I may never hit publish on this one, but I'm needing to process some thoughts - so here goes... (and obviously, I did hit publish, so really, here goes...)
If you've read many of my blogs at all, you know that I've struggled greatly with letting go of my illusions of control over my children as they are growing up. Well, I still am, so I won't go into that much - you can read previous posts to refresh yourself in that regard.
I'm not even sure how to express what I'm thinking right now, so it will likely sound pretty jumbled and will likely offend some of you.
I love my kids - I even like my kids most of the time and that makes me really happy. I haven't always liked them. We have definitely gone through seasons of raging hormones, teenage I-know-everything syndrome, blah, blah, blah, where, even though I've always, always loved them, it was a chore to like them. But now? Right now, I really like them.
Our family lives in kind of a weird vortex of conflicting opinions - I'm sure everyone does, and I'd love to hear yours, but here's ours:
We have always homeschooled our children. From day one, all the way through high school. We come from a VERY conservative background, in all respects. In our children's younger years, we pretty well surrounded ourselves with people just like us, so it was easy to be very judgmental of anyone that did/ believed differently that we did. God has made our world a little bigger in the last ten or so years, and I've had to reflect on, and regret, a lot of that judgment and criticism. I've also gotten the pleasure of being on the receiving end of some of it too. :)
What I've found most interesting is, after you've moved to center, you catch it from both sides. -- You're too strict; you're too permissive. You're too sheltering; you're letting too much of the world in. You're letting them read that?!; You're not letting them read that?! You're letting them date?!; You're not letting them date?! It's maddening. I've learned to let much of it roll right off, but there have been times that I really just wanted to punch somebody.
But, I think the most frustrating part of getting to the age where I, and my peers, have grown and semi-grown children, is the comparison game we begin to play at this stage of "how they turned out". I get caught up in this myself - have caught myself playing, with the best of intentions, this misguided game. If they make all the right decisions, do exactly what we wanted them to do when we were writing their futures at six and seven years old, then we've been great parents. If they make some poor decisions (or even decisions that we just don't particularly prefer), some down-right stupid choices, or God forbid, walk away from our faith for a season, then we were awful parents. This is maddening.
At this point in time, I'm not freaked about most of my kids choices. I'm sure some people are freaked about some of them, because they measure differently than I do, but I'm not. So obviously, we're great parents, right?
I have friends who are struggling, really struggling right now. They have kids making some poor decisions, down-right stupid choices. So obviously they're bad parents, right?
I've walked right next to some of these people as they've raised their children. I know their hearts. I know what they've poured in. Some, I haven't. Some I've only known a short time. But I know they love their kids more than life itself. I know their hearts are broken. I know they love and follow Jesus. I know they did and are doing the best job they know to do.
We all make mistakes, so if our kids turn out reasonably well adjusted, praise God that He was bigger than our stupid mistakes. And if they make some stupid choices along the way, praise God that He is big enough to redeem it - just as He did for us and our stupid choices along the way.
This in no way excuses us from doing our best as parents - from pursuing God with all our hearts and teaching our children to do the same. But it should release us from the never-ending, craze-inducing burden of feeling like we are in control of everything - that all the answers and good outcomes are up to us.
My kids were born in the image and likeness of our great God, just as I was. They were born with a wretched, sinful nature, just like I was. They have a God-given free will, just as I do. They will make some great choices - they will make some really bad choices, just as I did, and still do.
God is big enough to handle this.
I'd love for us to stop judging one another's performance as parents, and love one another. Rejoice with each other when great things are happening. Surround with love and support when not-so-great things are happening (instead of judgment, and secret, "well, I knew that was coming" discussions around our dinner tables). Let's stop judging every decision others make along the way. It may not be the decision we would make, but we're not walking in their shoes, so we don't really know what we'd do in their situation.
Judge a little less. Love a little more. Lighten up.