I have two teenagers and a twelve-year-old I keep praying won’t hit puberty for four years. Because I don’t know a whole lot, but I know I can’t handle three teenagers in my house. Frankly, I can’t handle the two I have.
Why is it so difficult? They don’t look very different than they did a few years ago, back before they thought I was a nitwit. They’re taller, they’re more grown-up, but they still have those same beautiful faces they did back then, albeit with a bit more acne to spice them up. And the braces. But it’s the attitude. The rolling eyes. The smirks. The whatevers and I knows that define these years.
It’s nice to look back on the golden years of parenting, when they were too small to talk—and they woke up every few hours and cried all the time. Fast forward to when they were older and were potty trained and could feed themselves—and say NO! without a second thought. Then a few more years down the road, when they could put on their own shoes and buckle their own seatbelts. Not to mention make each other cry with words and pinches and punches.
Maybe the golden years of parenting are right around the corner. Maybe they don’t exist.
All I know is this: I had a plan for my kids, and this wasn’t it.
I pictured my sons playing baseball in the front yard. Instead I have a skateboarder and a video game champion. I pictured my daughter in bright pink bows–until her arms were long enough to reach her head. That was the end of the bows.
I remember when they were little. One morning at church, I watched another family walking into the lobby, their kids all color-coordinated and perfectly behaved.
And there were my kids, my sons wrestling each other. My daughter lifting her dress over her head to show our friends her Dora the Explorer underpants.
I wanted to slink away and hide.
I’ll never forget my chat with that perfect mom. “You’ve really got your kids under control,” I said. “How do you do it?”
“I had to spank the oldest three times before he stopped ripping the tie off, and my daughter refused to wear her shoes.”
I looked and sure enough, the child was shoeless. In church. And I felt a little less alone.
Our children. They embarrass us, they frustrate us, they break our hearts.
They came with minds of their own, and sometimes, they simply won’t do what we say. Or go where we go. Or believe what we believe.
Sometimes, they make poor choices. Terrifying, destructive, or dangerous choices. From climbing too high in a tree to experimenting with drugs and alcohol, sometimes, they do just what we tell them not to do. And do you know why?
Then they reach a certain age, and there’s little you can do to stop them. All you can do is tell them you love them, trust God, and pray like a madwoman.
Some days, it’s sheer torture.
You remember your babies with those tiny round faces, those big adoring eyes, and how they seemed to ask with every blink, “Do you love me?”
Their faces aren’t so small now, and their eyes aren’t so adoring, but they’re still asking the same question. “Look what I’ve done now, Mom. Do you still love me?”
No matter what they’ve done, no matter how far they’ve strayed, no matter how they’ve broken your heart, you faithfully respond, “Yes, child. I will always love you.”
That is grace.