I have a confession to make.
I never planned on being a parent. I didn’t play with dolls. I didn’t name imaginary children or plan my nuptials down to the color of the bridesmaids bouquets and the engraving on crisp, white invitations. I, honestly, didn’t think I’d ever find someone who’d want me.
“Imagine my surprise”, she said, dryly.
I met a man who not only wanted to marry me, he valued me. What the heck was that?
On Dec, 10th of 1997 our first son was born.
I was terrified. I knew I’d kill him. Or leave him in a grocery store.
I took an updated picture of him every month that year so we’d be able to identify him if he were to be kidnapped and I stressed every tiny, unimportant part of his routine and schedule.
He survived. Roly, poly, smiling from ear to ear and delighted to be alive. He survived.
On his first birthday we celebrated his survival. And mine. I held his sweet face, kissed his chubby, dimpled hands and thanked God we had a whole YEAR under our belt. And I felt as though I could make it another year. Maybe we’d make it.
When I found out I was pregnant again the following April? I cried. Buckets of tears. Until I saw a blurry profile in a black and white ultrasound photo. Sucking his thumb. I fell instantly in love. There are no other words.
I have never felt more lost than I have being a wife and a mother. Especially as a parent.
My sons are now 12 and 14. I still carry with me the knowledge that I am woefully inadequate for the task of raising incredible men. I pray a lot…
One morning, almost ten years ago, as I made breakfast and considered my children I indulged a recurring fear. In my husband’s family, having only two children went back two generations on both sides. Each sibling pair had a similar story. One child followed God and the other rejected anything that even bore a passing resemblance to fundamental Christianity.
I come from a large family. There are seven of us and we are determinedly individualistic, economically varied, educationally disparate and, with a few exceptions, isolated from each other in our own little worlds. What we do have in common is faith. And an underlying passion for a pursuit of godliness. As it is filtered through our lives and our understanding.
So, how could God keep seven and not two? What was different? Was there something specific I could do? What was the METHOD! I am big on methods. Intuition and instinct have never come easily. I don’t have “gut feelings”. I operate on reasonable, logical conclusions.
As my fear escalated, my heart cried out to God, “I can’t lose either of my boys. Please keep them. Somehow. Show me how to keep them safe.”
And He answered me. He really did. He told me that He kept watch over all His children and that if He could keep that many, He could keep mine. He reminded me that they were given to Him and that my husband and I had dedicated them willingly. I will never, ever forget the comfort that filled my heart.
I could trust God to keep my precious, beloved treasure in earthen vessels.
That moment gave me the distance from my fear I needed to begin to formulate the beginnings of a plan. An endgame.
I began to plan backwards. What kind of men would they become? What kind of husbands, fathers, brothers would honor God?
We focused on compassion, passion and integrity. We took the time to evaluate what certain behavior would become if left uncorrected.
The term, credit card parenting, became almost a mantra. If we ignore this ***** behavior will it be worse in a week, a month, a year? And with interest? Was it worth the cost?
Did it matter? I pick my battles. Carefully.
I don’t care if my boys are rich or famous, if they are wildly successful or if they struggle. I pray for them to find women who admire them. But more than that I pray they will be worthy of that admiration.
When my oldest couldn’t handle the “coolness” of trendy hair cuts he spent two years with a buzz cut. When my youngest wouldn’t listen in class? He sat by mom. When a friend treats them badly we talk through the situation and they are encouraged to evaluate, empathize and resolve when possible. We don’t encourage dating, we ask them to think carefully about their relationships. Are they ready to be responsible for the condition of another persons heart? We require them to respect those around them. They work, earn money, and buy their own gadgetry. From a PS3 to the newest, trendy shoes.
Sure we provide their essentials. It’s the extra, awesome, super-d-duper stuff they have to earn. If they don’t work to the agreed upon expectation? I don’t pay them. They can repeat the job until they get it right or not. They don’t get paid until it is satisfactory. I don’t give allowances. I buy them gifts.
And they say thank you.
My youngest is extremely tactile. And he loves to be touched. I hug him. A lot. I tickle his back, hold his hand, stroke his hair.
Because I know if I don’t meet that need for affection in an appropriate manner, he will look for it’s fulfillment in any way he can. It’s how he’s built.
My oldest needs time, conversation, and affirmation. Even when it feels extremely expensive I give it to him. It’s exhausting sometimes. He’s worth it.
I share my failures, we rejoice in triumphs. I apologize and ask forgiveness when I blow it. How will they learn humility if it is not shown to them? We are not naturally prone to that godly attribute. I prefer their company to that of fellow adult peers. We talk of politics and eschatology, world history and peer relationships. They are allowed a reasoned, rational, respectful appeal. If that is impossible? They are given some quality quiet time until they are able to compose themselves.
It is my highest ambition, for my children, that they honor God and live to serve Him. There is no greater role in their lives. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity I have to be their mother.
As we teeter on the precipice of societal disarray and the faith of so many is crumbling, compromising and collapsing around us, I look at the men my sons are becoming and I have hope.
God is keeping them today. I’ll keep praying about tomorrow.