When our kids were little, I used to get so tired. I was tired of cutting food, washing faces, wiping backsides. I longed for the day when they were older–teenagers, maybe–and they could take care of themselves.
And then that happened. They grew old enough to be responsible for their own showering, tooth brushing, and yes, backside hygiene.
The interesting thing is that my job didn’t get easier. It got harder. Sure, I could go to the grocery store without all six children in tow. I could send them to bed instead of putting them to bed. But their hearts—their hearts became oh, so much more complex. And then we added our two bonus girls, and things became even more interesting.
In childhood, children accept things as simple truths. We go to church. We love Jesus. We do or don’t do certain things, because Mom and Dad said. We work hard. We contribute. That’s just how it works.
Then, they become teens. They start to question. I remember the day my eldest at the time, about 14 years old, said to me “But what if I don’t really believe in God and all that stuff?” Y’all. The panic that struck my mother heart. I nearly wet my pants.
Somehow, God overrode my humanity and I answered “Well, that is entirely your choice. You will have to decide if being a Christian is worthwhile or if you’re going to go your own way.” At that time, she wasn’t looking to change her beliefs. She simply needed to know that the choice was hers. She needed to make her faith her own, rather than riding on the coattails of her parents’ beliefs.
Larry and I have always said “We aren’t raising children, we are raising adults.” Our goal has been to shepherd them in such a way that when they come of age physically, they will be prepared to function as adults mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well.
The hard thing about that theory is that letting go starts early. It starts with things like allowing a kid make a terrible purchase with too much money, knowing they will soon regret it. It’s about giving them choices, knowing they are not mature enough to make those choices wisely, but also knowing that they will gain wisdom in the process.
I used to think that parenting meant giving it my all until my children were 18 and on their own, at which point I could settle into an easier pace and “retire,” as it were, simply enjoying the fruits of my labor and, eventually, grandchildren.
Instead, I find that having teen and adult children is far more challenging. Problems aren’t solved with a kiss and a hug and a glass of water. Tears aren’t stopped simply by pulling a child into my lap and reassuring him or her. The work now is more rigorous than ever. It’s more challenging than ever. More nerve-wracking than ever.
This time of life is different than I ever imagined. But you know what? It’s also so much more rewarding. My kids are so incredibly amazing. I love watching them grow and develop as people. I hate watching them struggle, and I feel every heartache, but the growth that comes as a result is amazing. God has done some pretty cool stuff.
We have 5 adult children thus far, and I am enjoying their friendship. I am privileged to walk beside them on their journeys in life. I love that they are willing to let me be a part of their stories, and not just a spectator. And yes, I’m loving the grandchildren–7 so far! I get to walk a little more closely with the 3 kids still under my wing, and I beg time to slow down.
It is my privilege, as I see the mountain I’ll soon be climbing, to look around me and see that I have traveling companions. My children will feel my pain, and this time, they will be the caregivers.
I am humbled and blessed beyond measure.