At Eastern Christian, part of our mission is to partner with parents in the education of their children through collaboration and support. As we look ahead to these impending summer months, I wanted to share with you the convictions that have been resting on my heart in the hopes it encourages you, like it has me, to stay the course with steadfast love and with a resolution to allow the struggles and joys of parenting to make you more like Christ.
When my daughter was in middle school, I decided to start a blog. It was primarily about homeschooling, since we were doing so at the time, but it was also about middle and high school, and parenting for that age group. Fittingly, I called my blog Six More Summers.
Stay with me – this isn’t an advertisement for my blog. I haven’t posted there in almost 2 years. But recently, I’ve been meditating on the title: Six More Summers. When I began blogging, I had six summers left with my little bean, who has since grown into a full-fledged lady, right before my eyes. It’s cliche but true that it happened slowly in the day-to-day, but so quickly when I consider how minutes ago, it seems, she was heading out on her first day of Kindergarten, her too-large backpack overwhelming her tiny frame, excitement brewing under a nervous smile. And how moments ago, she was snuggled up on the couch watching cartoons after school, chattering on about her days, laughing at the silliest things.
But here she is, looking ahead to junior year, learning to drive and researching colleges, and I can’t believe I’ve only got two summers left. Two More Summers. It doesn’t have nearly the pleasant ring to it. And it’s not just the absent alliteration. It’s the missing Four – lost to another time when she had a younger face and less attitude, and when there was a lot more time spent with me than there seems to be these days, now that friends have driver’s licenses and the idea of freedom is always at the forefront of her mind.
It’s healthy. It’s good. It’s natural. That’s what they tell us. But it’s so hard to let them fly.
Any minute now, the school bell will ring for the last time of her sophomore year. And for all my good intentions of making every second of summer count, the realization is sinking in that not only is my time with her limited, so is my influence.
As a grown woman with a family of my own, I still seek the guidance of my parents in my decision making. Truly, a parent’s influence can last a lifetime. But these key molding and shaping years are limited and fleeting, and lately my voice often sounds like I’m shouting into the wind – unlike how my words used to easily etch her inviting and impressionable heart.
I can’t be the only one who feels this way.
So, parents, what are we to do? Cry? Scream? Pray?
Maybe all of it. We can’t stop time from hurrying us along; like the wind at our back, always moving us faster than we’d like. Whether we are celebrating a pre-schooler moving to elementary school, or a kid who struggled but passed 5th grade math, a sophomore who is learning to drive, or a precious junior who, in August, will attend their last first day of school ever at EC, we have to move with them. We have to adjust. We have to learn when to strengthen our voice, and when to whisper. We have to watch in earnest for the moments when their hearts are tender, and learn to know when to be still and wait. And sometimes, we need to cry on our pillows, and scream alone in our cars at the end of hard days.
But most importantly, we have to quiet the voices around us that try to define ‘successful parenting,’ and seek instead the opinion of The One perfect parent. We have to allow Him to define our triumphs and failures, and in turn, we’ll give our kids permission to define their own identities in Him.
Over the summer months at my house, we’ll be white-knuckled as we continue our driving lessons, we’ll be laying in the sun together, we’ll be learning to garden, and we’ll be traveling all over this amazing continent of ours, sometimes together, and sometimes apart. I’m sure this season will hold a few stressful moments, too. House rules will be broken, anger will rear it’s head, and our human brokenness will overtake every good intention. In these moments, I plan to try to remember those missing Four. Those years that are gone now, that I can’t get back. And the truth is, there are 16 that have passed me by, for good or for bad. Sixteen Summers-worth of parenting wins and failures. And I’m going to try to make choices that are a little better than I did before.
Like choosing to use words that Jesus would. Choosing to parent her like Christ parents me – with endless patience and grace and forgiveness.
See, Christ’s parent-like love looks a lot more like calm and collected than it looks like orders and rules. When He gave instruction, He did it in stories and examples. He knew when His disciples were going to betray Him and screw up royally, yet He let it happen, and created lessons from the chaos. He had impeccable timing. He corrected in love, not to get His way, but instead with primary concern for the well-being of His people. He made time for His friends and loved ones and didn’t tire of their company. He was slow to anger, and quick to forgive.
Jesus didn’t abolish discipline. Of course, healthy relationships with our kids require it. But Biblically, discipline doesn’t involve fear, and doesn’t very often mingle with anger. Of course, we can remember a few key moments when Jesus became angry, but these instances are rare, and are not typically directed at His followers. Instead, His anger is directed at Pharisees and exploitive money changers and those who sought to shame him. More commonly, Jesus’ idea of discipline was essentially saying to people, “Hey, I love you. A lot. And I want the best for your life. I want you to know me and my ways, because I made you, and I did so in my image. So here’s what we are going to do…” Followed by a kind and loving rebuke of sin, and a plea to change how they were living.
Hmm. Not a lot of screaming and yelling. No threatening. No fear. No consequences simply for the sake of retribution. And that convicts me and how I often parent. How about you?
So this summer, these will be my goals: Love like Jesus. Parent like Jesus. Reason like Jesus. Get angry like Jesus. Forgive like Jesus. Discipline like Jesus. A modern-day WWJD Parenting Strategy that will require more than a little bit of effort on my part. I hope it will reap dividends in the fall, when we enter these years of big decisions for the future of my not-so-little girl. It’s in these few years when everything I’ve tried to teach her will be tested. Discernment, character, honor, self-control, self-reliance… and it’s in these two final years when I need her to seek my council. I need my voice to be louder than the wind.
In short, I want her to be able to trust me the way I can trust Jesus.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be stocking the freezer with popsicles and welcoming friends for cook-outs and sleepovers. We’ll be making pancakes and watching movies and staying up late together. I’ll be interested in the little things because those ‘little’ things are still her big things. I’m going to do my best to meet the challenges that come with Christ-like intention. In these actions, I’ll be reaffirming her trust and strengthening the foundation of our relationship, that I have been building her whole life. And I’ll hope I’ve done enough. I’ll pray I’ve done enough.
And I’ll leave the rest to The One who holds us both resolutely in His hands.