Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)
We’re definitely in a season of transition here. I am beginning to understand that life itself is a season of transition. But there is a more specific area of transition I’m talking about.
We have a teenager. (Da-da-dum…)
And so, things are different. I don’t just mean that our food bills are (MUCH) higher, or that we seem to have to repeat ourselves even more these days, or that the Teenager sleeps too much. All of that it true, but only of a very secondary or tertiary concern.
There are more complex matters that arise as one moves from childhood to adulthood. Most of us who have passed through those years remember what it was like as you began to think more and more of yourself, becoming more independent, “spreading your wings”.
(And many of us also remember a decade or more later realizing how little we really knew and understood then… and now!)
Heavy on my mind and heart have been moments, thoughts, questions about freedoms that Ian deserves as he makes this transition. It is, after all, much more his than mine.
What a strange transition it was thirteen years ago when we went from being responsible for our own actions and choices, to being fully responsible for another’s life, their entire being. Ian relied on us for everything. It starts with simple sustenance and taking care of his physical needs. Then it progresses to introducing him to the world around him, starting with relationships: Mom, Dad, Grandmas & Grandpas, eventually siblings. Even that is in a way “simple”.
But there are moments when I realize now that I may be overstepping my role as a parent. Perhaps that’s the wrong word, as it implies a set role. I do believe there is a transition that must happen from the full responsibility we have for the very life of our infant children to their later training, disciplining, and eventually… their releasing.
We’re certainly not there yet, but I see glimpses of it.
In a few conversations with friends recently I’ve been reminded that the struggle to parent through this stage is definitely not just my own. Talking with a friend recently who also have a teenager in the home, I was reminded of the careful (perhaps blurry) line we walk as we guide them, walk with them toward adulthood. She was thinking of some events she wasn’t that thrilled for her daughter to be part of (not because they were a bad thing for her daughter, but presumably that her participation was another sign of her too quickly growing up.) Then she said something about remembering how it was when she was that age, and it wasn’t that bad.
And the way she worded it struck me. It reminded me vividly of the fact that our kids are really very much not ours. They do not belong to us. For a time, perhaps shorter than most of us realize, there is an appearance of that “belonging” but it’s a great privilege that we could fulfill that role for another Image Bearer. Parents, the Creator has made our children just as he has made us: fully responsible to him alone.
Don’t get me wrong here. One, you may have already figured this out way before me. I know I’m not sharing any great revelation that I have had or God has given first to me. Second, I really don’t have any rock-solid conclusions on any of this yet. I think that’s an amazing thing about parenting: we really don’t know what we’re doing, at any stage of the game! (Am I right, Mom & Dad?)
And so we love. And we learn to step back (extremely difficult though that may be) and view our older children as the individuals that they are. Yes, they live “under our roof, by our rules” … sure. But the greatest thing we can give to our children is an example of grace and freedom akin to the way Jesus treats us.
I’m currently working through what things actually have value, and at what cost for Ian. At this point I am beginning to feel much more like a mentor to him than the Rule Giver that I have been, and still am for his younger siblings. I think I even notice chances to be that mentor for our ten-year-old son, Alex. Much more so for Ian though. It still seems very prudent to have clear boundaries for what is good and what is just not good for his heart. But there are very clearly evidences of yearnings for greater freedom.
At some point, my boundaries will be gone. This current season of transition is the time where I begin to love Ian more and more as an individual with likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and with a freedom granted him by his very existence.
Oh boy. I just had no idea the journey alongside my kids could be this challenging … and we have a long way to go!
It’s such a beautiful thing. I look forward to God gently showing me ways that I can lift up Ian and his freedoms, and point him more to Father than to me. Eventually to walk alongside him as a brother, rather than a father. I know I will always be his Dad, and I cherish that. But I also know that he is not mine to hold on to. I’m just the hired help, for a season.
And the seasons are pretty quickly changing.
I’m thankful that they aren’t ever too quick. If I’m tuned into him, and to Jesus, they are just right. (And even when I’m not, Jesus has grace enough for me in that.)
So we move forward, transitioning. I would be untruthful if I didn’t admit to some anxiety of the unknown years ahead, and how they will turn out. But I do know for sure that those feelings are my own overstepping of my role. While I can pour all my heart, love, knowledge, wisdom, caring into my kids … eventually, and even now, they get to choose. It’s that built-in freedom that we all have. I can do a bit more about it while they are younger, but in reality, I am never “in control” of them. Only they are. Their actions and choices are their own. That’s scary when I think I’m responsible for them. Or even, if I think their actions reflect badly on me, and my parenting.
But I want my mark to be the way that I love them, not how well they comply. I want my measuring stick to be my relationship with them, how much they trust my love for them. They are going to fall, to fail. Definitely. They are just as much a slave to our sinful nature as I am.
What I want them to know, through all the transitions we will traverse in this life, is that they are loved: by both of their Dads.
That’s one thing that will never change.