I don't know how to be a parent.
I would think the more honest folks who have children would say the same. There is no one way, right way, only way to do it. Each child, parent and situation is different, and therefore the approach is different. I get that. Then there is the nature vs. nurture argument. Don't even get me started on that one. Let's just agree its a combination of both. If we sway to far to either side we are either convicted of laziness or pride.
One of my issues with being parent is how much it reveals my sin, weakness, doubt, worth and fear in who I am and what I believe about God. While parenting reveals this to me, it doesn't leave me much time to process or work through these issues. I'm just faced with them and the reality that if I can't work through them, I will pass them along to my children. Great! Who signed up for this right?
While I have much to say about all of these things in my life, the one I want to focus on today is my tendency, or compulsion, to control things. (everything) The hard thing is that when you start out as a parent, you have to control A LOT of things. Feedings, diapers, bedtimes, baths, nook or no nook, what to touch, what not to touch, what to say, what we don't say, TV time, computer time, what toys are appropriate and allowed in the house, who are they friends with, what will they do with their time, what food can they eat and not eat, etc. There is a lot we control as parents, but that somehow it starts to speak a lie into our lives that we actually can control more than we should in regards to our kids.
My oldest son is five. He will start Kindergarten in the fall. For the past year and half I have struggled with what to do with him regarding school. (struggle seems like a very tame word for what I have gone through emotionally.) I have cried, OK weep is more like it, been very confused, read a ton of material, visited countless schools, talked to parents of all different walks, but mostly just really been frustrated that God hasn't given us an answer. This is a really big freaking deal. My son will now be in the hands of someone else for 7-8 hours of every day. He will spend more time somewhere else than he will with us at home. At home where we talk about Jesus all the time. Where we pray, and fight and ask for forgiveness. A place where I can make sure he eats his vegetables and will receive discipline for wrong behavior. A place where I can encourage his learning and growth, we play, we dress up, we cook, we talk, we laugh and have dance parties. I love my children.
Side note: I get that as parents, we aren't their best friends. We aren't even supposed to be friends. We are their parents first and foremost. This is not to say that we can't have of fun together and play and love one another, but I'm not their friend. That is a boundary and title for other people. I teach, train, instruct, and love beyond any mistake. I am their mother. That's a different role with different boundaries. However, its really hard to not be friends with my kids when I enjoy hanging out with them so much. I spend more time with them than the man I said I would share my life with. I love spending time with them. Why would I want that to end? In essence, one of my closest friends will be leaving me. That's a sad day.
As you read that, you will see that all those comments are about me. What I want, what I like, what I need, etc. It's hard to be faced with that truth. Its also really hard to let my kid go. To let go of control. Man I hate that word. See, I know I was never really in control. I know that. But choosing where to send my kid to school challenges me to the very core of that belief. So much so that I really wrestled for over a year about Homeschooling my children.
This post is not about Homeschooling vs. traditional schooling. I support both. Both have good and bad going for them. This post is about my journey and struggle with my children. And FYI, God is in both places.
In my prayer time with God about our children and school, I started to journal. When I journal, lots of crazy thoughts are brought to light, and then I can really start to see the root issue of why I think or feel the way I do. Here is what I discovered. I am putting this out there, so you can judge if you want, I realize its crazy, but I have surrendered it to God.
I loved the idea of homeschooling my kids. It kept us together. I could protect them from all sorts of evil and influence. I could reinforce God as the creator of all things in all their education. There is a great network for homeschooling. I could control almost everything in my kids life because they were with me. They could spend more time playing and being creative instead of always sitting in school and doing homework. We could created a stronger family base because of the time we would have together. And then in the end it came to...I could guarantee my child's salvation if he stayed home away from all temptation.
A few issues with this.
First, this is my deepest fear for my children. It is my greatest fear because I grew up in a home that talked about Jesus but came very, very dangerously close to throwing it away. I am paralyzed in my fear of my children falling away from Christ because I can't control that. Being so tempted by dangerous things that they will damage a large part of their life. (I believe that God loves the damaged, heals the damage, and restores us to full life. I believe that Good comes from bad, but I also know that real life consequences make enjoying the fullness of God's life harder.) I can not guarantee my child's salvation. I hate that. It makes me cry.
Second, if you continue down that line of thinking, it reveals that somewhere I believe that Jesus doesn't exist in public school, or that he isn't strong enough to keep my child from falling away. So many things are wrong with this statement, I don't even know where to begin, but it all comes down to my fear of loosing control. I can't control all the things that go on in my son's day now. The kids that will hurt him. Make fun of him. Teach him how to curse and lie, or steal. The kids that will show him how to be mean, make fun of other kids, gossip, tease, and disrespect others. The list goes on and on.
But here is the truth. My child already knows how to do most of those things. Because the third thing is, Sin doesn't just exist "out there". It exists in our very soul. We are born with it. It lives with us and will stay with us till the day we die. What sending my child to school will do, is show him how to live in a world where all people don't believe in Jesus. It will force me to parent even more. To show my kid I am here no matter what. To talk with him about all the things he is learning, both good and bad. It will most definitely teach me to lift my son up in prayer every single day into the hands of the one who loves him more than me. The one who is powerful enough to help him when I can not. The one who will love him into eternity. The one who will be with him when he is away from me and being tempted. He has the true power to help him choose.
Whew. I really don't have any control. I don't have control, nor am I supposed to control my kids. My job is to love them. Help them. Teach and train when I can. But in the end, love them. Isn't that what its all about?
Today we visited a Chinese Immersion school for Noah. In Feb. we will know if he was selected in their lottery. Once we know what our options are, then we pray even harder. I am confident God will let his voice be heard. And if I can't hear beyond the fear, I am confident that God exists beyond that. Either way, God will go wherever Noah does. Thank you Jesus for that.