Another day, we wake up and realize our children aren’t children anymore
(Ouch! Yeah, this is going to be one of those posts. Sorry – we gotta go there.)
The year my oldest son was born, my wife and I bought a journal.
It was intended to be something we’d write in each year on his birthday to sum up what we’d seen in him over that previous year. I remember the day we picked it out. I wanted this to be meaningful from the very start.
That’s when I saw a picture on the cover of one journal. It was a piece of art called “Always” by Ron Dicianni, and it moved me.
I was the man in the mirror, holding my baby boy. The man in front of the mirror was a long, long way off.
Or so I thought.
I still remember writing the first entry. I wanted to write something funny that would perhaps lead into something meaningful. (Apparently, some things never change.)
As context, the birthday journal idea went well for a long number of years. Unfortunately, my wife and I ended up getting caught up in the busyness of life. We actually haven’t written in it for four years. While I can justify it in saying that’s just how things go, I knew I had to pick it up again.
That’s when it hit me… the cover had changed.
More specifically, my placement in it with my son had changed.
It shredded me. I had to actually set it down.
Because the reason I’d picked it up was because earlier that night I found myself in front of a mirror again. This time, I was teaching that very same son how to shave.
And this time, there were two men in the mirror.
(I told you I was going there. Please grab a Kleenex for me, too.)
Our kids growing up is by no means a bad thing. It means they’re preparing to own who God made them to be and the unique difference they can make in the world. While this same young man with shaving cream on his face still (literally) has a Peter Pan hat in his bedroom, he also started his first job the “day-after-the-shave.”
(That’s what I’m calling it, by the way. I may need therapy soon.)
Holding our kids firmly when they’re little is needed, but as they get older we need to hold them with an open hand. If we can do this well, we’ll still get a firm embrace from time to time that reminds us of when they were more handheld.
So at this stage of things, there are a few things my wife and I are trying to do to help our oldest emerge into adulthood. Maybe we can all do these in our attempt to be unconditional:
- Pray with them. While it may be easier to just pray for them, we want to pray with our older kids. Even if they go through the stage of pushing back on faith, they need something consistent here. As life hands them a “trampoline” and says everything has now become flexible, they need this “foundation” for the trampoline to be set on.
- Partner with others. We can’t be everywhere our older kids are, but we can partner with others who are. Our son’s first job is actually under an amazing Christian man who runs a hot dog restaurant locally. We talked about how cleaning plates in the kitchen is a “dish position that will impact his disposition.” Our owner even came over to pray with us at our meal when we ate there that night. That can be rare, but maybe it doesn’t need to be. Think of who else “gets it” and can help your son or daughter “get it,” too.
- Prod with opportunities. While it may be impossible to return our older kids back to the innocence of their younger days, we can choose how to expose them to the world. My wife and I do our best to walk our kids through big headlines as they happen so they can get a mature understanding of the issue versus just hearing a sound-byte on it. We also decided when each of our kids was 13-years old to take them on a mission trip. My oldest and I went two years ago, and we’ll be back there again with his younger brother who is turning 13 this year.
I just realized that I’m going to through all of this again with my emerging 13-year old!
Forget a piece of Kleenex. Please pass me the whole box!
Can you relate?
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)