Sunday, June 7, 2009

Touching Base! Part 41


How many of us who are parents realize that “once a parent, always a parent”? Parenting is definitely not something we do for a season and then “graduate” to the non-parenting season of our lives. I have discovered that once you sign up, you sign up for life, no pencil or erasable ink. The signature is permanent, the task is lifelong, and the prayers are continuous.

One thing that Rhonda and I are discovering is that, on this lifelong parenting track, we have much to learn at every phase. From diapers to playpens, from Sesame Street to Wii, we are learning much as our children have moved through these phases:

We are learning the art of long-distance parenting. Two of our three children live outside of our home, one in Calgary and the other in Ottawa, and our youngest still eats out of our fridge on a daily basis. We have transitioned with the two oldest from nightly mealtime talks, and regular face-to-face exchanges to weekly phone calls and seasonal visits. For us, long-distance parenting has meant not knowing all of our kids’ friends, not knowing everything about their context, and being on the outside when it comes to a lot of their daily decisions. Yet the weekly phone calls and seasonal visits keep us in tune and in touch with how their lives are unfolding. It is interesting (and challenging) to watch them deal with some of the adult issues that come as one experiences life outside of the nest.

We are learning to commit them to the care of the Parent who sees them all the time. I often think how “once upon a time in another land far far away”, my children were totally dependent on me and my wife. We held them, changed them, and decided what they would eat. As they grew, independence became a greater part of the equation, but we still had the final vote on many issues. But now, with two of them out of the house, the fact is that we just don’t have that same degree of influence. They must now fly solo on many issues and we trust and pray that their Parent Who sees all things will help and guide them with many of the tough choices and looming temptations of life.

We are learning that their journey will look different than ours. I left home around 1981, but our kids now are experiencing this transition in the early part of the 21st century. It is fair to say that the world has changed a lot since 1981. And not only has the world changed, but my kids are not me! How they process issues, their career ambitions, their maturity, walk with God and relationships are in some ways similar, but in others very very different. While God is the same yesterday, today and forever, I must prayerfully and patiently realize that their journey will look different. In some ways they may be far more mature than I was when I was their age. In other ways, I was further ahead. I think we have to be careful to give them their space, not preach but encourage and respect the process as being different.

Many who come to Bethel are currently parents. Some are young moms and dads, others have grey hair and are empty-nesters. Why not take a moment in your busy week and pray for parents? It’s a tough job, whether you are changing a diaper or connecting regularly with a grown child who lives miles away. But we are in this for life, or until death do us part!


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