They’re born and the milestones are thick and fast. They drink. They eat. Burping, pooping. Growing (weigh, measure, worry). More poop. And is it the right colour, consistency, frequency? First smiles. Laughter. Teeth appear. Usually with teething. Sleep (yeah, not really). Words are highly anticipated and duly celebrated. Crawling. Make sure they crawl otherwise in Grade 5, they’ll struggle with long division, or something. Walking. First haircuts, birthdays. Bajillions of home videos are filmed. And of course, in the simple mention of these milestones, come the memories of the challenges and joys that each stage brought. Illnesses, delays, anxieties…along with the successes, celebrations and wonder.
But there are rocks to stand on along the way. Promises that it will all be okay. All parents have days where we just need someone to hold us close and say, It’s going to be okay. We have survived on the promises of God. The nearness of God is our good.
I remember being so frustrated with all the parenting books at the time that none mentioned at what age to STOP stuff. Like when does the child get left to brush its own teeth? Wash its own hair or bath itself without drowning? The answer is usually discovered by accident when you realise your friend’s kids of similar age to yours are helping prep for dinner, setting the table and using the fish knife appropriately whilst yours are still in the highchair using plastic utensils and throwing the veggies. Or you realise that when the entire toothpaste tube has been squeezed down the drain, that perhaps a little more instruction and oversight is still necessary of tooth brushing. The learning is dual. Child, and parent. No manual, no wiki-how videos… you’re left to figure it out. For parents of more than one child, the experience with the first doesn’t automatically translate to knowing better with the next, as they’re an entirely different psychological brand, and new rules now apply, to be figured out. Learning all over again. It’s not like an upgrade of iPhone, or even getting an iPad. It’s like having an iPhone and then getting a sewing machine.
Presently, I’m glad to not be inspecting poop, or acting like a psycho because of sleepless nights. And I have no twinges of longing when I see babies gurgling lovingly into their parents’ eyes, or toddlers running mad circles around them. I’ve done my time. But my word, as the kids grow up, nothing changes with this crazy learning curve. Now you are no longer instructing, repeating, disciplining, enforcing consequences and rewards. NOW, dear friends, we are waiting to see what sticks. What principles will they hold on to when the going gets tough? What values did they really internalise, and how will they deal with difficulties and challenges that cannot be carefully rinsed out by a loving mom?
And it’s no longer the practical things like how to tie your shoelaces, or how to load the dishwasher. It’s big stuff, like budgets, and girls, and driving, and dealing with mean-spirited people. And these are not sit-down-and-read-a-book solutions. It’s a searching of all the principles they’ve learned, choosing, weighing it up, seeing what rings true to them. And us poor parents are muddling through it all. Googling and Bible reading and praying never happened so much as during the teenage years around here y’all. SO much praying. Because when we don’t know what to do, or what to say, or what decision to make, He does. And He can tell them. (And then we wonder if we taught them enough about hearing God’s voice. Yegads, it never ends!)
But the rocks are still there. His promises to us, and for us. For the 9 month old, the 9 year old and the 19 year old. It’s going to be okay.
I’ve realised however, that when they don’t do something right, they’ll learn that lesson all the better for having worked through the crisis or disappointment. Perhaps the hardest part is actually trusting the process and the promises in that process. For example, I know he shouldn’t spend his income from his housesitting gig on those beautiful new (expensive) boots, and I’ll probably say so.
Or his grocery allowance on that beaut trenchcoat. But he NEEDS boots, and he buys the boots. And he has a trenchcoat fetish and there’s just no explanation for that. The nature of the young-adult beast. And he lives on dry bread crusts and apple cores for that month, and we have a laughing conversation about what could have happened if he had just put money aside wisely over two months and not been so compulsive, and he learns. He probably would’ve been wearing boots and a trenchcoat to the beach in summer because it takes long to save, but hey. It’s going to be okay!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
Oh I love Him, but sometimes I’m so stupid when it comes to the “knowing” in that verse. And He said, “in ALL things” just in case we thought that there were exceptions.
Their learning is like that crawling toddler who eventually pulls himself up on all the furniture and cruises around that. Then they start to cross those tiny distances without holding onto anything. Stupendous, thrilling. Then they fall. Which is not stupendous or thrilling, but it’s taught them how to balance better. Same same. They keep falling, making mistakes, sometimes bad choices, but as long as they get up and try again, they’re learning and getting better. Isn’t learning a wonderful thing? That it never ends. That it only serves to increase, improve, mature. Amazing. Funny thing is, it’s a parallel for the parent. Heath and I deliberated (agonised, wept, wrung our hands) over whether to bale out the poor (literally, in this case) child after the boots/coat were bought. We could have given him some cash to get him through the lean period, whilst he was hungry but beautifully dressed. But we couldn’t, we shouldn’t, we mustn’t. We had to release, and trust God that the lesson would be learnt well.
And just when we’ve had a couple (or four) kids, and we’re finally getting it… the communication (spoken and not spoken), the hormones and emotions; just as the home-life-circus that used to stress me out now brings me joy and contentment… we have to release them. I want to scream, No wait! But I’ve just learned how to…. But they’re gone. Now I learn to coach, support, cheerlead, and sometimes just be quiet, watch and pray. Try not to look back and regret. I think that any parent could look back over their parenting journey and ask, Could I have done better? And the answer is almost always,
But our weaknesses and mistakes were also part of our learning, and if we were honest in front of our children, they will only love the fact that we were transparent with it. Phew, imagine trying to grow up with a perfect parent. The high expectations would kill ’em. I’m so glad my kids won’t have to bear that burden, ha ha!
To sum it up, an article by John Piper reads, “God saves children out of failed and unbelieving parenting. God is sovereign. We aren’t the ones, finally, who save our kids. God saves kids.”
“Rest in the sovereignty of God over your children. We cannot bear the weight of their eternity. That is God’s business. We must roll all of that onto Him.”
So I’m rolling. Every minute of every day, I’m rolling all of that onto Him. Thank God that He can bear what I can’t. Oh, how he loves us. And oh, how He loves our kids too.
So it’s going to be okay.
May the lessons learned in the quiet or the chaos lead you closer to Him.
Lots of love,