I Can’t Be All Things To My Kids

Gulp. I said it. Once upon a time, I really believed I was all things to my kids.  That is probably normal for young Moms with small children. Or, maybe I was just an egomaniac, but I’m going with the fact that I was young and inexperienced. I hadn’t yet been confronted with the reality that God-given “free will” would be exercised by my kids and would radically reduce my self-appointed self-importance.

When my three children were 0-12, I taught them everything. Well, they went to school at five, but I taught them to know God, to read, count, write, like themselves and others, use good manners, play… Let’s not forget I clothed, fed and watered them.  As they became teenagers, I conducted all the “talks”, and 100% of the time, I’ve been the disciplinarian. I hate that role most of all. My husband doesn’t engage in those responsibilities, so I’m the meanie.  But, curiously, I’m also the first to receive the good stuff, which might be a post topic all its own someday.

The first blow to my prideful, Mom-is-in-control-of-these-kids attitude happened when my son was in the 8th grade. If you read Moms of Teen Boys: Be Encouraged, you know that it was a tough time for me. Now that he’s 17, I’m quite positive I wouldn’t be nearly as devastated if I were to experience that season in his life all over again. Why? For many reasons, but the bottom line is: when children begin stretching their wings, they test the boundaries.

My son testing the boundaries included lying (the #1 no-no), and doing something that we specifically asked him not to do (nothing earth-shattering or harmful, but nonetheless defiant). In response, I spun myself into a web of insanity setting new rules and giving him extra-long chore lists. When his moodiness prevailed, I changed gears and became so sweet, offering kindness at every turn, hoping it would catch on.

After my determined efforts and the usual consequences of revoked privileges did not generate any remorse, my son was delivered the news he dreaded most of all: “We’re sending you to church camp. For a week.  Away from your nest.”

That boy’s face went white and tearful apologies began pouring out of him. If I wasn’t so wrapped up in the months-long shock of watching my sweet, sensitive, always-eager-to-please, golden-boy change into a moody, defiant teen, I would have laughed out loud. He wouldn’t even sleep over at a friend’s house, let alone go away with a relatively new youth group. He needed to always be surrounded by people he knew, and most people thought he was the bomb (a.k.a. – very cool dude).  Now, he would have to establish himself with a foreign crowd and what I believed most valuable: he would be uncomfortable.

With me, he was way too comfortable. Every time I thought my new “idea” for discipline or just establishing some “kindness rules” would turn him around, I was seriously mistaken. I foolishly thought I could make him change. I was thinking way too highly of myself.

That’s not to say that I don’t believe that parents are the most powerful influence in a teenager’s life. I unequivocally do. No matter how much eye-rolling happens, values are absolutely established and engrained in the home life of teenagers.

My son packed for camp with pleading eyes. Professions of obedience were made. Glimpses of the golden boy appeared countless times the week before he departed. All of this made me sincerely wonder if I had made a grave mistake and of course, I just battered myself even more, feeling unsure and worried. Tears streamed down my face as the giant coach bus pulled away.

He arrived home from camp in brighter spirits than we had seen him in months. He met a friend there that today is one of his best buddies. Let me not deceive you that camp cured all boundary-pushing. It did not. However, that experience did teach my son several lessons, and it taught me a few things.

My first realization was that the “little years” were over. Mine were no longer young children who only needed Mommy. During the teen years, new experiences and leaving the circle of comfort are crucial to their development and confidence.

More importantly, where did I place God in my parenting efforts? Did I sincerely trust Him? Did I honestly believe He was helping to raise and even discipline my kids when necessary? No, not really. I can’t be all things to my kids, but God can orchestrate circumstances and friendships and events to teach and nurture my children in ways that I never could. Great relief flowed over me when I accepted as truth that I’m not alone in this parenting business.