And I don’t blame them. I’m pretty sure they were running from me. It wasn’t because I’d nearly snuffed out their young lives with my horrific cooking. But more because I was a Control-a-holic. Not that I would have admitted it or even recognized it back then.
I thought I was being a good mother.
A mother who happened to believe her kids should agree with her, think like her, never question her about the hard stuff, and never smoke, drink, chew or listed to that “other” music.
I panicked when they talked too much like Democrats and became old enough to make their own choices about alcohol. I panicked about their friends about things I imagined they might be doing when they were out of the house.
But I was afraid to trust God with my kids.
Deep down I feared they’d get really angry and confront God with all the messy questions I’d never been allowed to ask. No one in my growing-up churches ever questioned God. My children–our children–were raised in churches that majored on the minors and totally missed the majors. But I’m in no position to blame my churches because I missed so many of “the majors” in my own life–majors in parenting, loving my children, my husband and my God.
As parents, we probably all recognize and even regret our imperfections, mistakes and shortcomings.Those things are in the past, and we can’t change them. But we don’t have to be bound to the past. Here are five things I want to say to my kids today:
I’m proud of you and love you unconditionally.
I’m sorry for the parental mess-ups. I think my love came out looking more like a checklist than love way too often. I’m sorry I didn’t do it better but I promise I tried with everything I had. I thank heaven you’ve turned out to be God’s unique, charming, amazing version of you. I will always love you, no matter how tough things may get.
Ask for wisdom or counsel, but don’t ask for permission.
Shortly after my son got married, he and his wife came to visit Dan and me. The four of us headed out for a day of family sightseeing and had arrived at our local zoo when my son asked me if it was okay if he smoked a cigar. I thought it was a sweet gesture, knowing he’d asked out of respect. But he was now a man and head of his own household. He didn’t need to ask his mother’s permission. I gently told him so and said that if he had concerns he should ask his wife. His dad and I were happy to offer wisdom and counsel, but he no longer needed our permission to make decisions, even when he was in our presence.
I am always praying God’s best for your life.
Years passed when my husband and I saw very little of our son and daughter. In her late teens and early twenties, our daughter was living in remote and often dangerous locations all over the world. In many instances, her life was at risk and her calls would begin with words like, “I’m calling you, so you know I’m alive, but I need to tell you…” Our faith was stretched, to say the least. At times I wanted to ask God if somebody else’s child could do this kind of mission work. But deep down, I always knew Jessica was doing what God had called her and equipped her to do.
No matter if your adult child is living like a sinner or living like a saint, they need to know you support them. This doesn’t mean you must always support their choices. But they know you unswervingly desire the best for them and love them. You are always praying God’s best for their life and prosperity.
I’m always here for you.
I’m always here to help. I won’t erase the consequences of your actions, but I will help you face them with integrity and courage. I will help you face sorrow when it comes. I will love you enough to tell you when you are acting in ways that hurt or disrespect others and help you grow through your inevitable weaknesses. I will listen when you confront me about mine and work to be transparent and dedicated to my own spiritual and personal growth. I will try to be here for you in a way that shows the heart and humility of Jesus.
Please be patient. God’s not finished with me yet.
I’m imperfect. Parts of me are still broken and raggedy. I will still disappoint you and mess up. Maturity in years doesn’t always equal maturity in all areas of life. You probably know some of those areas better than I do. You may even be able to help me understand myself better and we could talk about those things sometime. If there’s something you think needs to be set right between us, I’d like you to bring it to me. I love you, and I want us to have the best relationship possible. Maybe you’ve been more than patient already. Thank you. Just know that I don’t want to give up on us. You’re too important to me.
I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to say many of these things to my adult kids over the years. And I’ve been blessed with amazing, life-infusing responses. What about you? What have you said to your adult children or parent/s that has made a positive difference in your relationship?