Parenting is nothing like I always imagined it would be.
It would probably take an entire book to list all the preconceived notions about parenting which have been shattered for me over the years. But in this blog post, I’m only going to talk about one of them.
I always imagined that my children would grow up to be exactly like me.
I pictured two socially awkward, bookish children who were terrible at sports but could learn foreigh languages with ease.
I imagined them simply as satellites of myself, enjoyable little mini-me’s.
I envisioned coaching them on how to navigate the awkwardness of social occasions when all you really want is to be alone in your room with a good book. I daydreamed about having constant companions who would love wandering in the mountains discussing poetry with me.
In short, I was euphoric about the possibility of having younger versions of myself available to hang out with me whenever I wanted.
But as you can probably guess by now, the reality is very different.
My children could not be more different from me. Neither one likes to read. They both enjoy playing sports, and are at least tolerably good at them. Neither suffers the pain of pervasive social awkwardness (which is wonderful for them, but it does put another layer of distance between us.) They both believe in God, but neither shows any interest in church involvement.
To sum it up, my children are not, nor ever have been, my satellites or mini-me’s. They are separate human beings, with their own interests, values and beliefs.
And this shouldn’t be surprising. Because even though I had the honor of bringing them into the world and raising them, even though I love them more than life itself, the truth is they are not really my children.
It’s true. My children aren’t really mine. They belong to God.
When you think of it that way, having these children in my life to nurture, teach and care for is a tremendous honor. As human parents, we are the people that God has trusted with His most valued possession. He has invited us to share in this sacred task of nurturing and creating a strong human soul. There can be no greater honor than that.
However, it is an honor that is temporary. It’s only a loan. Eventually these children will leave us and go out to do the tasks that God calls them to do in the world. They may share our values, likes, and dislikes…or they may not. They may make choices we agree with; they may not. They may be people that we enjoy spending time with and would choose as our friends…or they may not. At the end of the day, these things don’t really matter. What matters is that we carried out our sacred task as God’s co-parent faithfully and honorably.
My oldest child is approaching the age of 20 now and no longer lives with me. He does come by to visit once in a while. I try to share some of my hard-earned wisdom with him when I can. But the truth is, he will have to earn his own wisdom, which will be different from my wisdom. God has different lessons for him to learn, because we are different people. My lessons are not lessons. In God’s eyes, my son and I are equals. I am not superior or smarter simply because I have lived longer. We are on the same footing.
My daughter is almost fourteen. The other day at dinner we had a conversation entirely in Spanish. She works hard at Spanish, at least partly because she knows how much I love languages, and she desires that connection with me. She will have her own path in life, but her loving nature will always create such connections for the people she cares about. Sometimes she asks me to intervene in difficult situations with her friends, but I resist the temptation to do so. I want her friendships and relationships to be completely her own.
As it turns out, despite our differences, my children are people that I enjoy spending time with. They are people that I would choose as friends. But more importantly, they are unafraid to chart their own course and seek out what God has in store for them.
And as I near the end of my years as God’s co-parent, I can’t ask for much more than that.