Last Saturday night my wife and I went to a church Coffee House Night to watch our second oldest play and sing. To see how he communicated each song and to hear how well he plays guitar was just – well, it is moments like these that make parents want to explode with pride. I have been enjoying watching our kids grow up.
He’s 21, been married for eight months, a student with Andersonville Seminary and he and his wife are a little more than 2 months into the expectancy of their first child (due in Dec.). Some would wonder why someone so young would take on marriage and now a child. Well, we didn’t raise him to stay a kid forever. We embraced each stage of our children’s lives, encouraging them into the next stage. So, when he and his wife knew they were the ones for each other, we supported it. When they decided to get married, we supported it. We have tried to encourage all our children that if they felt led to move in a certain direction, we would support them, offering whatever wisdom and guidance we can, even being honest if we felt they were making a mistake.
We have 4 children, each with different personalities, character traits, talents, gifts, desires and dreams. We have tried our best to allow them to go in their own directions, encouraging them to seek God and His will in all they do. What does the scripture say? “Raise up a child in the way that HE should go.” That means I have to lay aside my dreams and plans and raise the child how he or she is to go, according to God’s plan as it is revealed in the life of the child. We are far, far from being perfect parents, but we have been having the privilege of watching our children’s lives unfold as they grow.
One quick note: My wife home-schooled all four of our kids. Much of what we see in them is largely due to her loving patience, being with them all day, every day. She taught them more than just the “3 R’s”, but also passed on to them many things that God has shown her.
Our oldest is 23 – he will be getting married this fall and just got his associates degree. Our oldest daughter is 19 and her boyfriend is so serious, he moved from Missouri to here, in Jersey – yeah, we see this engagement on the horizon. Our youngest is 15, so she is looking forward to the fun things in life, like being an aunt and getting her driver’s license (well, in a year and a half). There are parts of life she is still figuring out, which is normal.
At one point, our oldest couldn’t decide what he wanted for a career (For a little while, it was difficult for me to accept this, as I knew where I was headed when I was 17 – thankfully my wife kept me at bay). For the most part, we gave him the space he needed to seek and pray. On his own, after several considerations, he decided he would take on the Addictions Counseling course at Camden County College (got his A.A.S. last month…4.0, by the way). I do not think if I had forced him to choose a career and get the college/training, when he was eighteen, that it would have done him any good.
It has been fun, watching them grow, learn and move on in life. While my wife and I love to remember what they were like when they were little, we do not yearn for them to remain as children more than we want to see them grow into the people they are becoming. We cannot control what they do, nor should we even try – even if they are about to make a big mistake. Sure, we can offer advice and whatever wisdom we have. We can warn them and attempt to steer them in a better direction. But, we raised them to be their own people – people who would seek the Lord and make decisions for themselves. We remind ourselves – and need to continue to remind ourselves – that no matter what, God loves them way more than we ever could and watches them every step of the way.
We loved it when they took their first steps. They were not suddenly monsters after puberty hit (Well, not entirely. Gotta be real). We celebrated with them when they got driver’s licenses. We love watching as they are growing, getting jobs, going to school, getting married and moving on into the adult world. They are not our babies. They are not there for us to mold like clay, creating our vision. We are responsible to love, teach and guide. We should not show them every choice to make, but show them how to make the right choices, remind them to seek the Lord and let them know that we will support them, even when they run into a mess.
I feel a little sorry for parents who have to hover over their kids’ every move. They don’t let them experience much of life – some won’t even let their kids have many friends. As the children grow, these parents will do what they can to delay the getting of a driver’s license, or will try to prevent them from going to a college that is more than driving distance from home. When the kids are in the career decision mode, these parents want to select the college and career for their children. I feel sorry for these parents because they put themselves through unnecessary stress and they miss out on celebrating their kids’ own accomplishments.
It is heartbreaking to see your children stumble and fall. It hurts when they fail. It is crushing and sometimes angering when they make poor decisions that have lasting effects. But, did we survive our falls and failures? Did we learn from our unwise decisions? Was God faithful to walk it through with us, loving us the whole way, showing us His grace and His mercy? Then, why would we feel we need to control our children’s lives – or even feel we can control their lives – to such a degree that we might have any slight chance of preventing any of it? Would God be any less faithful for our children than He was for us?
“Raise up your child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Here it is:
- Raise up your child – not force him or her. There is a stern warning, also, to “not exasperate” our children.
- …in the way – we pray for them, guide them and let them see how to get to wherever the Lord wants them to go
- …that he should go – not how I think he should go, according to my dreams, desires or demands.
- …and when he is old – this will be the path they will walk on for the rest of their lives.
This is not all about careers, marriage, college or such. That is only part of the big picture. This is about raising our children to make decisions for themselves. We want children who will seek the Lord for themselves. Our children need to experience all the steps of growing up and going through those rites of passage. Yes, we need to do what we can to keep them safe and disciplined. But, in the long run, they need to grow and go through all the excitement, joys, successes, pain and failures of life. Our job is to guide them through it, encourage them, reminding them that God is their refuge in times of trouble and it is by His blessing that successes are what they are.
If you keep a garden, you do not tell the tomatoes what color you want them to be. You can’t make roses grow overnight. Try telling your grass that it cannot grow for two weeks so you can take a break from cutting it. No…we tend, feed, trim, prune, water, guard from insects and weeds and plant where the sun is just right. It’s not about what we feel our garden should do, but making sure that garden does what it is supposed to do in the healthiest way possible.
And so the children grow.