My eldest daughter is such a smart cookie. While all of my children are above average intelligence, she possesses a special insight, coupled with boldness. This unique characteristic has frequently made her my *iron which sharpens iron.
She told me I was lucky the other day.
“You don’t have those problems with your children…”
Those problems being the ones all around us in the news, the grapevine, next door, etc. She went on to discuss the ways some children completely tax their parents and overburden them way past the age of adulthood.
I am thankful, I told her. I am thankful that she and her siblings—in spite of my imperfections—grew up to be independent, creative, resourceful adults, who are also kind, compassionate and self-aware. Then I did something I don’t usually do. I took some credit for it.
It goes without saying that I pray. A lot. It is by God’s Grace—each and every day—that I go about all activities. With that said, my parenting was intentional. I observed people and I asked questions. Curious about how some people from so-called “good” homes turned out to be hellions, while other individuals who were raised in “bad” environments turned out to be such wonderful people, I watched, I listened and I learned.
I was determined that my children would grow up to be independent and learn how to navigate through a life that may not always seem fair. Sometimes it meant watching them fall, but I was always close by to help them up (if needed), as they got back on their two feet.
It is amazing what strength you develop when you are allowed to make mistakes without someone always coming to your rescue.
That is probably the most difficult part of parenting, knowing you can jump in and save, but loving your children enough to know that, if you save them from each and every circumstance, there will be consequences for their being unable to swim when you are not around to buoy them.
So from the time each of my children was born—until the last one reached independence—I poured my energy into parenting. It was not always pretty, I was so far from perfect, and my sins were many. In retrospect, I was harsher at times than I should have been. But now that they are 27, 29, 33 and 36, I am so proud of the adults they have become.
They tell me I did a great job.
We had a computer. Cell phones too. But there were limits to it. We watched movies as a family. We played games together. We went to the park. We went to the beach. We went to the library. We had reading time. We had turn-off-the-TV-for-a-week time (which turned into three years!).
It was not easy. At times I even wanted to run away, but I was ALWAYS mindful that children are a blessing. My children did not ask to be born into our family, to have me and their father as parents. It was my responsibility to do EVERYTHING in my power (by God’s Grace) to love them, nurture them, protect them, and raise them to be responsible adults who will live a life with which God would be pleased.
Today the challenges are different, but the principles remain the same. If you are in a position where God sees fit to make you a mother (biological or otherwise), the children do not ask to come to you. They are your gift and it is up to you to raise them. Keeping them quiet and busy with technology is not the same as parenting. Showering little ones with material things is not the same as nurturing. Spending time with your progeny does not mean everyone is at the dinner table with their tablets and devices.
Times will get hard, and you may wonder who those young people are at times.
When you need support, by all means get it. Take time out whether it be individual counseling, group therapy, a mommy day or calling in reinforcements to babysit, to carpool, to have the children over for safe and supervised spaces. It is okay to admit that you need help.
And before you know it, your little ones will be adults. Prayerfully, it will be a time that all of you can appreciate.
*As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
— Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)