I firmly believe that parenting is one of the most challenging jobs we could ever choose; and yet, one of the most rewarding. It is easy to underestimate the commitment made as you begin the journey. However, it doesn’t take much time to realize we will never perfect the “art” of parenting. A few sleepless nights into the position, with frayed nerves and a fierce headache, we become well aware of our frailty and failures! As the old television ad for the Wild World of Sports proclaims, we will experience the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”; sometimes within minutes of each other! We cannot resign from the position – once a parent, always a parent – but fortunately we will achieve enough victories to be able to forge through the defeats.
As the Friends and Family Coordinator at WGA, I walk alongside parents as they attempt to understand and untangle issues they and their children are encountering. I am acutely aware of the pressures all of us are facing as we attempt to find stability in an increasingly unstable environment. Today we are dealing with soundbite answers for extremely complex issues. It can be confusing and overwhelming. In our ministry we are careful to not offer advice. Instead we attempt to walk life with people. It is through sharing our lives and experiencing life together that we grow.
Through the years of raising my own children, I have certainly learned some lessons that I wish I had applied. I have also experienced some victories that have encouraged me along the way. There are so many variables in the equation of raising children. No matter what we do or how calculated we are as we approach parenting, we can never be completely prepared for every diversion that might occur during the process. Too often, we parent by crises and default. Instead, parenting more intentionally would be preferred. Wouldn’t it be better to develop a road- map with the expectation that we will encounter some delightful detours as well as unexpected potholes along the way? Above all, God’s wisdom and direction throughout the entire process is invaluable!
Developing a Foundation
Establishing ideas about what qualities we desire to see in our children when they leave home will provide a firm foundation. Some of the qualities we hoped to instill in our children as we raised them were good character, integrity and respect. Character involved being responsible stewards of their minds and bodies as well as having discernment. Integrity was an important aspect for us. We encouraged our children to be true to themselves while realizing the importance of being truthful and honest with their family as well as relationships outside the family. Respect meant that they not only respected themselves and their own bodies, but also others who came into their lives. We prayed that they would respect that God had an agenda for their lives and that they would honor Him with their lives. Along with this respect came the desire for maturity; an ability to control themselves by being willing to accept delayed gratification rather than selfish desire. We also attempted to instill our children with a sense of security. We wanted them to each understand that they were valuable to us and to God.
Learning to Listen
There are many things we can do to help our children mature into these desired qualities. It is crucial that our children know how much we love them through our affection and nurturing, as well as our affirmation of the good qualities we see in them. We can show our love for them also by establishing boundaries for them so they will appreciate the necessity of having boundaries for themselves as they move away from us.
It is important that they witness us working on ourselves and our relationships so they will realize the value of investing time and attention in themselves and others. By listening to them, we are instilling in them their value and worth. Taking time to be with them consistently helps them to know that they are important to us. Beginning early to have conversations about age appropriate moral issues helps to pave the way for future conversations about development, sex and spirituality.
Our job as parents is to raise responsible adults that can move out into the world with strength and confidence. So much of the time we want to protect our children from the bumps and bruises of life. But it is those bumps and bruises that will teach them strength and perseverance. Being there when they fall is important, but we need to let them experience the pain sometimes so they will learn the lesson. Along the way, it is important to remember that, just like us, they have a free will. They will be making decisions independent of us using their own skills, personality and thought process.
These are some of the more difficult aspects of parenting as we come face to face with the fact that our children are not carbon copies of us. They think and act independently from us. As parents we experience this independence when they are two years old and will experience it even more strongly as they move into the teen years. Moving away from home brings new challenges as we learn to speak into their lives very differently than we did when they were under our roof. Parents of adult children find themselves in a very unique position. It is important to learn to give advice when asked. And, it is very encouraging when the advice is actually appreciated!
Growing Up Together With Our Kids
My four grown children could most certainly expose many of the mistakes we made along the way; however, they have each also pointed out those things they appreciated about our parenting. Over the years, we have had our share of heartaches and joys. We have walked with them through choices that would not have been ours. In those times, they have matured and shouldered the responsibility of those choices. We have also celebrated with them in times of great accomplishments and joy. We have learned to accept that they are on their own journey just as we are on ours. And throughout their lives, we have had to place them again and again into the hands of our heavenly Father.
As they have grown through the years, we have grown as well. We have witnessed their character develop, their integrity strengthen, and their respect for themselves and those around them deepen. We are changed people because we have been parents. And now with grandchildren, the journey continues! Throughout this entire process of parenting, the MOST important thing I have had to remember is that no matter where my children might wander, they are never out of the reach of God. And I am never out of God’s reach either!
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38,39.
Family & Friends Coordinator
In 2005, Jill and her husband Steve began attending WGA’s support group when one of their adult children disclosed their same-sex relationship. They began participating in the Friends and Family group and over time joined the leadership team. Steve and Jill have been married for 38 years; have 4 adult children, and 8 grandchildren.
Jill joined the leadership team in 2007 and started serving as a volunteer staff for the Friends and Family group in 2010. In 2010, she started organizing the semi-annual gathering of Friends and Family activities and other activities such as the 25-year WGA anniversary celebration.
Jill has a BS in Home Economics Education from CSU. She was a licensed teacher for many years. Jill enjoys planning and organizing events, meeting with individuals, and providing hospitality. In 2013, she joined the staff to coordinate the Friends and Family ministry. She is active in leading small groups, discipleship counseling and coordinating the monthly newcomer breakfast.
Make a Difference in Someone's Life
If you enjoy reading WGA’s blogs and would like to show your support, please consider making a donation. Where Grace Abounds is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The majority of services, including support groups and discipleship counseling, are provided free of charge. Your financial gifts help to cover the costs associated with offering a free program to those who seek WGA’s services.