Saturday, October 13, 2012
I have always prayed for my kids. I pray for their salvation, for their spiritual growth, and for specific things that may be going on in their life--a test, an audition, an athletic event, or illness. But in the last year I have noticed that my prayers for them have changed. There seems to be more of a sense of necessity or importance in them, a sense of urgency, if you will
Most of this is because I am beginning to sense more and more my helplessness. When they are pretty young you can control so many things about their little lives. But now I have one child in high school and another will join him next year. And I feel my grip loosening (on them, not my sanity, although that is up for debate). I know in my heart that I can't save my children, I can't protect them from serious illness or freak accidents, and yet I often live as if I can do all these things.
When they were babies and toddlers and even younger elementary I felt in control of their safety. I "child-proofed" the house. We bought equipment that had passed safety tests or received good ratings. We were responsible for buckling them in their car seats. Before they rode bikes I made sure they had a helmet. I diligently watched them when they played outside so they didn't wander into the alley or to the road out front of 215 3rd St NE. But as they grow older I can no longer always be there to set the boundaries, to make sure they are safe.
Now they are getting in cars with 16 year old drivers and I find myself asking questions like, How long have they had their license? Is he a good driver? How far away does he live from school? Will he be taking you home? Can Dad or I just drive you? And I see my 15 year old looking at me with a look that tells me he is desperately trying not to roll his eyes at me. So, I say the only thing left to say, "Please, just make sure you wear your seat belt." And then I got the eye roll.
Same with technology/media influences. We controlled the TV shows they watched when they were younger. "Yes" to Clifford and PBS Kids. "No" to almost all other channels. We controlled the movies and DVDs they watched. My children have been quite sheltered from most of the junk on TV and the stuff that comes out of the movie industry. Our computer has a filter to prevent them from accidentally (or on purpose) finding a questionable site.
Now we have iPods and iPhones and all kinds of internet access. The oldest willingly put a control on his device, but should I still check it every week? What movies is he watching when he goes over to a friends house? If he gets asked to go to a movie, will he make a good choice? When other kids at school are talking about TV shows and certain movies does he feel protected or stifled?
How about friends? It is no great revelation that parents tend to encourage or even set up friends for their kids based on "good" families. I am no different. I encourage friendships with good kids and have no qualms about putting the kibosh on hanging out with certain other kids. When our kids are young we can (and should!) control who their friends are.
In high school, I am not sure that level of control is appreciated, however. We certainly should express our opinion, but let's face it, the amount of control we now have over who they hang out with has significantly decreased. Did he choose the friendship because of popularity? Did he choose because of dress/style/looks? Or did he choose the friendship because of who the person is, what he saw inside of them? Is he choosing friendships based on similarities in biblical worldview and interests, or just because that person is funny or fun to be around?
Also as they grow older they need to make more decisions for themselves. When they are young we let them have just a little control over pretty non-threatening decisions. Do you want toast or cereal for breakfast? Do you want to wear the puppy or Cars jammies? Do you want to ride in the back seat or the middle seat? Do you want to listen to Jungle Jam or Odyssey?
But now the decisions they need to make are much bigger. What college will I go to? What career should I pursue? Where should I apply for a job? Should I ask this girl out or not? And once again although parents can influence and guide, we can't always make these decisions for them even if we really want to.
How do I know how much I should guide and influence as they get older?
How do I encourage them to use their time wisely without nagging?
How do I motivate them to work to their potential without pressuring them?
Where is the line between being too permissive and being too protective?
When do I hold on and when do I...let go?
So here is what I have realized. While they were young and I was in charge of all these aspects of their life I developed a sense of security in my control. I thought I had a mentality of "thy will be done," but in actuality I am hanging on pretty tight. I didn't realize how much I rested on my strength/control until this last year or so when my grip has been painfully loosened. I could learn quite a bit from the examples of Jochebed and Hannah in the Bible. How on earth did Jochebed give up Moses to the court of Pharaoh? I guess if drowning in the Nile is the alternative it may have been a little easier, but I think my human nature would still have protested having to give him up. How difficult was it for Hannah to let go of Samuel to Eli in the house of God and only visit once a year? Learning to let go as my kids get older is teaching me to loosen my grip on the younger ones. Since God has given us a six year old in whom resides a spirit unlike any other of our children this has been an extremely positive lesson to be taught in the school of parenting. (See you are never too old to learn:)
And so I find myself leaning more and more on the One who truly is in control, and I am learning how to pray for my kids as I always should have from the day they were born--with urgency, necessity born of my own helplessness and a reliance on Him alone for strength, wisdom, and patience.