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Entries in Parenting (72)


Interfere less, watch more

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.


Now, this does a mama's heart good

Yesterday, my son was able to register for his courses for his first year of university.  While he was online, perusing the catalogue, I heard frequent expressions such as, "Awesome!" and "Cool!" and "Sweet!"  These were expressions of delight on his part as he saw the kinds of classes he will be able to take. 

He wants to take a philosophy course.   I said I think all arts students should take one.  He is interested in a history course that deals with the history of mythology.  He wants to take an English class that deals with the literary hero.  He's debating between Latin and German.

To see my child love the prospect of learning is a true treat for me.


The first day of the rest of my life

So, my youngest son had his last day of high school today.  He had exams this past week, all which took little time to finish.  His English teacher, upon his exiting the room yesterday, told him to major in English, punctuating that sentiment with, "Don't waste your talent."

His current education plan involves majoring in psychology with the intent of becoming someone on Criminal Minds or CSI.  I don't know as if he'll keep up with it once he discovers how science oriented psychology actually is.  But we'll see.

This new situation means I am about to embark on that existence they call the "empty nest."

Except my kids come home often, text me regularly, and call for advice when they have mysterious rashes or need to know how to cook a pork chop.  They're not gone.

But yes, life will be different.  It means that the magical hour of 3:00 pm is no longer a bench mark which determines how I spend my afternoon.  I won't have to hurry home from the store to be there when my kids get home.  Technically, I haven't had to because my kids are okay on their own; it was a matter of wanting to be there with them.  Motherhood flies so quickly once they get into the teen years.  We have to make those moments count.  I was the mom with the warm coffee cake, or chocolate chip cookies waiting for the kids.  I want them to know I looked forward to seeing them come home.

I have noted a change in the way 12 grade students look now compared to when my oldest graduated, five years ago.  

Kids my sons age live in fear of being disconnected from the world via whatever is their technological toy of choice.  When I suggested to a friend of my son's that she turn off her phone at night, she looked at me as if I suggested she play Lady Godiva.

Kids my sons age don't know how to use the phone particularly well, nor do they seem to want to.  They want faceless conversation.  Unless it is Skype.  If they could use Skype, they would be happy.  I don't understand that.  I like Skype, but I don't understand the willingness to Skype, but avoid the use of the phone.

Kids my sons age multi task more than my daughter did.  With my daughter is was an odd combintion of MSN (which is so passé now) iTunes, homework and the television.  Now, there's all sorts of things they do simultaneously which means that perhaps 3 hours lectures may be a drag.  Although, with wireless internet on most campuses, they can always surf the web while the prof lectures.  The thing is, the profs don't care if your kid is messing up and wasting their money.  It's no skin off their nose if your kid invest $10,000 and fails.  I am not making this up.  My daughter said that's the way it is on campus.

I suppose I ought to feel somewhat melancholic about my son graduating.  I will miss him a great deal, but I think it's good for young men to get out and struggle through life, learning to be independent.  It is going to mean he has a few stumbles, but those will be good for him.  We are the generation of "helicopter parents," so being out from my view may be good for him.  

And of course, such changes make me stop and ask myself:  "What is my purpose?"  Of course on a "big picture," level, that's an easy answer:  to glorify God with my life.  To serve Him.  To grow in Him.  But on a logistical level, that can happen in many ways.

I've thought a lot about what I like doing and what I'm suited to do.  Some days, I feel like I'm not good at anything, and then there are days when I think, "Yeah, I think I can do that."

There are things like taking photos, making quilts, teaching bible studies, and volunteering that are all potential areas to keep on pursuing.  Some of them mean learning more.  I'd like to do all, but life is busy with older kids who live away from home.  If I want to see them, it means going where they are.  None of my kids is fortunate enough to own a vehicle of their own, so I have to go there.

Today, I took my son to stand in line to process forms for getting his passport.  It was an hour drive there, puttering around town, visiting my daughter, and going home.  He spent some time chatting to me, and some time listening to music.  I drove through that lovely, lush, country drive and thought a few times that I wish I'd had my camera with me.  I thought a few times, "wow, that's a good idea to write about."   While I sat in the passport office, I was overloaded with tweets from the Gospel Coalition ladies' conference.  I decided I would rather wait and listen for myself.

What I know for a certainty is that whatever I do, I want to keep learning.  I want to know God more.  I want to keep on this path of discovering more about Him, working to understand what His Word says, how to defend my faith, how to live the gospel in every aspect of my life.  In addition to thinking about writing and pictures, I made a mental list of the books I feel I need to read in addition studies I want to do (like that one by Kathleen Nielson on Joshua).

I don't think I will lack for things to keep me occupied, but there needs to be a focus.  I was reading The Call, by Os Guinness, and there is a very intriguing quotation by George Santayana that is making me think:

"In accomplishing anything definite a man renounces everything else."

Accomplishing means giving up something else.  Serving means giving up things.

Seems my boy and I are both on the brink of new things.


A study in arguments between boys

When my two boys were quite a bit younger, maybe 8 and 10, they got into an argument about something.  My younger son felt he was the offended party, and when he did not get satisfaction for his concerns, he waited outside the bathroom door for his brother to emerge, wherepon he jumped him from behind.

