My husband tells me that it’s probably not worth investing in any “nice” home décor until our sons have graduated out of our house. The scarred sofas, battered bunk beds and duct-taped military toys testify to this.
We have two young boys, and a fearless daughter who is toddling behind in their muddy footsteps.
They are exactly how you imagine them to be: scraped and bruised and wildly reckless. It’s terrifying at times.
Trying to tame them has been exhausting … so I finally gave up.
Nine years into this parenting journey, I don’t think my kids need to be tamed anymore; I think they need to be challenged. I think they need to be directed and stimulated and encouraged.
In a generation growing up glued to screens, acting out the heroics of animated, one-dimensional men and plastic women, I want our boys to learn what it feels like to be a hero, rather than just to play one. I want my daughter to wear her beauty on the inside and all three to build with their hands and not just pixelated blocks.
I need them to grow up, and growing up is a process. We’re not going to wait til college to kick them off the couch; it needs to start now.
It’s why they ride the bus to school. It’s why the disgruntled cafeteria lady is a learning experience. It’s why we rehearse what they’re going to say to that kid who is being mean, and it’s why I don’t march into school and deal with it for them. It’s why bedtime often stretches on and on as we’re lying together under the comforter, next to the life-sized stuffed tiger, dissecting who said what and how to respond and more importantly, why.
As much as it aches—as much as I’m mad that I have to talk to them about things like school shootings or porn, about ISIS or about injustice or what abusive relationships look like, and as much as I want to research giant, plastic bubbles—I also want my kids to be prepared.
I want truth to come from their parents before it comes from the news or the classroom or their friends in the back of gym class.
Right now, our home is their training ground. That goes for all of us. Whether we homeschool or private, public or unschool. Our kids are training for this race called life, and we can’t let them down. We need to coach them for, not couch them from, what they’re going to run into.
Because there’s no insulating them from the inevitable. Christ says it Himself—in fact, He guarantees it: “In this world, you will have trouble.” John 16:33.
Our kids are no exception.
Cancer. Failed grades. Broken relationships. Lost parts in the school play. Friends who die by suicide or are lost to drunk drivers, peers who self-injure or starve themselves or isolate themselves.
These are not the exception. These are the rule of what it means to grow up through the teenage years and into the shoes we parents walk around in. To protect them looks like preparing them, not ignoring or over-sheltering them.
It looks like equipping them with the power of Christ’s words from the second half of John 16:33: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I can’t let my fear for my kids rule my love for my kids.
I want them to run hard at life, fully prepared for all the bumps and scrapes and battles they might face.
And to do so, I must remember again and again and again that parenting is the ultimate parable of sacrifice—of dying to self. Because that is the only way I will curb my desperate desire to shelter them, prevent hurt, insulate them.
Instead, parents are called to courageously let go and equip them instead.
Equipping children will look different depending on their ages, life stages and particular challenges, as well as your resources as a parent. As a new mama, I remember my entire being was dedicated to protecting, coddling and cuddling every precious hair on my baby’s nearly bald head.
But as they’ve grown, so have their questions and the conversations they initiate.
So now, I try not to hover.
I try not to hover on the sports fields or at their interviews with a new coach. I try not to hover in the hallways of their school or at the dining room table as they practice using a steak knife. I try not to hover when I overhear a disagreement between formerly best friends or when I’ve already reminded them about packing the water bottle they forgot.
But there are places to hover – sacred places.
I hover at the foot of their bunk bed at night praying fervently for them, for their futures and their friendships, for their loves and losses. I hover under the twinkly lights that hang from the top bunk, in conversation with the God who made them, about who He is making them into.
I hover when they ask hard questions because I want to offer them real answers.
But rather than hover above my kids I want to kneel beside them.
Rather than worry and remind, I want to pray and refine.
Rather than “helicopter parenting” with its claustrophobic worries I want a brand of wholeness parenting that embraces life’s struggles.
Rather than letting them figure it out themselves, I want to translate the world around them and help them interpret it through the safe lens of home
None of us will do this thing called parenting perfectly all the time. It will always be more art than science. There will be heart aches and breaks on both sides. But I want my kids to know, above all, that their mom was not afraid for them, but that she battled alongside them.
I want them to know she believed Jesus’ promise that He has overcome the world. And that means that they will overcome too.
I want them to be brave. So I am determined to be brave first.
(This article was originally written for Vital Magazine).