique glimpse I have as a parent looking back and looking ahead: childhood not so far back and adulthood within reach. I’m able to vividly reflect on how I felt each step of the way watching him grow up – the worries, the wins, the stresses, the celebrations – while able to also sit in the space where he is now, formed by all those experiences, with so many more on the horizon. And with my youngest having just become a teenager, I’m also embracing the moments and the time, knowing now what it truly means and feels like when they say “it goes by way too fast.”
Being a busy, distracted mom in today’s world, I have certainly had my fair share of would haves, could haves, and should haves. Just when I experience a parenting win, it is typically shortly followed by a parenting fail (or two, or three!).
I recall years ago a circumstance during middle school in which I owed my son an apology. While I do not recall all the details surrounding the specific issue, I do recall how hurt he was and how terrible I felt. Then it hit me. “Buddy,” I shared. “You’re new to this whole middle school thing, and I have never in my whole life been a middle school parent. We’ll get through this together.” Truth be told, my husband and I have felt quite ill-equipped for the many phases of parenting that came at us. This is illustrated by the dozens of books that still fill our bookshelves, addressing a plethora of the challenges in which we panicked, then bought a book. Child not napping? I believe I ordered three books for that! Sensing our son was strong-willed? There was a book for that. Feeling we need to better discipline? There were several books for that. And the list went on and on. We literally have learned along the way – through books, community, counseling – and I know we’re not alone in this.
It is not lost on me what an honor and gift it is to parent and steward God’s children for a short, but incredibly impactful period of time. I know that God had plans in choosing my husband and me to parent these specific children, and it is our jobs for this time here on earth to be obedient to His plans. Even when it’s hard. Even when we feel ill-equipped. The good news is that He did, in fact, give us a play book. Rather than being reactive and reading self-help books, we can be proactive. We can look no further than The Bible, as it offers the best illustration of what a loving parent-child relationship should look and feel like. It’s a story about God’s pursuit of us as our loving, Heavenly Father. And the more we understand that relationship with Him, the more equipped we become as parents in relationship with our own children. Through this understanding, we become equipped to show our children God’s love by loving them as Christ loves us. 2 Timothy 3:16 reminds us that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Not only that, but it also offers truths to lean into when the struggles of parenthood become overwhelming, and (Lord knows I have had plenty of those!)
Here are some Truths I’ve learned to lean into when I feel that I’m failing as a parent:
- God chose me to be their mother. (Psalm 127:3, Jeremiah 29:11)
- We can provide fertile soil and plant the seeds, but it is God who will rain righteousness on them. (Hosea 10:12)
- I’m not perfect. No one is, except for God. (Psalm 18:30)
- I should be on my knees praying for my children – after all, who else will? This is a unique opportunity I get as a parent. (1 John 5:14-15, Colossians 4:2)
- God loves my Children even more than I do. (Isaiah 54:13)
- Embrace the struggles. They don’t learn from things being perfect, they learn from the messes and failures. (Isaiah 41:10)
- Comparison is the thief of joy. (1 Corinthians 4:7)
- Community is vital. It truly does take a village. (Romans 12:4-5)
- It’s not too late for God to redeem something broken. (1 John 1:9, Romans 8:28)
- It’s okay to let go. (Proverbs 3: 5-6)
Each day, the Lord reminds me that only through dependence on Him and His truth can I be assured that I’ll make it through the teen years with our boys with any amount of success!
My husband and I recently attended a talk with author Beth Guckenberger and her husband Todd. They shared an illustration in their message that really stuck with me, and illustration that she also shares in her latest book, “Start with Amen”.
After many struggles with her teen foster daughter, she sought the counsel of a psychologist. Of this interaction she shared, “He watched us for a day or two and then drew a picture of a tree, labeling it in three parts. ‘Beth’, he started, ‘I want you to imagine the foliage of the tree as the attitudes and actions of your daughter. It’s the part you see. Now I want you to picture of the trunk as her self-image. It’s what feeds her attitude and actions. It has been built over many experiences and over a long period of time. Finally, I want you to see the roots of this tree as her understanding of truth, specifically God’s truth.’ I nodded. It seemed intuitive. He continued, ‘The problem is every time you talk to her about her attitude and actions, it’s like you’re cutting off the top of the tree. I don’t know how much you understand horticulture, but every time you cut off the top of a tree, it grows back twice as strong.’” She was then challenged to spend the next several months focusing on the roots of the tree.
Beth punctuated that the more we focus on the attitudes and actions of our children, the more we’re getting away from God’s truth. She encouraged us to not use the power we have to cut off the branches, because they’ll grow back twice as strong. Rather, put focus on the roots. One way I am putting this into practice is finding scripture that speaks to some frequent negative attitudes and actions. I find it very hard to hold back criticism of my oldest son’s time management skills. The boy is frequently late – late getting places, missing deadlines, you name it. It is a source of tension in our home. However, instead of laying into him again and giving the repeated lecture about the importance of being on time, I will throw truth at him in the form of this verse – “But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him” – 1 John 2:5, and I will share that God has better for him. It’s hard work to do this, but work I believe we need to go after with urgency.
I may not be ready to launch our senior off to college next year, but it is my hope and prayer that he is ready to fly – that seeds planted are watered and that his roots are strong. Getting equipped is as powerful and being equipped. And the Lord is ever-present in both.
Lord, I’m so grateful for the gift of raising two special boys. While parenting is one of the toughest jobs I will ever have, it is also the most rewarding. Thank You for your patience as my loving Heavenly Father, for Your fruits of the Spirit, and Your perfect love for us. I pray that You continue to use those to equip me to steward our children, raising them up to be Godly men. In Jesus’ name, Amen.