Training in Righteousness
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Entries in Parenting (69)


Walking over the parenting threshold

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the woman a reward. (Psalm 127:3)

Today, my little girl, my firstborn, turns 26 years old. My husband teased her yesterday, asking her, "How does it feel to be into the first year of your late 20's?"

July 21, 1989 was a day very much like today, a little overcast, hot, humid, threatening rain. I remember the day we took her home, as we settled her into the car, sweating from every pore. I was drenched when I finally got in my seat, but it was more than the heat. It was the fact that I was very aware that I was beginning a new life.

I've heard people say, "Having children isn't going to change me." All I can say to that is "shame on you." It should. How can it not? We are given responsibility for a life, a stewardship from God. He is giving us these little people for a season to raise for his glory. How can we not change? Even if we don't make conscious changes (which we have to), they change us. Our children change us.

Marriage quickly reveals our selfishness. Having children maginifies those occasions. As we feel grumbly waking up in the middle of the night, or wondering when we're ever going to be able to use the bathroom alone again, our desire for personal comfort and ease is revealed as we parent. It's a daily exercise of putting our children first. No, we don't have to give up everything, and yes, I think women should still have other interests while they raise their children, but it's not the same as it was when they were yet unborn. Three years into being an empty nester, I am more fully realizing how much time parenting demanded of us. This morning, I was able to wake up at my leisure, have my tea in the quiet, read without interruption. It wasn't always like that. I had my years of being dragged from slumber, not getting to shower until afternoon, and not getting to read until late that night when they were all in bed. It's part of the deal; you can't have the blessing without the work.

And it is a blessing. My children have brought out my tendency to be selfish, but they've also been agents of my sanctification. They have inspired joy, laughter, sober thinking, and a constant reminder of God's goodness. They've made me laugh and cry. I'm sure I've made them do a lot of the latter. They have brought me moments of pride where I feel about ready to burst. Praise God, today, we have a good relationship. I'm enjoying watching the adults they've become. I still worry about them. I'm sure my boys, especially, wish I wouldn't worry so much about them. Even though I look into the faces of adults, in my mind's eye, I still see their tiny vulnerable faces when I look at them.

Parenting is like walking over a threshold. Once you get over that marker, you can look back and remember what it was like before, but you wouldn't go back over if you were given the chance. I'm grateful to God for my children, and for every moment of parenting, good and bad. I trust they will be merciful to me when they remember my shortcomings. I'm looking forward to, Lord willing, watching them receive the blessing of parenthood themselves some day.


When does it get easier?

Adjusting to changes as a parent is something that doesn't happen immediately. Yes, there is that moment when the first one goes, when you stand there watching her walking across the parking lot, or down the driveway, or maybe as she boards a plane. The first one is gone and that moment of awful anticipation comes and goes. But it's done and you have survived.

And then the next one goes, and you've done this before, so it's not so bad. And then the next one, and maybe the next one, and so on. But then there's a moment when that initial shift from having kids at home to having no one home passes, and there is a sustained silence in your life as a mother. Yes, you have other things going on in your life. Yes, you're busy. Yes, isn't technology wonderful that you can text your child daily if you want?

Adults have adults lives, and young adults are busy. They are in the process of moving away from us, not coming home. They have jobs, lives, friends, concerns of their own. We cheer from the sidelines because this is what we've raised them to do. We are happy for them, but we miss them, and we know that time together is the stuff of building relationships, and our time with them is precious now.

When you think about it, having kids move away from us is a huge change. We go from knowing all of the details of their lives to knowing basically nothing. We aren't there to see they've had a bad day. We can't see when they need something to eat. We don't get to see the things going on in their lives. Suddenly, maintaining those relationships becomes a lot more work. And let's face it, young adults don't see their parents as their peer group, and in reality, their friends know more about them now than we do.

Whatever extra jobs or vocations women have, when we become mothers, we never stop being mothers. We can say that we aren't going to be like those mothers who can't stop talking about their children. We have minds of our own; interests; hobbies; we watch the news, follow politics, and juggle social media. But no matter how much of the other things we have going on, motherhood is a significant determiner of who we become as we age. I would not be who I am today had I not raised the particular children I have raised. They filled my every moment. I fed them, clothed them, talked to them, read to them, educated them. Everything was really about this task of raising the children God had graciously given to me.

I thought it would be easier at this point, eight years since the first one left, and three since the last one left. I often wonder if women who had careers while their children grew up find it easier once their children are gone. Maybe that's why so many women do a little happy dance when the kids leave. Don't get me wrong; there are benefits to having an empty house, but I'm afraid that I'm still a work in progress in this empty nest thing. I'm grateful that my children are fairly close so that if we do find time to visit, it isn't onerous.

