I’m a people watcher. I love observing and can often be found next to an elderly couple on those benches in the mall, waiting for my crew as they shop. It’s not so much the watching, but the time to sit and ponder. I often think about God and how He has created each of us. We are strange beings, yet He is the Father to us all. My thoughts can drift to so many places, and then I find I am conversing with the Lord about an array of topics . . .
Recently, I had the opportunity to watch thousands of teenagers! My daughters and I, along with a girlfriend, loaded up the car and drove to a little place between Rochester and Buffalo, New York, to participate in the Kingdom Bound Christian Music Festival. On over 1,200 acres of Darien Lake Theme Park, the girls and I spent five days on roller coasters, at concerts from more than thirty top Christian artists, and at workshops on a plethora of topics for the entire family.
Equally exciting was the opportunity to represent the homeschooling community with a booth in the Marketplace Tent. Here we made t-shirts about homeschooling, passed out Family magazine, and conversed with many parents and teens. The response was interesting and encouraging.
Observations & Wonderings
This was not like any other homeschool convention we typically attend. This was a Christian event—at a scale I had never experienced! For over four days, I watched. The parent and teen interaction was the most interesting. With each interaction having a different dynamic in the relationship, my thoughts were brought back several years to a place where I worried and feared the teenage years.
Would they survive? Would I survive? Would they love or hate me? Would they walk away from what we had taught them or would they follow in the steps of the Christian faith? Would they be foolish or wise? Would they be selfish or caring? So many questions and concerns and yet, here I am with four teenagers and experiencing the best years of my life!
Our children are funny, full of energy, kind, and caring. That’s not to say they don’t have areas that are challenging or that I don’t have to occasionally break up fights, but, all in all, they are great kids. And now, as our oldest is about to be married and start her own family, I will share with her a few things I’ve learned over the years.
Let Them See in You
This can seem like a cliché, but still it’s true: more is caught than taught. Because I want our children to exhibit Christ-like behavior, they must see it in me. And when they don’t see it in me, it’s the perfect time to remind them of grace as I show the example of repentance.
We often worry that raising children is some sort of rocket science. We spend countless hours trying to read the right books or implement the perfect philosophy to produce an outcome we can be proud of. However, truth be told, the difficult part of child rearing is not about them at all, it’s about bringing ourselves under the control of the Spirit and practicing what we teach.
Let Them Be Individuals
With five kids, there were bound to be differences, yet, I had no idea how distinct each child would be. Whether it’s in academic strengths or interests, no two kids are the same and they were not made to be. Do not allow your dreams of raising a certain type of child get in the way of what God, from the foundations of the earth, planned for your little ones. Be ready to allow them and encouraging them in their interests and individuality even when, at certain ages, it makes you tilt your head and say “what?”
Let Them Grow Up
I distinctly remember the moment when I was barking an order to a kid and this rushing realization came over me that I was “that mom” who was trying to keep her child a child, instead of allowing them to grow up. They were meant by God to grow into adults and from an early age, this is what we are to prepare them for and sometimes push them towards.
I rarely spoke in “baby” talk to my children. This would not aid them. Instead I spoke as an adult. As they grew, we looked for opportunities for them to be around adults in order to learn. In our case, by the age of twelve, our children were required to work for the family business manning a booth at a homeschool convention where, undoubtedly, they were forced to engage with hundreds of adults each weekend.
Letting them grow up doesn’t always just mean allowing them to. In today’s world where many kids are not ready for the responsibilities of adulthood until the age of thirty, I believe we have a generation that needs to be prodded to grow up. This means the decisions you make about how much of their time is spent in hard work and responsibilities verses the time allocated for play must be monitored closely.
Let Them Fall
We often joke that if I could be any super hero, it would be Elastigirl from The Incredibles. Without reach limitations, I could prevent just about anything from spilling or reach to the back of the minivan to . . . you get the picture. But really, when raising children, they learn the most, just as we did, from the school of hard knocks. Those opportunities that present themselves to rescue our children from pain or punishment should be carefully considered before we act on them. It’s the pain and punishment of foolish mistakes that prevent a recurrence.
Let Them Make the Decisions
This is the stage of life that I find myself in now. We have tried (and failed) at being a good example, we have encouraged our children in their uniqueness, provided opportunities for them to grow up, and allowed the sting of failures and falls to train them. Now, they are almost grown and ready to make a life of their own and with this comes decision making. I cannot speak from a place of “been there, done that,” as much as I can tell you what we are currently doing.
We are praying more than ever, as we practice holding our tongues when our children describe to us what they want to do with their futures. Sometimes this is living far away, sometimes it’s taking up an occupation that would mean a struggle to pay the bills (yet it’s their passion), and sometimes their aspirations come from left field, leaving us scratching our heads all through the night (sometimes they do this just because they can!).
The two things we remember are, first, they most likely will change their mind a few times, this is not set in stone. And secondly, but most importantly, God is sovereign and his purposes for our children will prevail.
Raising kids is a lot of hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun. I had many great experiences that week at Kingdom Bound Music Festival, but what I will take away from it and remember ‘til I’m old was the time spend with energetic teens and the hearty discussions during the long road trip . . . it was priceless.