September 2, 2021
Parenting Transition: Praying not Prying
Another college season has started but this one is different from those of past years. Our youngest, Gigi, will be a senior at Temple’s Tyler School of Art majoring in art therapy. She was just a baby a couple years ago it seems, our youngest, having 2 big sisters and 2 parents to dote over her all the time. Then add in 2 brothers-in-law over the last 7 years as well. These last 3 years she has really grown up, driving, multiple jobs, paying phone and car insurance bills, and even nannying little kids. She takes buses, trains, and even planes on her own, and she just came back from a summer semester in Rome. Italy, not Rome NY or GA. Martine and I are really empty-nesters and literally thousands of miles away from our purple hair Gigi.
Our relationship with Gigi is changing and Martine and I are starting to prep ourselves for the ultimate transition of seeing your child as a fully autonomous adult. We’ve been through it in 2014 when Dominique went from one summer staying in Pittsburgh for a fellowship, to the next summer filled with graduating, wedding, moving in with her husband in their own apartment, both getting real fulltime jobs, paying all their other bills. Last year they bought a house and Dominique just graduated her Masters in Mental Health Counseling. We see, so many wonderful changes, but changes different than what we liked and had grown so so so comfortable with.
After living back home for one year after graduation, Nicole worked for a year, saving money and waited for Connor to graduate so they could get married this past April 2017. But alas, she and Connor moved to Charlotte and they are on their own, being adults, and living their best life with lots of new friends, jobs, responsibilities, Boomer, great home church involvement, and we get to see them as our halfway stop from Ocean City to Honey Lake Clinic in FL. Thank God for Facetime.
Have you crossed this relational stepping stone with your child yet? If so, it’s never too late to apply these principles. If you haven’t, and your kids are younger, it’s never too early to start. As with other milestones, the moment you say goodbye as you drop your child off for the first playdate, bus to Kindergarten, job, or college will be burned into your mind forever. They are in mine. (It still is good to have pictures as my mind isn’t as sharp as I get older)
We have taken these kids from diapers to diploma … been the primary influence in their life … celebrated many occasions … shared times of sadness and hurt … been involved in most details of their life including disappointments and punishments as well as wonderment and fun. Many joys, fears, and surprises fill our memory banks. Wow, during these 27 years we have seen our children grow so much. Boy, do we miss those times!
We all want to protect our children from danger and hurt … save them from the wrong turns we took in the past. We are concerned that we can no longer protect or advocate for them anymore. The truth is, now it’s your turn to change. Hopefully, your love for your child will remain constant or even grow when he or she leaves home. But the way you will express it and interact with your child will be significantly different. As you shift roles, be quick to listen and slow to speak. Instead of lecturing, listen. Begin to create a relationship that fosters communication. Listening first shows you respect your child, and are giving their ideas and views the honor and dignity both their ideas and your child deserve. Listening shows you are interested in and care for your child … that you understand the significance of this particular issue. Most importantly, listening builds a stronger bridge from your island to theirs, so you can send important information when they really need it and are receptive.
Today, as you continue to make this transition, try to forget the interrogation “who, what, where, why, when” litany you have relied on since your child became a teenager. Shift your focus now to a more faith-based approach. Try praying more. Try asking your child, “How would you like me to pray for you today?” Remember, Jesus is an advocate and protector with more power and skill, and with better access to God than we ever could have ourselves. It could be the difference between growing a powerful and lasting relationship with your child, or growing apart and being marginalized. Whether you adapt to your children’s growth or you treat them as dependent babies is your decision, so choose well.
Dear God, I pray today for all parents who have children in college. I pray that while experiencing this loss, they take this opportunity to grow. They have focused so long on the growth and development of their children. Many times, they have neglected themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. Father, help these parents know that the job of being a spiritual leader within the family never ends. Give them the strength and wisdom to minister to their college or adult children. Help them, Father, to move to a mindset of praying … not prying. Give them all your peace and joy as they experience the sadness of separation and loss so they may receive Your mercy and find grace in their time of need. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our savior; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children live in the truth 3 John 1:4
Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. Hebrews 4:16