When our children are little, things feel so…controllable. If they’re hungry, we feed them. If they’re tired, we have them nap. If they act up, we send them to their room (and they actually go). If they are sad or hurting, we hug them or find a bandaid. They are in our fold 24-7, and we have some modicum of control over all of their circumstances.
And then they grow up. They have their own opinions. They go places we may or may not know about. They have deep thoughts that brew in the deep places that they keep to themselves. They begin to cut the tethers holding them to home and sometimes to our hearts. Truth is, they should. Truth is, it’s hard…at least for me. How does one do this parenting thing well when children are young adults?
Although I still have a role to play, I’m beginning to realize that parenting children stepping into adulthood is often about what God is doing in me rather than me parenting them. And, I think I’m beginning to realize that control thing that made parenting littles physically tiring but emotionally full, gets ugly as my children get older.
Without meaning to, I try to control the outcomes of my children’s life and choices. I mean, it’s not overt (usually). It shows up when my hopes and expectations for them are not realized because of life circumstances or their choices. I get angry or depressed when my perfect plan is thwarted. And all of those emotions are fueled by something deeper. Fear. Fear of what? I’m still working on that one, but here’s a go: Fear that they won’t make it across the line to adulthood? Fear that they will reject all they’ve been taught? Fear that my reputation will be marred by their choices? Fear that I didn’t do enough when I still had “control”? Fear that I blew it as a mom? Fear that they will make decisions that will lead to irreparable consequences? However irrational all that sounds, the fear is real. And fear is a red flag about what I really believe. Notice the subject of those fears? This is sounding dubiously like an idol or two.
So, what’s the truth to cling to instead of how I feel? I’m still working on this one, too. Daily! Hourly! And I really don’t have lots of answers, but here’s a few musings.
My "hopes” and expectations for my children are generally only wishes. (Thank you, Pam Chandler). The object of a wish is a positive outcome of my will. The object of true hope is a Person. A perfect Person. A living Person. A Person whose promises are certain. A Person who has all control over all things at all times…even the lives and choices of my children. That Hope will never disappoint because it’s not based on circumstances, outcomes, or how I feel about them. Our Hope does all things well. The truth: Cling to Hope - not “hope”.
God is the author of my children’s story. It’s a story that has it’s origin not from their birth, but from before the foundations of the world (Thanks, Rosaria Butterfield). It’s their personal story. Not mine. Their Author is incapable of mistakes, knows the end from the beginning, is in charge of salvation, and is not surprised when they rebel or sin. So, why do I try to edit the story or consider myself the protagonist who saves the day by my works of parenting? That’s the “I’m-the-Savior” complex! Idolatry. Ugly control. And that feeds the fire of fear because it makes the results of my parenting the measure of identity, worth, satisfaction, God’s favor, and my peace and joy. At the end of the day, my children will stand before the Risen Christ and give account…by themselves; for themselves. As will I. But at that point, it’s not a package deal. Yes, I train them up. No, I cannot control the way they will go. My job is to be faithful to the Lord with the ability He has given me in the power of the Spirit (Thanks, Trish!). The way the story goes is God’s responsibility. The truth: Trust the Sovereign Author not the emotional editor. Ahem.
Their making it across the line to adulthood isn’t within my power. They may or may not believe what they’ve been taught, but that’s also out of my control. My reputation needs to die that Christ’s would be made manifest. I didn’t do enough, and I certainly blow it daily, but the Author ordained my failures as a parent in the lives of my children and in my life for our good and His glory. As for their decisions and resulting consequences? Yep. I may have influence, but I do not have control.
And that is very good news.
The how of parenting young adults is a work in progress, but I think that the how has to be rooted in the Who, and the Who needs to be the object of my sight in order to battle the idols of control and fear. I am to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely (repent), and run with endurance the race marked out for me while fixing my eyes on Jesus.” As the baton is being passed to my adult children, I pray that they run their race well, with strength, and with a steady gaze. God has it marked out for them. Jesus has gone before them. They have a crowd of witnesses surrounding them of which I am one … cheering for all I’m worth.