Its been an interesting few weeks. For those of you who may not know, I have three children, two of whom are teenage boys. I adore all my kids, but as a mom, those boys have a special place in my heart. Not only is one of them my first-born, but they don't live with me, so our relationship has developed differently than most mother-son relationships. Losing custody of them is far and away the most painful thing I have ever experienced, but it also shaped all of our lives in unforeseeable ways. I grew to understand loss on a new level, and to cherish my children differently. Had they been living with me I may not have met the man who later fathered my precious daughter. As badly as that turned out, I have this amazing little girl, a secret desire of my heart, for a second chance to be a mom, to have a daughter. As for my sons, I believe wholeheartedly that they will find themselves in a unique place of ministry. More than half of all marriages right now end in divorce-that means that there are countless children whose lives are being ripped in two by the very people they love & trust most. My ex and I did find a way back to some sort of peaceable relationship. I have forgiven him (oh, what I learned about the power of forgiveness!) and my sons have lived this. Who better to touch all those broken hearts than someone who really knows what its like, who has been there?
But I digress from where I was initially heading with this post. My best friend (of more than 40 years, so best friend here is more than a jr high appelation) also has a teenaged son. Truth be told he is, age-wise right between my sons. She too has found herself a single mom, and like me with my daughter, has no parental back-up.
Teenagers rebel, one way or another, they rebel. The pierce things, get tattoos, become vegetarians, environmentalists, rock & rollers, listen to music their parents dislike. They leave churches, they join churches, shave their heads or grow their hair long-they rebel. They have to. It is a part of growing up, figuring out who they are, pretty much like toddlers do when they push mommy away insisting they can do it. As parents we know better, we know more, we're bigger & stronger, but we let our toddlers try and fail and eventually succeed. Its not such an easy task when they are mostly grown, because now the failure is not an unopened toy, skinned knee or badly buttoned coat, but a broken heart, a lost job, exposure to drugs, alcohol-you can see where I'm going.
It is at this stage we as parents face the fact that our babies aren't babies anymore (but you always will be in our hearts). It has been said that we aren't raising children, but adults, and that our job as parents is to give them roots and wings. As our mostly grown children go out into the world we need to trust that we have done our job well. They are taking their first steps on a road we can not walk with them or smooth out before them. The road is edged with ditches and thorn bushes and they must find their own way.
My friend and I dedicated all of our children to the Lord when they were small. It was easy then to put them in God's hands, since we had control over what they wore, what they ate, where they went, who they saw. Today we find ourselves daily placing their keeping back into the hands of the Almighty, trusting His divine plan for their lives. Oh how we weep when we see them approach those ditches, but now we must stand back and be a beacon, not a guard rail. They will fall, and we will be there to help them out of the pit, dress the wounds, put the map back in their hands and send them on their way again.
Parenting is the toughest job out there-it is not for the faint of heart. When my friend asked why she had to deal with the things her child brought into her life when other parents didn't I told her the truth: "because you are strong enough to handle it" And so I leave you with the wisdom of Dr. Seuss (who knew those bedtime stories would prepare us for this!) "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose. / I'm sorry to say so, but sadly it's true that bang-ups and hang-ups can happen to you"