I cling to the promises I've been reading about as I study Ephesians. God has raised me up with Christ to show me the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward me in Christ (Ephesians 2:7). Recently, Becky wrote at Out of the Ordinary, reflecting on times when life is hard. She counseled us to reflect on the small things It's good advice. Sometimes, a lot of little things make one big thing. I pray for eyes to see the small things. 


Because it's still true

I originally wrote this post almost two years ago. It was one a popular one, I believe, because there are parents who know exactly what I'm talking about.

It asks the question: when can mother relax? And it's as true today as it was in May 2013. 

* * * * * * * * * * * 

My middle child was diagnosed with asthma when he was 2 1/2 years old. The diagnosis came after a very acute attack, and a frantic trip to the ER where my son spent the next three days, and we got an education. 

Every asthma sufferer has something that trigger his symptoms. Some people have allergies, or wheeze because of stress or exercise. Our son's triggers were infection, both viral and bacterial. Kids get sick; trying to keep him from being set off was like nailing jello to the wall. 

I feel like he coughed for the next ten years. After the diagnosis, it took a long time to get things under control. He would cough a lot at night. It would wake me. I would lie there, listening closely, waiting to see if he would need medication, if he was going to get acute enough to demand a trip to the ER, or if it would stop. When the house became silent again for a long enough time, I knew it had passed. I would relax, and think, "He's okay. Now, I can rest." It was a wonderful feeling.

I was thinking recently how much of a picture that is of parenting adult children. When my son was lying there coughing, I couldn't stop it.  All I could do was wait to see if I was needed. That is a lot like parenting an older teen and young adult. We have to do a lot of waiting and listening.

When my children were little, it seemed so much more straightforward. I prayed for wisdom to know what to say; now, I pray for wisdom to know when to speak or be quiet. That is one of the hardest things I have learned as my kids have grown up: knowing when to be quiet. It can be quite crucial. The wrong word can make a mess of things, and a word not offered can do the same thing. 

A number of weeks ago, as one of my children went through a pretty difficult trial, I thought to myself, "I just want to feel like I can rest."  It was very much like that anxious hope I had as I lay awake at night, waiting for the next heave of my son's little chest; can I relax now?

I'm beginning to think that there is no permanent state of relaxation as a mother. Yes, we release them, and we put our trust in the sovereign God.  We think of verses like Proverbs 22:6, Romans 8:28, and Philippians 1:6.  But things happen, even as big people, and once again, our guard is up: a hard boss; struggling to pass a course; a broken heart; a fractured friendship; learning to obey God when it's hard; finding a good church; learning to live with a tight budget. "Will they be okay?" While they are adults and capable of managing, old habits die hard, and we get into mother bear mode.

Just because our kids can do up their own coats, cut their own food, and tie their own shoes doesn't mean parenting gets easier. To be honest, I find it harder now than those days of toddlerhood. It's hard to just sit. And sometimes, the pain they feel causes the most acute heart ache we can imagine.

Sometimes, the control freak in me wants to do something. But I can't. These are grown people, and if I step in, I may rob them of the opportunity to muddle through a trial and see for themselves how God is faithful. So, I wait, and I listen to see if I'm needed. Sometimes, I can relax, but sometimes, I can't. I'm starting to think this is just the way it is.

This is the reality of parenting; it's a life long vocation. And we can be thankful for it, because it causes us to draw closer to God, and it gives us opportunity to grow.


In my day, we walked to school uphill both ways...

It's pretty cold all over Canada at the moment, thus fortifying the stereotype that we are a frozen world. In Manitoba, last night, the wind chill values were -45C (-49F). That's pretty darn cold.

Here in my town, the school buses have not been cancelled (yet) despite Environment Canada having issued a snow squall warning earlier. It's pretty clear now, but cold. That school is not cancelled is going to tick off a lot of people. Whenever there is inclement weather these days, people get polarized over whether or not schools should be cancelled. 

When I was going to school, closures of the school were rare, but I seem to remember some pretty harsh winters. There are those who disagree with me. Last winter, someone told me that she was quite certain that there had never been a winter like last winter. Well, since temperature records don't go back to the beginning of time, I'm not sure it's safe to say that. I went to public school here in Ontario from 1975-1978, and then high school in 1982, and we had cold weather. My husband grew up here in southern Ontario, and he has some pretty vivid memories of a very bad storm in 1977. I remember it, too.

When I was in fourth grade, I attended a school in Winnipeg, and my brothers and I took the bus. It was about a fifteen minute ride. One afternoon, a nasty blizzard blew into Winnipeg. The temperatures had plummeted, and the visibility was almost zero. Many of the buses could not make it back to the school to pick up the students that afternoon. Quite a few parents had already come to the school to pick up the kids. We only had one car at the time, and my father had it. My brothers and I stood wondering which bus we would get on because ours was cancelled. 

