To the parents reading this article, for the next few minutes I invite you to please journey back to a specific moment in time. Remember back to the moment you entered the bathroom with a pregnancy test in hand. Likely you were filled with nerves and anticipation. After “peeing on a stick” you wait. As each minute passes the nerves increase, the anticipation grows and then with bated breath, you tentatively peek at the test and see a pink positive sign or two lines staring back at you. Remember that? Everything changed in that very moment. Whether it was your first child or sixth, the realization that life would never be the same begins to sink deeply into your bones.
The gift of life
You were given the greatest gift life has to offer…life itself. In 9 months you will hold this tiny life in your hands and be solely responsible for keeping them safe, meeting their needs, and loving them unconditionally. Emotions such as fear, excitement, anxiety, elation, terror, joy settle in and become daily travelers for the remainder of the pregnancy and for your new life as parents.
As reality sets in, you begin dreaming of who this child will be and what they will do in the world. You pray diligently over them and read scriptures like Proverbs 22:6 that say, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older they will not leave it.” You make promises to self and God to follow this wisdom and rear them in the ways of God and church. Does this sound familiar? Is this you? If so, you are in good company. I have yet to meet a parent who did not enter parenting with a genuine longing and desire to raise their children well. To teach them about love and kindness. To give them morals and values. To teach them who they are and then launch them into the world as self-confident, whole individuals. This is a beautiful and healthy parenting paradigm.
We want the best for our children
Of course, we want the best for our children. However, what if our best for them does not line up with what they believe to be best for themselves? What if our children choose to live their life differently than how we live ours? What if their belief system is different? Their choices are different? Their attractions are different? What do we do then? And here is where this paradigm falters and becomes a “hard pill to swallow.” Just because we were the chosen one to grow this life inside our body, bring them safely into the world, and walk alongside them all the days of their life does NOT mean we always know what is best for them, or who they are, or what they should believe. Whether our child identifies as heterosexual or homosexual, we do not get to choose who they should or should not love. Yikes! That is definitely a hard pill to swallow!
Shefali Tsabary, author of The Conscious Parent, says, “When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a ‘mini me,’ but a spirit throbbing with its own signature…our children are not ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit our needs.” For many of us, this is a huge paradigm shift. In generations past it was normal to hear things like “parents know best” and “do as I say.” Here is the problem with this kind of parenting: It is unilateral and has the assumption that the parent really does know best. Why though? Just because of age and some life experience, do parents always know best? Of course not!! Although I am sure it is well meaning, sermons around the passage mentioned above often miss the mark. “Direct your children onto the right path” assumes you know what their right path is. That is dangerously presumptive. God is responsible for creating their life. God is responsible for enlivening their spirit. God is responsible for directing their path towards their true self and true calling.
Parents are important
I am not minimizing the very important role of parenting in the unfolding of a human life; but I am cautioning the notion that “parent knows best.” We are called to unconditionally love and accept our children. This means that we love and accept them even if their path is completely opposite of the one we dreamed for them. Even if they reject our beliefs, our choices, our faith, our attractions. We must humble ourselves daily and surrender them to God’s will and plan for their life. Even if it looks like they are making clear wrong turns.
Trusting God with our children
Never underestimate God’s constant presence on their journey. We all makes wrong turns. Our role is to travel alongside one another. The parent-child relationship is not static and unilateral, but rather deeply dynamic and mutually beneficial. Tsabary says, “While we believe we hold the power to raise our children, the reality is that our children hold the power to raise us into the parents they need us to become. For this reason, the parenting experience isn’t one of parent versus child but of parent with child.” We often make the job of parenting much harder than it needs to be. Trust your children. Trust that God is working in their life regardless of differing beliefs or choices. When we allow our children to flourish in an environment of unconditional love and acceptance they will discover their true-self and true calling in their time and in their way. So… Relax! Surrender! Let go!
While this blog was more philosophical in nature, please stayed tuned for a future blog that lays out practical steps in creating safety in your relationship with your children as they navigate their life while also strengthening your love bond with them.
C. Paige Smith, M.A., LPCC
Paige Smith has a Masters of Arts in Clinical Mental Health from Denver Seminary and is a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate in the State of Colorado. As part of her studies, Paige was an intern at Where Grace Abounds. She is passionate about understanding and knowing individuals as biological, psychological, social, and spiritual beings. She believes that these factors are always interacting with one another and each needs consideration when seeking optimal health. From this perspective, she works to help her clients understand their complex nature and experience holistic healing. Paige strives to create a warm and inviting space for all of her clients through acceptance, authenticity, and support. Her desire to walk alongside those hurting is evident through her caring and understanding presence.