I sat in the quiet church waiting, as I have nearly every week of my life. The front was set up beautifully. The music played quietly. The people all sat motionless, waiting. But unlike all other weeks, my thoughts were racing. I wasn’t here for the usual church service. I was here for a wedding. This was not just any wedding, but the wedding of my first born child. He walked me down the aisle to take my seat at the front and whispered his encouragement along the way. He was really hoping I wouldn’t cry too much, so I thought I better do my best to keep my emotions from flowing out my eyes! Instead, I just mumbled my quiet words of love and support for him and kept wanting to say, “Slow down, please don’t move so fast!” I honestly don’t remember the faces in front of me. I was just keenly aware that the boy racing through my memories was now a man, with me by his side.
I just wanted to cherish every moment that was coursing through my memories.
Now here I sat, eyes focused on him at the front as he stood by the pastor. He had already seen his beautiful bride as they took photos before the ceremony. He had told me moments before that they had already been a bit emotional as they prayed together, and after four hours of being together for pictures he didn’t think he would get emotional for the ceremony. But now he stood at the front of the church and I could see the anticipation building as he stood taller and prouder than ever before. While I could see the figure of the grown man ahead of me, I also had these clear images of the little boy that had stood on the lid of a toilet and danced to cheer me up, sat on the toilet lid and prayed to ask Jesus into his heart, high fived me after his first soccer win, and proudly held his sign to campaign for elementary student council. I recalled the joy and smiles I had seen as he’d walk off the field after quarterbacking his team to a victory, walk from the court after a state basketball game, deliver his salutatorian address at high school graduation, welcome six siblings, and even receive his bachelor’s degree from college. None of those smiles had even compared!
He watched as the wedding party made their way down the aisle. His special friends and two of his brothers stood in line behind him now as groomsmen. Our two youngest boys made their way down the aisle as ring bearers, and then it was as if time stood still for just a moment. All these memories kept rushing through my head. A myriad of emotions flooded my mind, and I wanted to run and hug him and declare my deep pride and joy in who he had become. Instead, I looked ahead and saw a man, a man whose smile was genuine and excited. A man whose eyes were dancing with delight and were tearing up with a love he couldn’t possibly contain. This, yes this is what a mom wants to see at the end of all those mothering days!
His bride appeared, and he began to cry tears of happiness. Truth be known, many eyes began to cry, including every one of his groomsmen! The love in that room was real and alive! It inspired those who had watched it grow from the beginning, three years prior, and it inspired those who were getting their first glimpse. There was no denying the love these two possessed and their eagerness to share life with each other.
Tears filled my eyes as I looked with pride upon the young lady that had captured his heart. I felt such love and gratitude that my son had found the one he would share life with. I felt a tremendous excitement that the two could finally be together as husband and wife.
The day of rehearsal and the day of the wedding, I was surprised by the emotions that filled my soul. I couldn’t believe how my mom mind raced through a lifetime of memories with him. I often found myself deep in thought and missing a response as someone waited. But I found myself working through three questions in particular. These three things kept coming to mind. I decided these might be three things worth sharing with other parents as a way to evaluate where we are in our parenting journey. After all, waiting until the wedding day to ask might be a little late! And I don’t know about you, but some days in mothering, it is hard to imagine the end of our focused parenting efforts. Not that we quit parenting when they become adults, but there is a shift in our roles when they are official adults! And maybe it is worth taking some time to inventory our efforts along the way. In this way, we can adjust our approach and perspective to be more effective in the long run!
So with this in mind, let me share the three questions I found myself asking as I watched my grown child become a husband and the questions I will continue to use as I inventory my approach for the next six children I’m raising into adulthood as well!
1. Did I love him so deeply he will always know it?
As parents, we can easily get caught up in the daily tasks and challenges of making things run smoothly.Busy schedules can cloud our perspectives and heighten our expectations. We can easily forget to connect at a soul level with our child. Are we pushing ourselves as parents to love them in a way they relate to? Click To Tweet
Are we connecting with our words, our actions, our time, our hearts? I remember learning about the love languages and trying to figure out what each child’s language was. Then I made a conscious effort to communicate not in the language that came easiest for me (because that was my language) but rather in the language that they heard and understood. If you have never learned about the Five Languages, I strongly recommend the book. For some quick insight into your child, take the quiz found at ParentingWithPersonality.com. And you might find this cheat sheet on Your Child’s Love Language helpful as you seek to connect with them at a deeper level.
