Parenting is hard…
…starting the moment the hospital has the audacity to allow us to walk right out of their protection and take a newborn home with us. What new parent didn’t have that “Oh, crap!” moment? The pure weight on our shoulders is daunting. Early on, I chalked it up as a win just to be able to keep him alive. But, I also couldn’t escape addressing the reality that so much of what I do will shape this person’s life. No pressure.
We’ve recently sent our first born, Jacob, to college. I won’t soon forget hugging him good-bye, and by a force of will I wasn’t sure I possessed, I climbed into the truck to leave. Glancing into the side view mirror as my husband pulled away, I watched my son walk in the opposite direction toward his dorm, my pillow that he confiscated and I willingly relinquished, tucked under his arm. A literal lifetime of decisions, joys, heartaches, doubts, and celebrations flooded my mind. From the mundane to the monumental…propelling me into evaluation and reflection…
Was I a good enough parent?
Was I too lenient? Too strict? Did I overreact and respond too harshly at times? Was I careless in other situations? Should I have enforced more rules or less? Did I set him up for success? …Did I love him well?
A few years ago my husband, Chad, and I were talking about our roles as parents and used the analogy of seeing ourselves as “safety nets” for our boys. This sparked a critical shift in my focus because I was forced to evaluate the purpose of a safety net, and that’s when the significance hit me.
Safety nets aren’t designed as places to sit. They are created to give someone the assurance and invitation to be courageous, to dare to fly.
In order for my boys to become the men God is calling them to be, I have to resist the temptation to become a leash. There’s a strong urge in me to want to draw them close. To protect them from mistakes and harm- whether the harm is self-induced or from the world. I want to hover over them and control what they say, do, think, and believe.
But, I know that when I give in to those urges, the messages I ultimately send are nails on a chalkboard and completely unproductive:
- “I don’t trust you.”
- “You are not capable to handle this so I must to do it for you.”
- “I don’t believe in you.”
- “You don’t have what it takes.”
Yes, up until a point in their development, being a parental leash is not only responsible, but necessary. However, the older our kids become and the closer they are to leaving our nests, I’ve learned it is important to shift from being a leash into becoming a safety net.
A safety net declares:
- “You’ve got this!”
- “You’re ready to fly!”
- “I believe in you!”
- “You have the freedom to take chances and risks.”
And, ultimately, a safety net says, “I will be here if/when you fall.”
When it comes down to it, I find assurance in the fact that the seasons in which God shapes and develops me the most are those that I never would sign up for. It is in the times of grief and heartache, mistakes and failures that God solidifies my identity like never before. Why, as a parent, would I want to deny that opportunity for my sons? Besides, they’re not mine. Not really. Chad and I’ve been given the gift from God to partner in doing the best we can to love them well…and trust God with the rest. To trust God to take all of our parenting missteps along with all of our kids’ mistakes, and use them as growth opportunities.
When I’m tempted to fret over my boys, I find rest in the assurance that our God is bigger than our circumstances, loves them even more fiercely than I have the capacity to, and will work out all things for their good. It is in this space where I can pick up my pom-poms and cheer them on, shouting, “You’ve got what it takes! Now, go fly!”