First of all, let me begin with, I am no expert. My upbringing was extremely dysfunctional to say the least, BUT God always redeems what the locusts have eaten and has redeemed my childhood by blessing me with the joyful experience of raising sons. (Joel 2:25, “The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— …You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.”) To that end, I want to be careful and intentional to tell you that any credit, or more appropriately glory, belongs to God for the good things that others see in my sons. Without God’s direction, I would have passed on the generational curses from my own childhood. (Numbers 14:18, ” The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.”) With my oldest about to leave for college, I am feeling those ‘mom only’ heart pains of seeing my little boy go, but that was my job – to raise a man. If you will allow me, I thought I might pass on some things I have learned through the years.
1. Children truly are precious in His sight. They are a blessing and an inheritance from the Lord. (Psalm 127:3, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. “) In other words, I am God’s caretaker of His belongings and that means I am responsible for what I get right and what I get wrong. The main thing is I don’t get to say, “I don’t know what happened to that child.” I am responsible, not the church, for their training in the Word of God with prayer and reading the Bible. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”)
2. Prayer is mandatory. This job is not easy; therefore, I am a warrior, a soldier on this earth and God hears the prayers of mothers. (II Timothy 2:3, ” You therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. “) My sons know that one of my prayers is, “God show me if they are up to no good.” There have been many nights that they wake up and find me praying in their rooms. I pray specifically for their wives who are growing up at the same time and for future generations. Mainly, I pray that they always choose the narrow path. Knowing that few may find it and remain, I ask God to keep them there and give them wisdom according to His will. A book that has been very helpful to me is The Power of a Praying Parent, by Stormie O’Martian.
3. Listening is important and not on my terms. (Proverbs 18:13, “He who answers before listening–that is his folly and his shame.“) It takes time and it usually takes all day with males to “drag it out” in the open before they share what is on their hearts. Numerous times I am dog tired and they are ready to talk at the end of a very long and tiring day. I listen anyway and treasure the times that they share their burdens or sometimes outright silliness.
4. Have their hearts. (Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”) When my son was four, I realized I didn’t really know him. I traveled extensively in my work and dropped him off with my mother. I didn’t have his heart. The person who spent the most time with him did and knew him best. By God’s grace, and a series of what I thought were disasters, I was lead to be a stay at home. This was one of the hardest things I have done in my life. My whole identity was wrapped up in my career and the world really doesn’t appreciate the work of a mom. But, I did it and I have guarded their hearts ever since which means I am careful about who pours in to the life of my child. Unfortunately, we have to be very careful in church settings because this is a very vulnerable place where we should be able to let our guards down, but can’t. Needless to say, we tried youth group and decided that learning from their peers or a thirty year old who dresses and acts like them would not be God’s plan for learning how to become a man.
4. Fear is a healthy thing! (Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. “) “I brought you into this world and I can take you out,” and I meant it with all my being when it came to keeping their commitment to the non negotiable in their lives: lying, cheating, cussing, tattoos, to name a few. This is not abuse or punishment by beating, but healthy fear from respect that keeps them in line and they will test that line time and time again. One son told me, “get off my back”, at five years old. I calmly took his little collar in my hands, placed my face as close as I could and still move my lips to say,” I will never get off your back.” Now that they are taller than me by a few feet, I just say, ” you may be taller but I have crazy on my side.” They knew if they acted up their punishment would be swift and just. Please know that I did not use physical punishment all the time. There were time outs and creative punishments like pulling weeds or scrubbing toilets that worked even better. I always explained why afterwards but did not place anything up for discussion on their part. I was the parent and still am.
5. By all means BE a helicopter parent. One of the travesties in the public education system is the favored term ‘helicopter parent’ meaning one who hovers in the life of their child. To those teachers, feel free to give me your number so that I can call you when they are in the emergency room, out of money, broken-hearted or just plain sick and puking in my hands because there is just nowhere else for it to go. Here’s another travesty in our society: ‘your eighteen and grown’ so make your own decisions. The most crucial decisions made by my sons are from 18 to 22. We didn’t send our oldest off to college at eighteen. He started a junior college at seventeen, lived at home and now is transferring as a junior to finish up at a university about an hour away. What college, what degree, finances, and who they marry are all things that will affect them for the next three-quarters of their lives. I won’t be making those decisions, but will definitely prayerfully provide them with experience and insight. When they marry, my job is done and they belong to their wives. If I am blessed, I will have daughters that will fill that empty place in my heart for the girls I never had. I am praying that I have a good relationship with my daughters-in-law and know that means I am to bud out. (God, help me! ) (Matthew 19:5, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.”)
6. Work is balm to a man’s soul. (Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,”) Early on, if something was broken in our house and required calling a repairman, I encouraged my sons to fix it with the caveat that if they couldn’t we would be calling someone anyway. With the internet and trips to home improvement stores, they usually fixed it and learned valuable skills or at least what not to do in some cases. Having a purpose in their work was always important and being solely responsible for something getting done not just once, but as their permanent job, gave them responsibility. Having the right tools is important too; and, we would give them as Christmas presents or buy them from garage sales. Having a plan and all the details of the project gave them something to look forward to and think about. Mundane jobs like scrubbing the toilet, taking out the trash, emptying the dishwasher, mowing the lawn are just as important so they know that participating in their own household makes sense to everyone’s well-being.
7. Food is the way to a man’s heart. (I Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”) My neighbors used to ask how I could I get my boys to work so hard. I wasn’t joking then and I am not joking now — feed them — it works. Along the way, make memories of holidays and special occasions with the food you cook. My father is seventy-four years old and still talks about the food his mother cooked. My husband is the same way. Some of the best hugs I have received have involved a thank you for the meal they just ate. FEED THEM with food you cook.
8. Love is all that matters and it really is about the simple things. When the boys talk about memories we share, they aren’t talking about the stuff I bought. It was the simple things like skipping rocks, going to the library, playing hide and seek, laughing our heads off, silly rhymes, games, picnics, long walks, and all the free things in life. Sometimes it’s little acts of love like clean clothes and meals; but, most of all, knowing that I love them instills respect and honor from them to me and back again. (John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”)
9. Forgiveness is so much easier when you apologize. I have been wrong and messed up more than a few times, but I try to correct myself immediately and let my sons know that I was wrong and I apologize. They were taught to say, “I am sorry, please forgive me”, with meaning from their hearts. This is important on. many levels of life and can make all the difference on moving forward or getting stuck on a mistake. I am not perfect, but I try will all my heart. (Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”) Easier said than done, but necessary.
10. Gratitude for the mercy of God and the privilege of parenting is the last, but certainly not the least. I hesitate to state all these things without mentioning that I don’t have it all figured out and I am counting on God’s mercy to see me through, but I am so very grateful that he allowed me just this little while to raise sons for they truly are a gift. It pains me to think of giving up a son and can only imagine the love of a Father who gave up His Son for us. If I can capture the minutest speck of that love, and pass it on to my sons to pass on to theirs, then I will have the mercy of God. (John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son and whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”)
To God Be The Glory…