This is the first of a six-part series on raising older children. The blogosphere is filled with articles on baby mommies and busy life with toddlers. As a young mom, these adult voices are often much needed. These blogs can be helpful resources and create a sense of community, too. However, it is intriguing to note how few blogs are dedicated to being a mama of these little ones when they grow older.
While we see this as a significant need to blog about, the problem is that we here at re:flect-I are far from experts. In fact, we are currently in the trenches--the good, the bad, and the ugly. How ugly? Well, as messy as poo diapers and projectile vomiting can be, I would venture to say that the messes of older-children parenting can, at times, be worse. No, they're not usually physically worse, but emotionally...well, older-children parenting can sometimes make memories of explosive diapers seem sweet.
These messes don't negate the joy of parenting, though, nor the opportunities to glorify God and grow spiritually. It's all part of life and that's what this series desires to address---the part of life when our little kiddos grow up, make their own choices, and become independent humans!
So, we go forward in writing this series, but we go with great humility. We don't have this figured out. In fact, we're far from it. Being in the trenches makes you utterly dependent upon God every day. Each child is different and we learn much with experience. May God be the One you see in this series, not our sins and mistakes--not even our successes. May His Holy Spirit give you strength and wisdom regardless of the age of your children.
Following The Formula
Human nature is such that we are tempted by formulas. Just give me the numbers, I'll plug them in, we'll get the answers. There are many reasons why following a formula is enticing. With a formula, I don't have to think, I can just do. With a formula, if I do this then I'll get the result I want. And, with a formula, I'm in control.
In all reality, when our babies are babies we ease into our days by following...formulas. Baby wakes, we change her diaper. With a fresh diaper, baby is ready to eat. After feasting, baby is ready for a snooze. Repeat three hours (or so) later, and so on and so forth. Fast forward a few years and we get into another routine with school and other daily activities. Follow the prescribed formula, achieve success. But at some point we need to realize that we need to think beyond the formula.
A formula may give you answers, but it can't give you heart. Even if you are disciplining a young child, you can't just follow a method if you want to help her at the heart-level. But, formulas are tempting. If I do 1 and add 1, then I'll always get 2, right?
When The Formula Is Wrong
I've homeschooled my children at some point during each of their educational experiences. Over the years, I have found that there are many plans to follow, rules to create (example: "The 21 Rules of This House"), things to do, things NOT to do...and there are many forerunners in home education who share their experiences in all of these areas. It is awful tempting to do the same things other moms did when we learn that their children became entrepreneurs at fourteen, graduated at sixteen, and started Harvard soon after. Or we want to follow the same devotions that family did when we learn that their child remained pure and devoted herself to her future groom and mission work. If I do what they did, I will get the same result...I think.
But, there will come a point when we can no longer direct our children which way to turn or make them choose the correct answer. They grow up. They want more and more independence (and this is right and good). They need practice making their own decisions. But, if we don't realize this then we will continue trying to make our children follow our formula. They will resist and we will become frustrated. The relationship will be strained to say the least.
Maybe worse would be if our children did not resist. Should our grown children continue following our formula, they will become stunted and unable to make their own decisions. (And maybe living in our basement playing video games until they're 50.)
The formula, though, is a lie. It woos us to believe that we just need to follow it and then we will receive our desired result. Want a Christian kid? Just follow the right steps and grown kid will love God. Maybe...and maybe not. In following a formula, we have forgotten one important thing:
GOD IS SOVEREIGN.
It is God who is at work in our hearts. He directs our paths. He draws our children to Himself. We must be faithful in parenting biblically (we need to know and understand the Word to do this), but we must submit to God's good plans for our children. This may mean that two godly couples parent their children in Christ-honoring ways (it goes without saying that they are all sinners who will make mistakes) but one family may have a child who rebels, while the other has a child who steadily loves the Lord. While I maintain that God is faithful to His covenant with His people, I have no idea how He will go about drawing the hearts of my children to Himself. This may mean our children need to experience some intense trials. Maybe they need to sin in big ways to see their utter need for a Savior.
Whatever it takes, however messy it gets, Lord, guide me in this big-kid parenting journey. And, no matter how much You deviate from my formula, may the result be that You grant my children hearts of flesh that are tender to You.
Maybe this is your prayer as well? What a great joy to know our children are walking in the truth!