It’s interesting that as children we know we have no real power. We depend on what our parents provide, or don’t, whether materially or emotionally. As we grow up, our desire for autonomy has us believe it possible to be in control, to do what we want when we want etc. With maturity and life experience we circle back to the realisation that we have very little influence over the events or people in our lives. There are ways to lessen the impact of that knowledge, sweeteners against the bitterness of that, I suppose, like insurances or cosmetic surgery or elaborate alarm systems or special diets. In truth, all we can control, if we choose to, is ourselves.
I’ll be honest. As a parent, I loved those rare times things went to plan. When I could organise the children without needing to encourage, persuade, cajole or submit a full legal argument. When I was able to meet the simple needs of my children for shelter, warmth, food and affection. As they grow older and some enter the twilight zone of adolescence, their needs are becoming more complex, beyond my capacity. I can’t do it all, provide it all, be the one they come to, confide in, take notice of. I would love to be able to control that, to roll time backwards, perhaps do some things differently.
But now they have other role models. Other adults and peers they listen to and model themselves on. I find myself more often behind that invisible wall separating teenagers from their parents. And there I watch and pray and enjoy the occasional visit, or invitation to sit in their world for a while. That’s on a good day. On all the other days I seethe with frustration because they’ve taken too long to come to the table and my once-hot meal is now congealing on their plates, or because they haven’t shown much interest in my great idea for next weekend or they just move too slowly or don’t want to tell me about their day.
I sometimes worry that I may not have taught them much. Or given them consistent advice. Of course, my advice is not necessarily what they need. I can’t hold their hands forever. Nor can they keep holding mine. Co-dependency is not pretty.
What they do need is to know is that God is only a prayer away, always. I just hope that all the times they’ve heard and seen me calling on God, often in none-too-churchy desperation, and later thanking him, they know that it has been genuine.
This same God, who loves my children too, would have me let go and focus instead on developing self-control, a highly underrated quality. This is easier said than done. Like a lot of stuff in the book. But I’m not in this alone, so I ask for help and try to let him help me.
On a good day.