There was screaming.  There was crying.  There was yelling.  There were two little boys rolling around on the floor in the fetal position.

I listened to their sobbing explanations of what went on.  The solution was quite simple.  You are both being selfish.  You are both being unloving.  Neither of you wants to overlook an offense.  You are both wrong, you've both sinned in this.  Go to your rooms and calm down and then make up.

Boys make up easy.  If it was two girls, the assult would have been much more drawn out; perhaps nasty notes and hissing insults over a period of days.  The climax would maybe have taken physical dimensions, but more likely something verbal, words that could echo in the listener's ears for weeks.  The making up part would have taken longer.

Recently, those same two boys, now 18 and 20, had a spat via the wonders of text messaging.  Older son is away from home where his school is, dwelling in a stinky house with boys who aren't fussy about having garbage bags at the front door, and don't like to wash dishes.  On the day of the argument, I was here with the younger boy, while unknown to him,  my husband was at the Man Cave with the older boy working on something with him.  I heard one side, my husband heard the other.

I listened to the indignation of my son.  He wanted me to agree with him, to take his side.  My only words to him was that the matter they were arguing over was not something to get in the way of a brotherly relationship.

So, where was my discussion about having a sinful heart, and his failure in letting Jesus control him?

You don't settle the arguments of two young men; you let them work it out on their own.  They know what is right and wrong.  They don't need to tell me they were wrong. This is where, as they say, the rubber meets the road.  Have we taught them well? Can they make godly decisions?  The reality is that they have to, because they need to take ownership of their faith and live it out in relationships with others all on their own.

When we are young mothers, we often micromanage our kids' disagreements because we don't want them to hold grudges.  We want them to learn how to get along, and we may nurse secret fears that their bad behaviour is the road to landing in jail, or worse, doing something wrong in front of an elder or pastor.  You can't micromanage boys who for all intents and purposes are adults.  If it was a serious issue and they asked our counsel, we'd give it, but part of mothering older kids is letting them work things out on their own.

And just because they've heard the gospel all of their lives, it does not mean they will make the right choice.  Daily, Christians who have heard the Word all of their lives make poor and wrong decisions.  Our kids will too, no matter how often they were in Sunday school, church, had bible reading, or watched Psalty the Singing Songbook.

I'm not sure what the resolution to that dispute was.  The last time my older boy was home, they seemed fine. I assume they made things up.  But as a parent, part of releasing child is backing up and letting them be adults.  We can't complain about our boys refusing to grow up if we don't give them expectation to do so.


Perceptions and guarantees

Quite a number of years ago, my daughter sat in a sermon and walked away with a question in her mind that developed into a fear that she held onto for a long time.

She was about nine or ten years old, and as the pastor shared a story about a woman who had lost her family in a fire, my daughter somehow walked out that sermon believing that if she did not do her "quiet time" regularly, she would lose her family in a tragic death.

Now, some children are open about their fears and share them. Some children, who are more introverted and quiet, keep those thoughts to themselves.  She is in the latter category.  It wasn't until she was almost sixteen years old that we talked about that sermon.

We can never know with utmost certainty how our children respond to biblical teaching.  We can talk to them and get a general idea, but we do not presume to read the minds of our children, and we should not want to get inside of their heads, anyway.  Our children are born as dependent beings, but they become independent individuals, and we understand that their thoughts are their own and their accountability before God is their own.

There are other things that I know my children didn't fully understand.  There are misconceptions, legalisms, moralisms, and general silliness that they nursed in their minds and walked away confused.  This is part of their spiritual growth.  I can only answer what I am asked, and I'm confident that our home was generally a home of open dialogue about things.  There are just some times when a kid is a little shy about some questions, especially as they get older and desire to seem more knowledgeable than they are.  Kids who are very open at 9 years old may not be so forthcoming at 14; that's just normal.

There are no guarantees that when our kids hear the truth that they will practice it when they get older.  They will be very much like we are as adults, dealing daily with obedience and trusting the Lord.  A lifetime of teaching doesn't guarantee perfect understanding even with parents who have the best of intentions.  They may trip over things along the way.  Our tendency as parents is to attempt to prevent the stumbling because we don't like to see them do so.  But they have to.  And as parents, we have to realize that when we teach our children and expose them to the Word of God, their reception of it may not be like ours, and we may find down the road that the poor kid really struggled.  We shouldn't beat ourselves up and blame ourselves because we somehow failed them.  If we are willing to take the blame for their mistakes, does that mean we are ready and willing to take the glory when they do right?

Our children rest in the sovereignty of God, but often, we don't live like we believe that.  We think we could have "done something."  The reality is that all we can do is teach sound doctrine, live sound doctrine, allow the Holy Spirit to do the work in their hearts, and pray, pray, pray.  When they are little, and oh so pliable, we may be tempted to think we're more responsible for their good behaviour than we are.  We have far less control than we realize.

As for my daughter, now at the age of 23?  She's over that misunderstanding she had about the connection between reading one's bible every day and having God allow your entire family to be killed in a fire.  But there are other curiosities she is left with and continues to work through.  And don't we all have those?