I can’t remember the first time she said it aloud, but somewhere in my early twenties my mother uttered the words, “I think the hardest stage of parenting is parenting adult children” That sentence, like most of what she said to me in that chapter of my life was heard but not digested, seeming the musings of a woman I loved but had yet to fully appreciate.
I heard her say it again in my season of raising three toddlers at one time. I heard her words, but thought them ridiculous. I was changing diapers, nursing, working,and napping through the night. How could it be harder than that season I found myself in?
Yet now, I hear her. Words she has not said to me in years, I finally hear. It is not the physical hard of raising little ones, but instead, the mental hard combined with the restrictions of allowing adult children be adults. Whether those now grown up babies are making decisions you can’t agree with or are suffering the valleys of life in significant ways you can no longer kiss and make better, standing on the sideline, when for years you could sweep in and fix it, is extremely hard.
I listened to a speech given by Rhonda Lowry as I prepared for my first child to enter adulthood. She spoke of the verse, Isaiah 40:31,
“But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.“
She shared how one day she realized her understanding of the lush eagle’s nest of North America likely looked nothing like the desert nests of the eagles of the verse. As she koi researched, she found that the nest of these desert eagles sat atop sparse, tall trees. From the nest, the mother would push her babies off the edge. The eaglets would begin to plunge down toward the ground. The mother hopes they would begin to realize within them was their ability to fly. That somewhere in the deep recesses of their hearts, they knew who they were and what they were born to do. With confidence, she watches with anticipation her young one spinning out of control. Patiently waiting. Patiently watching.
Before the eaglet hits the ground, the eagle swoops in, wings out-stretched and offers a soft,secure landing spot. While carrying the eaglet on her wing, the eagle soars. Providing safety. Providing comfort. Providing an example. Ultimately perching the eaglet back into a high view point until the whole process happens again and again until that eaglet soars, replicating the image of the eagle, powered by the truth of who she is meant to be.
The hard truth for parents is understanding that we are not the Eagle. Instead, the wings of salvation belong to God. The instinct, reminding the young one of his identity, the Holy Spirit. The wing itself, Christ.
The hard of parenting comes in the reality of losing control. But it is in this release of control, true faith is born. Faith in that person you promised to protect. Faith in the instruction and teaching you imperfectly administered. Faith in the God who has swept in and lifted you from your own free fall over and over again.
And in ears that can’t yet hear, I whisper to my children, “Being the parent of adult children is the hardest stage of parenting.” And in the ear of God I cry, ” I believe. Forgive my unbelief.”