There are many ways we come to parenting. For some of us it is a dream we have had since we played with dolls as little girls. For others it came at a season we would not have chosen. For others of us it was delayed, postponed, or upended by various reasons.
When the day arrives despite what we may have expected, we are overwhelmed with a love we could not have imagined. But we also feel more inadequacy than we might have guessed as we recognize the responsibility in our arms and how much we do not know about this new role.
In the midst of those early weeks of exhaustion, we are grateful for our own mothers, aunts, and friends who have walked this journey before us as they offer their stories, insight, and support. We glory in each new thing and our dreams for this little one blossom and grow as we consider who they might become and be. And though it feels as though this “never enough sleep” phase will last forever, it passes and soon we are on to the milestones of crawling, first steps, and more.
Each season of parenting brings fresh challenges and fresh insights and we are on a continual journey of learning about this wondrous creation God planted inside us. Along the way we discover there is much to learn about ourselves as well, no matter how well we thought we knew ourselves.
Whatever challenges the child may have or provide for us, we hold our breath when school begins. Now there will be other standards for them to meet beyond our own dreams, desires, and demands.
How will others see this one we have already poured so much of ourselves into? Will this child be as smart and able as we believe or hope they will be?
Peers and outside activities slowly get added to our daily family life. Maybe it’s music lessons, concerts, and recitals or maybe it is beginning sports where skills are taught and the “rules of the game” are learned. Each one stretches that child to nudge their interests, skills, and gifts to another level and with that our own expectations, dreams, and hopes sometimes hang on bated breath to see what happens.
When the teen years roll around, we hear the stories of others about the ups and downs of hormones, peers, and challenges in every direction. In the midst of this season (even at its best), we pray for more wisdom than ever and if we glance in the rearview mirror, we start to realize that life was simpler back there when they were little. It was tiring and frustrating, but we could protect them and when they didn’t meet our expectations or desires the issues were smaller.
When we finally near the finish line at the end of our child’s high school, we take a deep breath and pray that somehow we taught them enough and that grace covered our mistakes. When they walk across the stage to receive their diploma, we feel grateful and hope for the next season for them (whether that is college, tech school, learning a trade, or getting a job).
What we discover is that the season of parenting adult children is the hardest of the parenting seasons. It’s worth noting that less is written about this season to alert and guide us than earlier parenting seasons.
We can’t protect them from the adult challenges they face, nor can we prevent them from the disappointments that will come. Whatever character deficits remain in them is now out of our capacity to intervene as we once did. These will be between them and the Lord.
As all of these come their way, our hearts will be saddened and sometimes broken by their choices and their heartaches and challenges. They couldn’t have understood (even if we told them) how adult life would come at them from so many directions testing them because even though they chafed at our discipline they somehow thought it was easier (or would be) for them.
It is then that our prayers grow in fervency and we have a new understanding of the disappointment and anguish felt by another parent … our Father.
We can begin to see more clearly the pain we caused Him. He was cheering for us, hoping for us from the beginning even though He knew where we would slip and fall. He was interceding for us at every step and hoping when we realized an error that we would not make that same choice again while knowing we would.
That kind of parenting, that kind of divine love, led Him to the cross. He couldn’t bear to be separated from us and He knew we would continue to falter, weaken, succumb, and stray from the truth He exposed us to (even after knowing Him).
And that…that models for us the challenge of parenting when things don’t go as we hope or wish at any season, that sets the example of love we are called to draw from Him as we parent our own children. That reminds us of the boundaries He sets in the midst of grace and mercy.
That buoys our prayers that our hope in Him can never be disappointed and He loves our children more than we do.
He brought each one of us through many of those same mistakes, our repeated poor choices (no matter what reason), and we yet found Him in the midst and his grace for parenting extends to us as parents.
“Prayers are answered in ways we don’t choose. The river of grace bubbles up in unexpected places.”