And Now, We’re Thirty (almost)
I wonder, perhaps, if I needed this refresher, this reminder of why I am doing what I am doing, particularly because this is the life I lived on the child-end and now live second-generation: homeschooling, stay-at-home mama. When I became a resentful, proud adolescent, I remember my parents telling me that it was ok if I thought I could do better. They expected me to do better. It was my job. They did their best to take the good their parents gave them and step it up a notch, and when I was the mom, not only would I not have to eat oatmeal, but I also would stand on their shoulders and perform the next upgrade. That is generational faithfulness, covenant succession. And here I am, Lord help me, praying my children will continue to carry on, going higher up and further in after me.
I am very grateful that God kept me close to home, in all senses, without interruption. But perhaps at this point, as I am about to turn 30, I required a little jolt. There is no newbie astonishment, no convert zeal for me. No, I have lived with a toddler in the house my entire life, from the time I was a toddler until now, only excepting my 9 months in the dorm and the first 2 years of our marriage. I love little kids, and I can’t really conceive of not having one around, but I am reliably informed that it does happen, sooner or later.
I have also found my oldest-sister perspective often clouding my mothering perspective. My habitual response is often that children’s exhuberance is grating and annoying, that children pester, pester and should really leave me alone already. Perhaps, finally, eight years into this gig, my perspective and attitude is shifting into a truly maternal mode.
I certainly feel it as I look at young adults now. Suddenly, young adults, though they are still my siblings’ ages, are not really my peers. When I see teens now, I see them through mother-eyes instead, and the shift is unsettling. After all, my oldest only has 5 more years until his teens. All the sudden, my world has turned on its axis. As my friend, also an oldest married young, and I have compared notes over the years, we notice that typically oldest children do it “Right” (of course), and then subsequent children make things complicated. But, now instead of rolling eyes at younger siblings, I am finally realizing that my firstborn model is not the only valid choice, and it’s not even always the “Right” one or “Best” one, even if I sure think it’s great. I mean, now, as the parent, eying my children-not-firstborn, is my goal to make them all into firstborns? If they don’t turn out that way, is the game up and all bets are off and I give up? Of course not.
What of young adults who end up veering off course for awhile? It is tempting, when the veer happens, to sigh for that family and shake my head sadly, assuming the parents were to blame. Wait. Now I am the parent. Do I think I’m a better one? God help me. Sometimes I do, tragically, and that is pride necessitating a fall, a fall that would be grace. I pray this discouragement turns to deep repentance, so perhaps my pride doesn’t get so big and terrible that only the fall of my children can bring it down. God uses means. And a fall, a veering off, is not the end of the story. Does unwed pregnancy always mean parent-fail, or is it no unwed pregnancy that means parent-success? Well, is that faithful young family whose oldest is adopted by the father a failure, or a very deep success, perhaps moreso than the family for whom everything has been color-inside-the-lines? It’s not that I intend to minimize sin, but the truth is that we all have sin, whether it’s flagrant or socially acceptable. And God’s grace covers us all, and all of us are called to repentence, obedience, faithfulness. And God writes as many stories as He makes people. They unfurl. God draws straight with crooked lines.
So perhaps faithfulness in parenting is seen more in present, moment-by-moment abiding than in any particular outcome at one moment in time. Outcomes are in God’s hands. He has given us promises, and we trust Him. We do what is set before us this day, and we know joy is set before us in the future, even if that path to joy leads through sorrow or suffering or our own sinfulness.
The joy is that God restores and God is weaving the stories and God knows where He’s going. Our hope is in Him, not in our children and what they do or do not do.