(This post is a response to a recent text from a friend. Dear One, I hope this helps.)
I remember the day when, driving my kids to somewhere, gripping the steering wheel, I thought, “These people have absolutely lost it.” Nearly all of them were sitting in back, crying, because one of them had stolen their imaginary candy.
As in, invisible.
As in, not real.
All of them were “grabbing” “candy” out of the air and one of them had “grabbed” someone else’s “candy”. They were hysterical.
No one had prepared me for this.
“This” being those moments when these precious, Jesus-loving, adorable people that had sprung from my own body were doing things that I had no idea how to respond to. On most days, they blew my mind with the things that they came up with, creative and revolting, hilarious and horrible. I realized quickly that most of my parenting had turned into me keeping them alive. It was my job to save them from themselves.
Please don’t sing into the exhaust pipe.
No. . . don’t lick the trash can.
You may get into the car when you are wearing a real, live jacket.
No, if you share my DNA, you may not have a popsicle! (The current temperature being 45 degrees and we were outside.)
On most days, I probably sound like an idiot. But, the relief is that they do grow up. They grow out of things. They no longer grab fake candy out of each others hands. But, the next phase can be just as tricky (or just as mind-blowing).
This is what I’ve learned:
- Maturity takes time – Like anything worthwhile and good and holy, maturity takes time to develop. A three year old will not act like a 20 year old. Good habits are not built in overnight. Children grow slowly, despite all the crap that we hear about them doing so. They do. . . and they do not. We are in the thick of things and standing in the present moment can feel like the clock has stopped. It hasn’t and this is why we must do all the good that we can and give the rest up to Jesus.
2. They can only be themselves – We cannot compare our children to others. All kids are wonderful, creative, and crazy in their own way. We can ensure that they are on track developmentally, but beyond that, we have to let them be themselves. This doesn’t mean letting them run amok with bad behavior, but realizing that they have their own individual needs. Paying attention to who they are is imperative. We must try our best to guide them into who they really are, not what we want them to be.
3. You cannot judge their future by this moment – There is a beautiful verse in 1 Corinthians 4:5 that says,
“So don’t judge anything before the appointed time. Wait until the Lord returns. He will bring to light what is hidden in the dark. He will show the real reasons why people do what they do. At that time each person will receive their praise from God.”
They are not finished. Neither are we. This is good news. We are being grown up in Christ and so are they. Don’t assume that tomorrow is going to suck because today stinks so badly. Keep today in today’s place. They will grow up. God will do His good work in His time. Not ours.
4. Have fun – Do whatever you can to make this journey of parenting a good one. Celebrate everything. Get the kids (and YOU!) out of the house. Go exploring. Take them to new places (even if they don’t want to go). More than likely, they will find something that they enjoyed and you will have done something worth while. Every victory counts whether it’s pooping in an actual toilet, riding a bike without training wheels, or they stopped swearing for a month (Hey, take what you can get). Celebrate it.
5. Take care of yourself – Take the trip. Short or long. Expensive or not. You need restoration if you are going to do this well. Get coffee. Grab a friend. Ask for hugs. Ask for time. Get refilled in every holy way that you can. Drink deeply of God, even if it’s just for five minutes. Don’t worry about time. Relish the moment that you have. You are important. Treat yourself that way.
We are blessed. We have good kids. They are crazy and they are amazing and we can only do our best. This will be worth it and I can’t wait to share all the crazy things that they did to us and we did to them, because someday, they are going to grow up and we will be amazed at the kind of people they have become.
In the meantime, love them, laugh, train them, and drink really, really good coffee. It will be worth it in the end. Make the most of it. Lift your glass to the future while you forgive yourself and them in the present.
It will all be okay.