I have many regrets as a parent, but the worst all have something to do with my response to my children in critical formative moments.
You know the ones.
You’re rocking along feeling pretty good about where you’ve been and where you’re headed as a parent-child combo, and then, out of the blue, your little one shows a staggering lack of discernment or judgment, total disregard for the feelings of others, distinct contempt for authority, or plain old selfishness, revealing a depraved sin nature you knew they possessed, but had somehow hoped to squelch. Suddenly, you doubt every decision you’ve made as a parent thus far.
In our little world, these cold sweat, flip-your-stomach moments always happened in public places like Hobby Lobby, the grocery store, or the State Fair with everyone watching—at least that’s how it felt—not the best place to process one’s emotions and formulate an appropriate response.
I’m always amazed when I witness a young mother handle a situation like this with patience and grace. “Now, Billy—or nowadays, it would be something much cooler like Creed or Branch or River—I’m sure that if you stop and think, you can come up with a better solution than the one you chose. What would Jesus do, sweet pea?”
No lip sweat.
No crazy eyes.
No “What in the world were you thinking?!?! You know better than that!” with a tone-implied “you goofball!”
Just white teeth and lip gloss and—I assume—minty-fresh breath gently coaxing wide-eyed children toward a future of safety and selflessness.
Wow. To exhibit such self-control under pressure!
I wish I could say that if I had the chance to do it all over again, I’d do better, that I’d be able to school my facial expressions, keep my breathing and tone of voice calm and even, and deliver inspiring speeches so sugar-sweet with grace that my children would cave under conviction and rush to repentance, but I can’t.
I care too much.
That’s not to say that women who can keep it together don’t care. Not by any means!
I just know how I am.
When analyzing the words and actions of my children to determine the thought processes behind them—a delicate business better left to the Holy Spirit—my mind inevitably projects beyond now to someday, following the path of their current behavioral trajectory to the predictable outcome.
If what I imagine doesn’t match up with what I understand to be God’s will for them according to His Word, I panic.
I shouldn’t—I know God is big and honors the kind of prayers that I pray for my children (1 Jn 5:14-15)—but I do.
Why? Because God gave me a job to do. When my children display what I perceive to be ignorance of Who He is or what He’s done—I know that my knowledge and perspective are limited—I get concerned that I might have missed something in my efforts to raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4).
I don’t mind for my sake or reputation, really. I know how flawed I am, and I suspect that everyone who has ever met me knows it, too. I’ve nothing to lose on that front.
I mind because I love God and want to please Him. I mind because I want to see Him glorified. I mind because I don’t want to have wasted the best chance God has ever given me to advance His Kingdom by aiming the sharp arrows that are my children carelessly (Ps 127:4).
I used to think that my panic response to the inevitable, but no less surprising, missteps of my children would lessen when they got older.
If anything, it has intensified. You see, these days, we are constantly pulling from the oven the results of what we put in way back when, so to speak. Although God has been faithful and we’ve been mostly relieved and pleased, I know it’s too late now to change anything we did, no matter how much we might want to.
All we can do is press on, growing, learning, and becoming who God designed us to be alongside our children as they continue to do same.
Here’s hoping they’ll extend to us the same measure of grace going forward that we extend to them, ignoring the lip sweat, forgiving the crazy eyes, and feeling the love behind any exhortation we might offer—however short-sighted or panic-driven it may seem—even as we learn to wait on the Lord and measure our words carefully.
When we fail—and we will—may they realize, we simply care too much.