I remember hearing a story about a church that gave a jar of pennies to the parents of children being dedicated. The jar contained as many pennies as days that child would spend at home (an average of course!). They really wanted each couple to have a clear visualization of the time that they had to invest in this child and truly use those days well. What if you had a clear image of the pennies left in your child’s jar. Would you be shocked to find that amount that has already been used and what remains? Think about it…at age nine, your child’s time at home is likely half over! And I can attest to this, by the time your child hits junior high and high school, their time at home is significantly less. Their investment in time and activities has them sleeping at home, but not home near as much to spend time with their family! So can I encourage you today, even as a weary mom or tired dad that you imagine the time with your child as passing and remember to enjoy each moment! The days may seem long, but the years are truly short! And at some point you honestly, wish you could push the rewind button and enjoy some of those years again! I promise!!! ?
3. Did I teach him the things I needed to?It is both helpful and necessary to question ourselves in our parenting. But it can also be detrimental if we allow those questions to intimidate, discourage, or immobilize us. Click To Tweet
This one was really tough! This one kept floating through my head with a little guilt attached. I don’t know about you, but I hate guilt. It never leads me down a positive path as a parent.
So I did what I have learned to do when I get derailed by feelings of guilt or inadequacy. I decided I’d allow myself to focus on a few things that might be helpful or constructive as far as making adjustments to my approach or future and then I’d have to come to a point of resolution, so this didn’t eat me alive! It takes a conscious decision to use those initial feelings as a motivator but not let them become powerful over us. But it is key to parenting and self evaluation!
I allowed myself to discuss some of these thoughts with my son. That of course was a meaningful conversation. I also talked about it with a good friend and my mom as well. Then, simply because I am a writer, I sat and wrote a blog post about it!! LOL!! Don’t worry…that’s not necessary!! I came up with five things I hoped I had taught him and then thought about how I would use those points in raising the next six kids!
Then, I had to resolve myself to let these things go. I didn’t want to miss out on all the special memories of this time by being hard on myself or caught up in self evaluation or guilt. So I began to talk myself through the fear that I hadn’t. And it sounded a little like this:
“Well, I have given my heart to raising this child into a godly man. I have loved him with all that I had to offer. Yes, there are some days I wish I could have a do-over on, but overall, I choose to believe that I did the best I could do. I taught him some valuable things. We laughed a lot. We learned a lot. We connected in a meaningful way. And the truth is…I didn’t get it all covered. But God DOES have it covered. He is more than enough for my child whether adult or child. And as much as I love him…God loves him even more! So I will choose now to embrace this new step and role in his life and give it my whole heart as well!”
Self evaluation can be useful. Taking inventory of where we are as parents can be helpful. It is important though that we don’t let this process lead us down a path of insecurity, doubt, discouragement, or despair. At times, we get caught in a trap of thinking because of distorted thought patterns. You might also find this downloadable tip sheet on changing difficult thoughts helpful. Sometimes we have to learn a process to getting our thoughts under control. If this is something you find challenging, you might like this cheat sheet with three clear steps to do just that! We often hear people talk about changing our thoughts, but they don’t necessarily tell us how! These will be three easy to follow ideas for you to put to use right away!
Many times, in the parenting journey, whether in the beginning as a new parent, or facing the toddler or teen stages (yes, they have some similarities), and yes, even in our final stages of parenting an adult child (with twenty-two years of parenting under our belt), we can struggle through self-reflection, evaluation, or just getting on track with our perspective. Getting stuck in doubt, guilt, or insecurity will only keep us in an ineffective place. I encourage you to take hold of your thoughts, and decide where your thoughts will lead you. Click & Tweet!
It’s worth the time and effort to figure this parenting tool out. It has helped me a lot over the years (and many journeys through guilt and doubt!! LOL!!) and will continue to. Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful as well!
Now hold on to those little ones, just a little closer tonight. Before you know it, they will be grown into adults and you too, (yes you!) may find yourself wishing for a rewind button! Take time to make the most of every moment!
Let’s do this!