The brave, humble questions of a fellow Christian blogger have sparked my introspection about parenting and aging gracefully. Bethany has five children and writes about a life and faith that I admire, giving me confidence that she will “enjoy each stage and navigate the changes gracefully.” I only have sons, but since both are grown men and she asked for advice from women with experience in transitioning from mother-to-children to mother-to-adults, I’m collecting my thoughts on what we did right, what I regret, and the role of God’s grace in parenting and aging.
Shortly after I gave birth naturally to our 8 lb 9 oz son (I repeated this 3 1/2 years later), I felt panic rising about not being equipped to handle the challenges that his growing-up-years might present. My husband calmly reassured me that we would “grow up with our kids.”
As we shaped our family life, we followed the pattern of our parents. I stayed at home and he worked hard to provide. We took our kids to church every week, encouraging them to participate in Sunday School and Youth Group and to use their talents in church. They made friends there and we spent time with families who shared our values. As I tell in Wear Out Your Chairs, we ate dinner together, adjusting schedules to do so.
Those external practices laid a solid foundation for them. Sadly, though, during their earliest years, I was rather fearful. We were protective of our kids (car seats, bike helmets, vaccinations, orthodontics, etc.), but I worried about things that were hard to control (accidents, influence of rough kids, lyme disease, failure, heartbreak, evils of the internet, etc. See Many Dangers Toils and Snares.) My faith was based more in what I did than in the love of God for me and my kids. It reminds me of Finding Nemo when Marlin tells Dory that he promised to never let anything happen to Nemo. She responds, “That’s a funny thing to promise…then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun…”
By God’s grace, none of the tragedies I imagined came to pass, but things did happen to them. One swallowed the “little vitamin” (birth control pill) I left on the table. One bone did get broken. Both had college roommate issues. And both have endured a broken heart. They have found, as I have, that tests and trials do make us stronger and more mature just as the Bible teaches.
My husband was right. We did grow with our kids. We became scout leaders for their packs; I volunteered in their classrooms; and we supported them in their pursuits. We did life together. It paid off in close relationships with them. When they set out on their own, I transitioned from stay-at-home mom to stay-at-phone mom, available when they wanted to talk. Early adult years included late night phone calls which their dad took with patience and ended with prayer.
As a mom of boys, I have learned that the role does change as they become men. Just as we did, they need to make important decisions. We are blessed that our advice and example can help. With them living two hours away now, their daily life is out of my sight. That’s not a bad thing. One regret I have about their childhood years is being a bit too protective and treating them as little kids instead of little men. In God’s grace, I became aware of Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ Love and Respect message for mothers of sons when I needed to better understand how to communicate my respect for these Good Men.
Father’s Day 2008, the year Eric graduated from college and Kyle graduated from high school.
Looking back over thirty years of parenting, I’m thankful for what our sons have become and for how I have grown. Yes, the nest is empty, but I can truly say that I am content in all circumstances – loving the time we spend together and being joyful even when we are apart. Through the years, my husband has continued to listen to my anxious heart and to invest time in our friendship. True, we are growing older, but we’re doing it together in the strength of our faithful God. We aren’t crazy about some of the physical changes we see, but we try to keep our eyes fixed on what is unseen, because “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
My friend Bethany is anticipating “the wistful sadness of no more little people in the house,” and I have experienced that, especially when looking at old photos. In my case, God spared me some of the emptiness by moving us to a different city and giving me a new hobby to keep me busy. And for a few years, I’ve been investing in other peoples’ kids through visits to first grade classrooms. And, yes, Bethany, we older women are called to teach the younger ones how to love (be friendly to) their husbands and children. God has blessed me with that ministry where I rejoice to see Him working.
The good old days of 1992 when we were living in Minot, ND.
I don’t know what the future holds. I may become a grandmother and get to see my sons be dads. And, I may become a widow as most women do. My anticipated sadness of that could sap the joy right out of this day. So my best advice is to trust in the Lord’s promises to never leave us and to supply us with the grace and strength for each day. My “more experienced” older friends testify that His love never fails.
Read Bethany’s blog at http://bethany-aboutmyfathersbusiness.blogspot.com/