On Sunday evening, while I was sitting in my pew, waiting for the service to begin, a very dear friend sat behind me. This woman is actually one of my mother-in-law's closest friends, and she has been a friend and mentor to me. I've known her since before I was converted to Christ. She has a son who is a bit younger than my husband.
We were sharing stories about our families. She was one of my daughter's youth leaders, and she has always taken an interest in my family. Her son recently re-located and I was asking about their transition and about her grandchildren.
In the course of conversation, we talked about parenting teenagers. I said to her, "I wish now I had interfered less and allowed my kids to make more mistakes."
She agreed with me 100 per cent. Two women with children from different generations, and we agreed on this issue completely.
Wait. Isn't it wrong to let kids make mistakes?
Well, if your child is about to stick a diary key into the light socket thinking that she's playing "car driving," then yes, you should probably intervene (I did that when I was 3 years old; I'll never forget it. Explains a lot about me, doesn't it?). When it is a safety issue, we step in. But far too often, I was afraid of my children messing up and getting hurt, or me being inconvenienced by their mistakes. It was a selfish way to parent. I wish I had allowed them to make mistakes while in the confines of home, where the landing may be softer. Instead of micromanaging, I should have just been there for them, waiting to give a word of wisdom when they picked themselves up and dusted themselves off. It's not like we can prevent them from making mistakes, anyway. When they leave home, they will make mistakes, and we won't be around to help them. The time at home should be a training ground for how to handle those inevitable foul ups.
I sometimes wonder how often I stood in the way of them learning a valuable lesson because of my own selfish interests, or my lack of faith that God loves them far more than I ever could. It's fortunate that God's grace is far more powerful than our meagre parenting efforts. If I am ever blessed to have grandchildren, I'm going to encourage my kids to let their children make mistakes. Sometimes, it's the only way that they see their need for God, and that's really one of the most important lessons we can teach them.