We were finally directed to one brave driver who allowed just about every stranded kid onto his bus after conferring with the principal. It was not nice driving weather, and I was scared. The driver had the radio on, and I can still remember hearing Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle," as we plunged onward through the drifts. And of course we made it home. It was well after 5:00 when we got there, but we made it. That kind of thing would not happen today. 

I have mixed feelings about how quickly we say it's "too cold" for kids to go to school. For small children, I have a little more sympathy, but what about a kid who is in 12th grade? If today is "too cold" for him to go to school, what will he do next year? Right now, all over southern Ontario, there are first year university students who have to go to school. There are people who have to go to their jobs. Are we sheltering our kids too much? Is this just another manifestation of "helicopter parenting?" 

The world can't stop for the weather. If you had a doctor's appointment and was informed when you arrived that the doctor felt it "too cold" to go outside, how would you feel? Maybe the manager of the grocery store had a long drive and didn't want to open the store, and you needed milk. Would you want him to stay home? Last year, during the infamous Polar Vortex, I had a vet's appointment, and I knew my vet was an hour away. I was sure she would cancel. She didn't. She was there.

It is certainly important to protect small children, but the irony is that they are usually better dressed for the weather than the older kids. I understand not wanting to take kids out in the cold. I didn't like it, either. One day, in Regina, when our daughter was in kindergarten, we had -50 windchills, and I couldn't open my front door. She did, indeed stay home that morning, but that was a rarity.

We live in Canada, and life goes on, even in the winter. I think protecting our young kids from the cold is wise, but honestly, this morning, if one of my kids was still in high school, he'd be getting up going to school.


When they tell you their secrets

My kids are beginning to arrive home for the holidays. I love to see how insanely happy the Beagle is when they come in. She was so happy last night that she sounded like she was being disemboweled. It's like she was saying, "Where have you been? I've been waiting."

We had dinner with all of our kids together last night. Our daughter will be home on Monday, but we were in town where she lives, and we ate together. I love to hear my kids laugh with each other. It's so much  nicer than when they were younger and just filled the dinner table with bickering. It's a blessing to see my adult children be friends with each other. It's not always the case. Of my three brothers, I really only have anything to do with one of them, and that's kind of sad.

Inevitably as they talk together, snippets of things they've done while being on their own come out. My brothers used to do that to my mom, too; share a story of some gross infraction she would rather not have known about. She didn't like it, and I could see that. I sympathized with her, and I sympathize with her more now.

I really don't want to know the things they have done which are displeasing to the Lord. When mothers hear that, the guilt impulse automatically kicks in. When my kids persist on sharing details, I try to keep it light, and say, "Too much information," or "I don't want to know that." Because I don't want to know.

Mothers have one desire for their children; Christian mothers, that is. We desire our children to pursue righteousness. A righteous life is a blessed life. It may not be an easy life, but it's a good life. That's what I want for my kids no matter what their vocations are. We don't want to hear about the things they have done which are unrighteous, no matter how small. Hearing them say how they learned from a mistake is one thing, but hearing the details we can do without.

My mind is drawn back to an incident when they were younger and we were homeschooling. I had just started blogging, and I was typing away one morning and one of the kids was beside me, speaking to me, asking for permission for something. I was quite involved in what I was doing, and lo and behold, later on I discovered I had given consent for something, had I been paying attention, I would not have.

I wonder how many other moments there were like that. When they share some of their secrets, I feel like I wasn't paying enough attention, that I was too wrapped up in my own affairs at the time. There is a temptation when they are getting older and more independent that we don't have to pay as much attention. I wonder if my time should have been better spent. It's all water under the bridge, but every now and then, I feel regret for it.

I'm studying Psalm 56 in prepration for teaching in January, and in this psalm, David is running from Saul. He is surrounded by enemies. They are "trampling" him "all day long," (v.2).  Their thoughts are evil against him (v.5), and they "lurk" (v.6).

I feel sometimes like those things in the past are my enemies. They trample on an otherwise good day; they lurk, only to jump out when I least expect it. I don't have the kind of enemies David had, but things like guilt and regret can be oppressive in their own way. These enemies from within are stubborn to leave. They want to drag me down.

In the second half of verse 9, David says, "This I know, that God is for me."

What a tremendous thought! The God of the Universe is for me. He is for us. This season of Christmas reminds me what lengths God went to in order to show that he is for us. He sent his son who knew the glory of heaven to a humble stable. This is my comfort. No matter how relentlessly my inner enemies want to be against me, God is for me. That is my comfort and assurance.

Young moms who blog, take care. While there is nothing wrong with blogging, keep it in proper perspective. Don't get distracted with looking for the affirmation of the blog world. Be there for your kids. You're the only mother they have. There will be time for blogging later.