As a parent, there are certain moments I live in fear of. I always describe having a child like tearing your heart out of your chest and sending it off to school each day- vulnerable and exposed to the cold, hard world.
I always feared the first time my kid would come home from school crying because a verbal bully tossed daggers of insult into his back.
I feared the first time we got a report card for one of the kids with obvious signs of academic struggle.
But mostly I fear those moments when I’m forced to realize that my baby has become a teenager, and I can no longer protect them from all of the repercussions of their actions.
When kids are little, WE are the boundary-makers. We help toppling toddlers understand that outlets are not for forks, ovens are hot, and gravity is non-negotiable. We teach them about relationships- how to share, how to communicate need in a healthy manner, and how to be a good friend. We’re there to pick them up when they scrape their knees or to guide them when they’ve taken a wrong turn.
But, eventually, we have to back off. We have to test to see if the boundaries we invested into their young years have become part of their safety net. They have to jump and know how to hit the ground running.
I remember listening to a talk by Chip Ingram when the kids were still toddlers. He said the goal of parenting isn’t to create independent adults. It’s to spend 18 years helping our children transfer their dependence from us to God. I love what my husband teaches our kids, “If you don’t train yourself to listen to my voice when you are young, when you are older you will not know how to listen to the voice of God.” What a dangerous place to be…
So, my oldest son is 13 and a half, and we’re at that place of transfer. I got a call from his teacher yesterday, and I spent at least an hour going into “fix-it” mode. Then…. I remembered. He is not mine to fix.
If I jump in and try to systemize Josiah’s life or solve his educational dilemmas, I’m crippling him. I’m also communicating to him that I do not trust him or believe he is capable of handling his own struggles. The hardest thing for me to do as a parent is to LET GO, but one day he will leave my house, and shame on me if he is still dependent upon me to live out his daily life.
So, as tough as this is for me, I’m giving Josiah space. I’m trying to prepare instead of protect. The beauty of this process is that it is allowing Aaron and I to truly get to know our son. We’re not telling him who he is in this story- he is dreaming and searching and listening to the voice of God to be the character God designed him to be.
Last night I sat in my bedroom with Aaron and Josiah, and I realized that I had NO idea what Josiah’s dreams are. Who does he want to be? What does he dream of doing with his life? So we dreamed together. We listened to each other, and Aaron and I challenged Josiah to be the hero in his life story. Now, all I can do is be there to equip him as he pursues his dreams, encourage him when he feels he can’t make it, and pray that through it all, he’ll learn that true purpose is only found in living for the One who created us.