Sooner or later we need to begin to trim the apron strings and let our kids figure out how much of what we’ve done to “train them up” is indeed *theirs*. Not easy.
And I’ve decided whoever the folks are that created the little “feeling…” emoticons need to broaden their vocabulary. None of my choices were available.
It isn’t easy. And the conflicted emotions are hard to name.
I think part of this is because we as moms have so much of our identity wrapped up in our kids, for better or for worse. Should that be the case? Well, our identity should be in Christ. However, we often tend to think of our kids as an extension of ourselves. Yet another avenue through which people can evaluate who we are, whether our parenting skills are up to snuff, whether we have enough fashion savvy, if we spend our money well, if our standards are “strong”…oy.
When our kids get to be a bit older, we try to give more responsibility to them. Allow them to dress themselves, decide how to budget money, exercise discernment with relationships (well, discernment on so many levels). We begin to “take risks”.
To trim (not necessarily cut, but whittle away at) those apron strings means they will probably blow it. Kids do. Some need to fall harder than others before they learn. For parents, it’s hard to watch.
It is also hard to know others are watching, sometimes judging. For PK’s (preacher’s kids) it can be even more challenging, because our kids are supposed to be the “standard.” I’ve only been a pastor’s wife for a year, but I’ve tried never to play the “You’re the pastor’s kid” card. The Accountability Bar needs to be raised higher than that, really.
If our kids indeed find their identity in Christ (and we must foster this in them, teach them to own this, because the whole peer situation is very intimidating, and in some ways beckons to the insecurities in our kids with a siren’s call), then ultimately they need to grasp that they answer to Him. If they strive to please Him, we’ll be delighted.
Some kids are wired to welcome continued directives, while others may be of a more independent nature. I was that kind of kid, from the time I was in kindergarten. My mom would tell the story of my first day of kindergarten, watching me walk up the alley to school with my brother, and never looking back. It wasn’t that I hated home. I am positively a homebody now. It was the simple fact that I was ready to be brave, to try new things, to learn, to explore. Even though my parents did not trust Christ until their latter years, they had some wisdom with their tactics in handling me. They knew if they tied me down with too many restraints, I’d find a way to break free (I did not trust Christ until 2 weeks before high school graduation). Indeed, my unregenerate heart was very clever in devising ways around the rules. If we s-mother our kids into a headlock (even with the best of intentions), I believe we can easily provoke them…maybe not to wrath, but perhaps to contempt. But I will say that when I found myself in pressured situations, the thought that always came back to me was, “How would I explain this to them? How could I look my dad in the eyes?” My love for my folks kept me out of some deep waters.
And now, we find ourselves with two teens in the house. Teaching them to accept responsibility, to initiate charitable responses, to shirk compromise, to deny self, to do the hard things…wow, it’s a challenge.
One thing that has come to the forefront in my Bible study this past year, is that the Savior graciously trimmed all of the hundreds of OT points of the law down to two “simple” items: love God entirely, and love others humbly and sacrificially. If our kids can get these things, I mean really get them woven into their spiritual fabric, what a wonderful thing that would be.
Our recurring theme verse in our house this first year of ministry has been Philippians 2:3–
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
If our kids learn the valuable principles in this gem of a verse, it will govern many difficult “coming of age” issues:
- No strife–that means no bullying, no demeaning–we show respect in all relationships
- No vainglory–that means no immodestly showing off, in dress, action, words–we treasure every good and perfect gift (including their health, which they may be tempted to taint with harmful substances)as coming from God’s hand, giving Him praise by how we cherish and demonstrate them.
- Yes to “lowliness of mind”–no “me first,” no “my rights,”–we are bought with a price, and owe everything to the One who bought us.
- Yes to “esteeming others better than me”–if we esteem them even as much as we do ourselves, that would be significant…to put others before us is divinely remarkable. So, I will be willing to deny myself of anything you can name if it helps me to put others first.
Tall orders. It’s been said that parenting is not for the faint of heart. To nurture, and not crush; tend but not strip new foliage; till, but not tear tender roots; water, but not drown; illuminate, but not scorch; fertilize, but not overload. 😉
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6
My husband wisely reminded us recently in church that this verse above is a proverb, not a promise. It is our duty to train, the best way we know how. To teach our kids not just in special “family devotion” times…but more practically as they move through their day, drawing applications from scripture from everyday events and choices. The departing, well, that is a choice. Even if we do everything “right,” it is no guarantee that our kids will become everything we hope for them. We teach, we model (sometimes what they should do, and other times they will glean lessons on what not to do…because we fail too), we read, we pray, we guide, we reconcile, we love.
Then, we let go.
But we still hold on tight to them, on our knees.