“When you become a parent you’ll understand.”
Most of us hear this infamous prediction as teenagers. It typically comes on the heels of what we feel is some great injustice to our independence and the ability to express ourselves as soon-to-be-adults. We twist our mouths as if sucking on a lime, mutter a reply we wouldn’t dare say loud enough to hear, and stalk away swearing to never be so misunderstanding of our own offspring when we grow up to be parent of the century.
Then, the inevitable happens.
We become parents…and we understand.
Almost nothing sparks my anxiety like thoughts about my children and their futures:
- Will they be safe?
- Will they make good choices?
- Will their character look the same away from me as it does in front of me?
- What about their relationship with Christ? Will it be true and not just the outward, surface stuff?
- And uh…are arranged marriages really all that bad?
The list is endless. And though my personal world brightened and expanded with the arrival of each child, my eyes were opened to the much more sinister side of the world that parents see and know-everything teenagers don’t. And that’s a frightening thing to behold.
But to parent in fear is not an option. So, growing from new mom to wiser mom, to mom who understands, I’ve learned to shower my children with the fun side of love:
- Planting kisses like it’s target practice
- Putting the smack-down in Monopoly (and yes, I play to win)
- Late night weekends of Super Mario and experimenting with baked goods
- Afternoons of indulging in their particular interests
But I’ve also learned not to neglect the difficult side to love:
- Saying “no” when it’s necessary,
- Dishing out hard-earned discipline (can I get a “whew!”)
- Stepping aside to let them learn from an experienced mistake what a lecture won’t teach them
- Trusting them to make age-appropriate decisions and accomplish more on their own
- Taking the risk of being disliked for a day–or even a time–when to be liked would mean to permit something not in their best interests
It’s definitely not an exact science, and what works for one child might get you laughed at by another. Not to mention even as an adult you still don’t know everything and will make mistakes along the way. But when your kids know they’re loved, even if they don’t agree with your choices, they’ll learn not to resent the love that motivates how you parent. And eventually, they too will understand.