My name is Emilie Parsons, and I will celebrate 24 years of marriage to my dear husband, Darren, this month. What an incredible journey these years have been! We have walked through many joys and many trials which have shaped and molded our marriage by shaping and molding each of our hearts. What an encouragement to see the hand of God has use each and every one to refine and sanctify us. We are often very slow learners and have to repeat the same lesson time and again. What a patient, loving Father! Grace upon grace!
Darren and I have been blessed with three most precious gifts: Chandler (21), Cooper (18), and Olivia (16). Chandler is completing his junior year in college, Cooper graduates from high school in a few days, and Olivia is finishing her sophomore year. Since I have been asked to share some wisdom I’ve learned throughout motherhood, I’d like to preface my comments by telling you that anything we have learned has been solely because of the faithfulness and mercy of the Lord. Relationships are hard and often messy. They take work, and we have made MANY mistakes along the way. But God has been so kind, so gracious, so faithful, so very good to us. We know that our sovereign Father uses even our biggest parenting blunders for His glory and our good. Isn’t that incredible?
Certainly, the role of Mother is constantly changing as our children grow and flourish into more independent, “big” people. Babies and toddlers are completely dependent upon us for their every need. One mistake we tend to make is to continue to hover as they become more capable individuals. (Thus, the popular new term “helicopter mom!”) I confess…this is my tendency. Thankfully, my husband balances me and helps me to see when I’m hovering! I remember vividly when many years ago he asked me to stop laying out the clothes that I wanted my oldest child to wear the following day. See, I wanted him to look cute! And to match! His wise father knew that it was long past time for him to pick out his own clothes – even if they didn’t match! This may sound really silly, but this was actually hard for me! Several years later, this same son asked to go to a movie with a group of his friends. He was about 14 or so, and knowing a little bit about the movie my kneejerk reaction was an automatic NO! Darren told him to go read the “Plugged In” review (great resource!) and to make his own decision. What?!? Make his own decision?!? (Obviously, I needed an intervention at this point in my motherhood journey!) After reading the review, Chandler came downstairs and said that he would not be going to the movie because of its objectionable content. He actually encouraged his friends not to go see it either. Now, obviously, it could have easily gone the other way which would have given us the opportunity to have frank, real discussions about the content and try to guide him to think about the importance of what we set before our eyes and allow to penetrate our hearts.
I tell you these stories to illustrate how parenting inevitably changes with each new season. One of the biggest challenges is to recognize each new phase and to be prepared to alter our mindsets and our methods. One of the common mistakes of Christian parents is to not utilize each stage as an opportunity to take the next step of preparing to launch our kids. (Not only must our kids be prepared, but we must prepare our own hearts as well!) We forget this is the goal of parenting…to work ourselves out of a job! I see this in my own heart as I sometimes grieve their growing up. I often REALLY miss them being small…such precious days! To the dear parents of young children, the old adage is certainly true: “The days are long, but the years are short.” Hang in there and persevere. Great will be your reward! The Lord is helping me come to the place where I can celebrate and fully rejoice in each new stage. I know that these kids belong to the Lord and not to me; I just often have to remind myself of this. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I long to steward these gifts well.
The BEST part about being the parent of grown kids is that you get to become their friend! Truly, this is so wonderful! A common mistake today is to try to be our kids’ friends to the neglect of being their parents at far too young of an age. I frequently see parents giving up their God-given authority over their children in hopes that their kids will like them and think they are cool. Let’s just say that kids raised in these child-centered environments typically turn out to continue to think that the world revolves around them. This really sets them up for trouble when a future boss or spouse informs them that it doesn’t!
Now that Darren and I have one – and almost two – “adult children”, I have had to learn how to make big adjustments. I am still so tempted to tell my college son what to do! However, this phase of mothering him has passed. I try to limit my advice to times when it is sought. There are times when I do ask his permission to tell him how I see a given situation, and thankfully, he is willing to listen. He may not always see things the way that I do, but I know he weighs my words. What a blessing. I do believe that I am still called to admonish/encourage/help him as I would any Christian brother or sister (1 Thessalonians 5:14). But, we should consider several things before opening our mouths: their age and stage, their spiritual condition, and our motives to name a few.
Some of you may be thinking that this stage of parenting is so far in the future that none of this applies to you. I believe that how we parent our littles will have an enormous impact on the teenage years. Did the phrase “teenage years” send a shiver down your spine? Our culture tells us to be very afraid of this phase. This is so sad. My imperfect yet wonderful teenagers have been a true joy and delight! Did you know that the word “teenager” is not even found in the Bible? In fact, in biblical times, these young men and women were just that…not teenagers to be feared but young men and women who were trained in such a way that they were ready for vocations, marriage, and even battles. The 14-, 15-, 16-year-old people in our lives are much more capable then we give them credit for, but this takes training. I’d like to recommend two resources with which many of you are probably already familiar. The first is for those who are living in the days of potty-training, temper tantrums, and seemingly constant discipline. The book Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp is excellent. I reread it recently and found myself wishing I could go back and do so many things differently! If you are the parent of an 11- or 12-year-old (or teenagers too), please read The Age of Opportunity by Tedd’s brother, Paul David Tripp. He does an outstanding job of preparing us to parent teenagers and showing us that it can be a wonderful age…full of opportunity!
I would really like to encourage parents in all stages to not delegate the spiritual training of your children to others. Any spiritual nourishment they receive from their youth group, church, Christian school, and/or peers is icing on the cake! However, the Lord commissioned parents to train up their children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) and in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). The Lord admonishes us to teach His Word diligently to our children…as we sit in our homes, when we walk by the way, when we lie down and when we rise. (Deuteronomy 6:7) That sounds like a lot of daily spiritual training from parents, doesn’t it? Let’s look for ways to turn even ordinary conversations with our kids into ones that point them to Christ.
Motherhood, more than anything else, has shown me my weakness and complete dependence upon the Father. We tend to think that the primary fruit of parenting will be seen in our children, when in reality, both the challenges and joys of parenting may be producing a harvest in our own hearts. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) May God bless you and your sweet families.