“Fear causes us to make parenting choices based on what our children do, instead of who they are.”
I listened to them laugh; loud, hysterical laughing that forced me to either to join in, or get annoyed at the volume. Too often I got annoyed at the volume. The older they got, the louder the laughter, and the later at night I used to listen to it.
I miss it now. That raucous, crazy laughter that filled our nights when we were trying to sleep.
I am sure that God misses it too. I imagine He laughed the loudest listening to our children.
Eight kids were a lot to raise for someone so unprepared for parenting by my own lack of positive childhood experiences, “Christian” guidance, or basic common sense. I was a child when I gave birth to my first child Kristen – a mere twenty years old.
She was more my little friend than a child. But I researched the best birth methods and breastfed her against the odds, until she was a healthy two and a half. It was so much fun to play house with my little friend. I looked even younger and the doctors and nurses at our pediatric office all thought I was an amazing mother for one so young – about 16 years old they surmised- until they learned my true age. I hurt her a few times as I recklessly ran to fast pulling a wagon, or swung her too high on a swing. I was enraptured by her giggles and it flooded my soul with joy.
Then came my second child Kacey, full of promise and future. She was a handful and we delighted in her antics. I let her get away with more than she should have as a toddler, still trying to find myself as a mother. Just a couple of months after Jordan was born, we were introduced to the “Good News.” It really only stayed good for a short time – a couple of weeks- before the burden of extreme legalism was placed on our backs.
I was so happy when I found Christ and thought, “this is it! I have the guidebook to raising my kids!” I also had some mentors who were quick to tell me when my children needed a spanking. Funny, their children were older and not walking in the way that I was told mine would, if I adhered to the formula in the “Word,” and “raised them up in the way they should go.”
Oh how gentle God is with us. He gives us so much grace, so much room to make mistakes as we we follow the path towards His heart. I didn’t understand that grace. I only understood the law. If my kids were kept on the narrow path they would grow up to avoid the pain that I had experienced in my life. They would all grow up conservative, God-fearing virgins and get married to other conservative God-fearing virgins, with the same doctrinal beliefs that Dave and I held in every category of catechism we had reared them to believe. After all, we had the Truth of all doctrines.
I never thought I would say I am thankful that it didn’t happen that way, but I truly am.
I am not thankful that they made painful mistakes, or were hurt in the process. I am not thankful for every choice they made; but I am so very thankful for THEM. I am thankful by how much I have learned from them as they spread their wings, found different theological perspectives, and embraced the God who changes hearts.
I learned more about God from them.
God must laugh when we try to mold our children into some perfect image that we envision them to be out of our of our own fear.
I have good kids- they were always good kids. I could take them anywhere and do anything with all five, six, seven, or eight. Restaurants didn’t challenge us, church didn’t challenge us, shopping, movies, traveling or museums.
Did you ever try taking 6 young kids to “Do not touch” museums?
We did it all with our large crew.
Despite my fear based control of their lives God kept His hand on them. Yes, a portion of that was my parenting, homeschooling, guidance, and discipline; I admit that they didn’t raise themselves, but the larger portion of how they all grew up to be amazing adults, was who they are.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” Jer. 1:5
God knew them all. He has called them all for His purposes. We raise them in partnership with Him.
It works much better when he has at least 51% of the partnership. It works better when He is control.
Some children He calls to Himself before we are ready to let them go, and that is a partnership we definitely want control of. But in the midst of it all, He has a plan.
I would have instilled so much more self-confidence, less fear of failure, and more faith in God, if I had modeled the One who loves them the most. The One who created them to be unique individuals. The One who would have watched over the child who didn’t thrive at home, but may have done better in a public or private school setting. The One who watches over them when life hurts, or the best choices still end up in failure.
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” Thomas Merton
Individual little people. With individual needs. Individual callings. Individual hearts.
Who grow up into individual adults, hopefully as individual members of God’s church -when mercy and grace grabs a hold of them.
Who grow up into adults who laugh.