Raising a teen is enough of a challenge for any parent, so just imagine raising two (or more) in one house! I’m not complaining, though. In fact, I am truly thankful that in all the years of my motherhood, my kids have not given me any major headaches, nothing that gives me any reason to truly worry. I am in disbelief that I managed to raise pretty decent kids. I wish that I can take full credit, but it is all with God’s grace that my (big) babies have turned out to be fairly good teens. I am thankful that in this stage of being a mother, I am now guided by God’s words and promises.
I try my best to be an effective parent by attending seminars and workshops on parenting and reading as much books as I can. Anything about raising physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually healthy kids, I take time out to read and ingest. Believe me when I say that it always gives a fresh perspective of myself every time I read a parenting book. It tells me what kind of mom I have become and am becoming. I discover which parts of me I need to overhaul or I need to work on, which options and choices to test, which ones will work best for me and with my kids. Some failed, some worked. Some I am still testing.
Let me share with you something I learned from one of my recent reads, a parenting analogy that evoked a lot of emotions in the short span of reading it.
Think of a pool, filled with deep water with walls surrounding it. As the child learns to swim, she first takes a dip into the pool, holds on to the walls tightly as she wades. She firmly grips on the wall, as she learns to breathe in and out of the water, exercising her limbs and feet. The moment she gets the hang of swimming, she begins to push away from the walls, treading and testing her strength. She realizes how fun it is to propel her hands and feet through the water, she moves towards the deeper part of the pool. The moment she gets tired of staying afloat too long and begins to submerge in the water, she swims back towards the walls where she gets to feel safe. But she can’t linger on those walls because the call of the water is just so tempting, so she pushes off again once she gets her breath back.
See, your child is the swimmer, the water is the big, broad world and you are the walls. As the wall, your job is to stand strong and be the support. The walls remain walls even as the swimmer explores on its own. Our children will eventually push us away, in their desire to grow up and veer away from childhood, and we must learn not take it personally. While they are still holding on to the walls, to us—our job is to train them and equip them, so that when the time comes that they will push themselves away from us, they will be able to navigate the water well. But they will always know that the walls are always strong, steady and available when the water gets dangerous and their feet and limbs get tired. The push-off will always, always hurt no matter what. Anticipate the push-off even if it will hurt, and enjoy the time that she swims back towards the wall. Make every wall-clinging matter, make it count!
Look at it this way…when she pushes off and you focus on the hurt because it felt personal and felt like rejection, it is so easy for pride to take over. And pride is always self-centered. What then if she swims back and you are all caught up in your own misery, full of hurt, and is an emotional wreck? You cannot give what you do not have. You ought to be the safe-base, staying in one place. Yet you must allow them to venture out on their own. When they push-off, stand firm and equip yourself. When they cling, be available. The price is much too high when you aren’t.
But then again, there will also come a time when it feels like you can’t take any more push-offs. One more and you will crack and fall apart. What to do? Find your own wall. The sturdiest and safest wall is undeniably the Lord. He is your safe-base always! And He designed another person to be your wall here on earth—your spouse. In the same way, you must also be his/her wall. There are also friends and maybe support groups that can help you deal with the hurt. Find friends who have healthy relationships with their kids and let them inspire you. Read the Bible, books and attend seminars, listen to podcasts, subscribe to devotionals that can help you in the parenting arena. Ultimately, it is how much you want to get to the heart of your child and how much you want to be in the heart of your child that will motivate you to do things for them and for yourself.
Do you make yourself available for them or are you too self-absorbed in your own world? Have you been intentional in carving out time with them? When was the last time you shared a meal with your son? Driven your daughter to school? Sat down and asked about their pressures in school, the matters of the heart and even those issue that concern your home and maybe you?
The reality is parenting is a never ending test, one that will take us spiraling into the unknown, a path that teaches us selflessness in a whole new level, a journey discovering our kids heart and our own. With God as our wall, all else will fall into place. I have no shame in admitting that I still have a long journey to take. Whatever wisdom I gain, whatever learning I have picked up along the way and whatever experience I have that may be worth learning from, I intend to share.