If you’ve known me for long and if you’ve ever had a conversation about parenting with me, it’s likely that you’ve heard me say:
Parenting, at its core, is one grand experiment.
What, you say? Do you not take parenting seriously? Why yes, I say. It is precisely because I take it so seriously that I recognize how desperately uncertain I am. Much of the time.
When the children were infants, it was these questions:
- The baby is crying. It’s 3:00 am. Do I go in to pick him up now? How about now? Now?
- It’s 3:15 am. The baby was crying. I went in to pick him up. What now?
- It’s 3:20 am. I’m exhausted. The baby is awake. Should I bring him to bed with me, so we can both sleep?
And then it was these questions:
- Should the 3 year old watch TV? Any TV? If so, how much TV?
- If school is over at 3:30 pm and Daddy doesn’t get home until 8:30 pm, should the 8 year old be allowed to watch TV after school? Before or after homework?
- How old do they have to be to walk into Downtown with their friends?
Now it’s these questions:
- It’s 2:00 am. The 18 year old isn’t home. I think he’s with his friends. Do I go to bed? Do I tell him to come home? When I speak to him tomorrow, do I tell him he needs to get home earlier? Or do I leave it alone and allow him to make these sorts of choices (and live with their consequences)?
- How much ABC Family Channel is JUST TOO MUCH for one teenage girl’s one summer day?
- It’s 5:00 am. I realize the 13 year old actually hasn’t gone to bed yet. He’s working on one of his videos. He says he’s not tired. It’s summertime. Should I tell him to go to bed, or let him do the thing he’s passionate about?
- She wants to sew a skirt for a friend, as a gift. But she doesn’t know how to sew. Do I buy the fabric and pattern for her, knowing things may not end well? Do I help rescue her when things don’t go well?
As you can imagine, I could go on. But I won’t. I would imagine you’re grateful. I would also imagine that if you are in the midst of parenting, you ask yourself lots of questions. Maybe not exactly like the ones I ask (which somehow seem themed toward things that happen in the middle of the night). But if you’re honest with yourself, I think it’s likely that every single day, you have dilemmas. If I do this, how will this other thing turn out? If I make an exception here, what will be the impact there? If this thing becomes a habit between us, what will be the outcome?
This Spring, our youngest joined the teenagers, so we’re at 13, 15, and 18 right now. With the 18 year old, I am realizing each day how these dilemmas feel so very real, more real than ever before. The dilemmas are about money and values and priorities and commitments and following through on things you’ve said you would do. The dilemmas are about jobs and college and friendships and girls. They’re also about nutrition and sleep and healthy living. Surely, I still get a say in these things. And yet, how much of a say? And how do I say it?
Jen Hatmaker is one of my favorite writers. She’s the wife of a pastor in Austin, Texas. She’s an author and a speaker and a Mom to 5 kids. I love her love for Jesus. And I love her honesty and the way she digs down deep into the stuff of life, the really real stuff. Here’s a recent post from Jen about our yes’s and our no’s. It’s about the dilemmas that are inherent to this journey we are on with our children. I hope you enjoy her little stories and her spirit.
The thing is, I want to be really careful about my No’s. I want to err on the side of Yes’s. Well, maybe not. That’s a dilemma right there. I want to say Yes, though, where I might want to say No because it’s too late or I’m too tired or it just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes friendship and fun and family frolicking don’t make sense. Sometimes grace doesn’t make sense. But if we say Yes, sometimes we discover joy.
This summer, I am leaning into the Yes’s (or is it yeses?). This summer, I am leaning into grace and looking for joy.