Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Tuesday Musings on Parenting

We are settled back into the routine after a wonderful week of spring break. I'm not sure who loves a break from school most, but it's a close call between the kids and me. I start my bucket list of activities weeks in advance, plan topics of conversation, and integrate plenty of later nights and slower mornings. Sometimes I actually plan early mornings for myself (alone!) and let my kids sleep in; those are needful times for us all. One week went by far too fast.


So now we're in the final stretch of the school year. That's a happy thought. The fact that we've made it this far --and learned all that we've learned-- has already been an accomplishment I'm ready to celebrate. It's been such a good year of growing... and of some growing pains, too.

This morning I handed Michael and Olivia their lunch bags as they laced up, then we walked together out towards the truck. I'd been thinking all morning about this year's trials, learning curves, failures, and successes. Although adolescence is a time of growing, it's quite possible that a mother must do even more growing herself. This school year has been one in which I was pressed to trust God more fully as I learn to let go of the clutch I have on my kids. This is the kind of growth that matters most... trusting in God, letting go of fear and control, and learning to love without demands. This is growing in freedom and faith, and always worth the growing pains that come with it. As Olivia and Michael pulled away from the house, my mind reached back through the months and I remembered how we've all aspired to new levels of freedom this year, and how it has required me to let go of fear and control and take hold of faith still more. In this way, I have been called to a greater love for God and my kids.

Trusting in God has been at the forefront of my thoughts this year. I have to believe he loves my kids more than I can possibly know, and that in his sovereignty he has a story uniquely designed and written for them. It will not look like my story, nor will it look like the story I'd write for them if I could. But it is a better story, perfectly suited for their needs and written for God's glory. I've also had to simply trust that my prayers to God are heard, that he delights to answer, that he came to save us in every way.

Letting go of fear and control is also very much related to trusting God and resting in his revealed character. Letting go of my fears and control also allows my kids to live more securely in my love, and in the knowledge and example of my trust in God. They need to know I'll still love if they mess up, if their preferences and opinions are different from mine, even if their beliefs are different. They must know I trust God to care for them. No one feels loved if they constantly feel stifled, judged. No one feels loved if they are caged up and "protected" because of fear. No one feels the love of God extended through me if they are required to measure up and maintain the appearance of being right in my eyes. You see, letting go of fear and control in our growing children is a better, deeper love for them. Stifling their development because of fear (all the what-ifs) is not loving, and trying to control them is a manipulative demonstration of my own self-worship.

Learning to love without demand is a big topic to dwell on. It may take my whole life to squelch all the ways I attach a demand to love. It's pretty sick. When your eyes are opened to this, a whole host of ways we pervert true love becomes evident. For today though, I want to simply remember that my children are not here for me. They are not created for my glory. They are not made to live for my happiness, or to make me feel good about myself. They are not to live for my reputation, or to feed my ego, or to inflate my self-worth. They are not my identity. They are not to be bent and broken to be conformed to my image. So in all of this, I must keep squelching those bad thoughts and feelings (and resulting words and actions) that creep in and demonstrate that I can easily attach demands to loving my kids. No, this is not real love. Love points to a greater Love, whose image is perfect, and who died to cover us in his righteousness, without expectation or demand needed to be fulfilled.


I once read that the goal of parenthood is to shift from proper and needful governance of our kids when they are little to influence when they older. I hope to be a positive influence, but I'm just fine accepting that they might be influencing me. That would wonderful, actually, if they surpassed my maturity and wisdom. I hope to be humble enough even now to learn from them. My hope and prayer is that there would be mutual influence built on friendship and that love and acceptance would define that relationship. I don't want to dominate because I am the parent. From the time they were little, I've wanted to befriend rather than belittle (as we can easily do to kids). It continues to be my goal, even when it requires gentle, yet relentless, pressing in and prayer.

I don't have all the answers, of course, and parenting is not a formula. I actually think we complicate things quite severely in our attempt to get it right. If two commandments summarize the whole of scripture and the duty of mankind, "Love the Lord with your whole being, and love others as yourself," then I think those two instructions should adequately summarize our duty as parents.


~Katherine


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