A few years ago my oldest child graduated from High School and I entered into a new season of parenting. I don’t know about others who have already entered into this season, but I think this is the most challenging season in regards to parenting.
What do you do when your adult child says “I’m thinking about having sex with ___ (her boyfriend) and I want your opinion.”? Did your mouth just hit the floor? Well that’s what mine did. As I took a deep breath and quietly prayed for God’s words, I calmly began asking questions, listening and giving her my honest thoughts and why I thought that way. At one point she asked me to leave God out of it, which I told her I didn’t know how to do that. I could tell she was seeking my approval, which I couldn’t give. I did make sure she understood it was her decision to make, not mine. She was the one who had to live with the consequences of her actions, not me. I also made sure she knew I would always love and respect her regardless of what she decided to do. I may not agree with her choices, but I will never stop being there for her. I thanked her for coming to me and told her how proud I was of her.
When I first became a parent, and with each child I had, I was instantly expected to do everything for this little fragile person, because they couldn’t. I dressed them, feed them, helped them with their bathroom situations, entertained and educated them. I took them where they needed to go and supplied them with everything they needed. I even spoke for them.
As they grew and matured they slowly starting doing things for themselves. They even started to speak for themselves. Not long after this, they began telling me what they needed, when they needed it and why they needed it. As they continued to grow, these needs changed, often, without notice.
With each child, I have three, I noticed that their needs were different and their expectations of how these needs were to be met was different. For example, one was perfectly fine with what was served for dinner but preferred to eat later when it was more convenient for them. The other was fine with eating whenever dinner was ready, but they wanted to have a say about what they ate, because they might not be in the mood for what was being served. The other had no opinion of the time they ate or what they ate, as long as we never forgot to feed them.
With each child, I am always expected to have the answer, no matter what the question. If for some bizarre reason I don’t have the answer they need, I am expected to get it, right away.
Being a parent is an absolutely crazy, beautiful, insane yet fulfilling job. There’s always something to be done or needed. I’m running around, both physically and mentally, twenty-four hours a day. Each day I have no idea what to expect. There is basically no way to prepare for what may come, except believing whatever does come, you will get through it, some how.
Then, before you know it, the child is an adult. They don’t need you to get them anything, help with anything, take them anywhere, think for them or even speak for them. All they want is for you to let them be.
How do you go from speeding down the runway with them to sitting back in the bleachers watching them in, what seems like, the blink of an eye?
I wish someone had told me, when I had my first child, the importance of letting them grow up. By grow up, I mean, do and think for themselves. I thought being a parent meant taking care of, which in my mind means providing for or doing things for. Now that I look back, it seems obvious that we are to help them so they can eventually do things for themselves. But when in the midst of day-to-day life, it’s easy to get caught up in the doing and simply telling, not giving them an actual chance to try. Then some day we suddenly expect them to know how, by only watching and hearing, not doing.
Once your child has grown up and is no longer in need of your daily assistance, what do you do? This doesn’t change the fact that you are, and always will be, their parent.
I do a lot of listening. I offer encouragement. I offer advice when asked for. Sometimes I do offer advice when it’s not asked for, but carefully listen for their reaction. When I do give advice, I try my best to explain my reasoning. I don’t want them to feel I’m pushing my ideas onto them. My desire is for them to make a decision that best fits them, not me. Then I try, if possible, to support them.
I pray a lot and seek the prayers of others when things get overwhelming. Giving my concerns and lifting my hearts desires for my children to God brings me peace and helps me let go. My worries only get in the way of my relationship with my children, so I give them to God and trust He knows how best to deal with them.
Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own. ~ Matthew 6:34
For me, the hardest part about parenting an adult is watching them fall flat on their face. Especially when you see it coming. As hard as it is, sometimes watching them fall is the best thing we can do for them. It helps them mature in many ways. Being there to encourage them as they pick themselves up is a great way to support them.
Once our children become adults, our job is no longer to tell them what to do. They are now adults and we need to love and respect them and their decisions. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with them. We are to treat them the same way we would treat any other adult.
Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31
I don’t think being the parent of an adult gives us the right to tell them what to do or the right to have extra expectations of them; although the temptation is always there. I think it gives us the added responsibility to love, respect and encourage them. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard enough time acting like an adult myself, so I seek God’s wisdom and encouragement when it comes to parenting quite often.
As a parent, we always have eyes watching and learning by our example, no matter what our children’s age.
My prayer for us today ~ Father God, thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to be our example. I pray Your wisdom and patience would help us be the parents you created us to be. May we teach our children about You and Your love for them, Amen.