"Oh, sure, you enjoy your baby now, but just wait until the terrible twos!"
"The preschool years are fun, but just wait until they start school! Then you'll be in for it."
"Adolescents are so difficult. You will want to lock them in their rooms until they are adults."
"Hope you like your kids when they are little, because the high school years are a nightmare."
From the moment I saw those pink lines in the home pregnancy test, people started giving me all kinds of words of wisdom. It seemed like no matter what stage of parenting I was at, there was always someone telling me how difficult the next stage would be. It was like a chorus of voices saying: "Those children you are so lovingly nurturing will one day turn on you and become monsters. It is inevitable, so enjoy what little time you have left."
Thanks for the encouragement. You made me feel real confident.
It is hard to parent from a position of fear. Fear made me try to control every situation my children might encounter. Fear made me take my eyes off of an omnipotent God, and turned me into the only orchestrator in my kids' lives. Elaborate and often burdensome scenarios had be carefully planned to keep my children on the straight and narrow.
Fear of rebellion made me turn every conflict into a "come to Jesus" moment. Unnecessarily.
Fear of losing them to a secular world kept me from helping them to engage it from a Christian viewpoint.
What I learned the hard way is that fear robs me of some of the best joys, and the best struggles, of raising these children.
Some of the well-meaning advice is true. There have been times, many of them, that made me want to turn in my resignation.
But choosing to parent without fear of the "what if's" has given our family the opportunity to thrive in spite of the doom-sayers.
We've made our way through public schools, and heathen neighbors, and secular culture. We've cried through boyfriends, argued over modesty, negotiated movies and TV shows. We've debated evolution, existentialism and religious freedom. We've faced unkind sibling behavior, unfair teachers, chores, and school dances. Much of it hasn't been pretty, some of it has been disappointing, but all of it has been part of what has made our family strong.
I wish more people had told me that I didn't have to be afraid of parenting "the next stage." That my kids would turn out just fine, even if they wanted more holes in their ears. That short shirts and low rider pants would soon not be issues, and my girls would become even more modest than me. That being exposed to evolution in school would make them scoff at such intellectual dishonesty. That going to a school dance wouldn't make them promiscuous. That having a case-by-case curfew wouldn't make them want to party. That letting them make many of their own decisions (even bad ones) would help them make right choices later. That going to school with non-Christians wouldn't make them leave the faith we'd taught them. That God would be faithful to our family.
I wish more people had told me how much I would enjoy each stage of parenting, especially the middle and teen years. The last several years with our children have been beautiful in both the joys and the struggles. The struggles have been real, and painful at times, but ultimately producing incredible young adults who love Jesus. Can any parent ask for more?
Prov. 31:25 She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs with no fear of the future.