One of my children broke my heart the other day. They made a poor choice that really disappointed me. I hurt for them and for the other people involved.
That was not the first time I hurt for one of my very normal, very imperfect children… and I am sure it won’t be the last time.
I’m confident that my children often have no idea how their choices and actions affect me as their mom. They certainly pay the major part the actual physical, emotional, and financial consequences, but there is a ripple effect from all they do.
As a parent, I carry part of their experience with me. I grieve the unfulfilled dreams and hopes I had for them. My heart aches for their loss. I cry for their pain. I pray for further growth and maturity. My soul yearns for their forgiveness and healing.
I have learned through my own mistakes over the years that grace is a precious gift to receive during times of pain. My children are usually completely aware of their error; they don’t need judgement, criticism or lectures. They do need to know that – whatever happens – I love them still.
I need grace too. I could beat myself up with self-doubts, guilt and second-guessing. Was there a lack in my parenting that somehow “caused” this? Did I not hug, teach or discipline enough? Although I already know that my parenting is not perfect, it was helpful when a friend reminded me that even God – the perfect Father – has imperfect, mistake-ridden, continually erring children. Our situations are very rarely simple cause and effect. Each one makes their own choices.
In the midst of the ups and downs of life, my (almost adult) children need me. Some times they need someone to listen; other times then need a long, strong hug. Some times they need practical help; some times they need me to “just” pray and give them time and space to work things out. Some times they need advice, counsel and the encouragement to reconcile, restore and choose better the next time.
…because there will be a next time. I would do almost anything to protect my children from pain. When they were very little, I could fool myself occasionally into thinking that I could control their environment and choices. I know better now.
The question is not IF my children will avoid poor choices and pain. Instead WHEN they are hurt and hurt others, the question is HOW will I respond?
How do you respond to your children’s (or others’) poor choices? What helps you respond well?
My children aren’t adults yet, but teens. Just recently, I reacted with a controlling, condemning command when one of my boys made a decision I didn’t agree with. But, after reflecting on why my reaction didn’t sit well with me — and praying and talking it over with my husband — I decided to tell him I was wrong in my reaction and told him that he was free to make his own decision. I wanted him to make a decision that he could live with… and then I gave him space. That night, he sought the counsel of a godly young friend, and made a decision that was more in keeping with what I thought was best. It was the first time that I know of that he truly sought the counsel of a friend. I can’t believe I almost robbed him of the joy and NEED of finding trusted friends to help him navigate life. It was a lesson for me in trusting him and God — I don’t need to live in the allusion that i control anything.
Hey Julie! It was great to chat just a bit the other night. Sounds like you are learning great lessons. You are a great mom!
I have been so grateful over the years for the special “mentors” that my children had in their lives; they can be such an incredible blessing as our children learn to make their own decisions.
I think you wrote this for us this week! Thanks for the encouragement! Can’t say as we’ve come through the current fog enough to comment with any wisdom, but we’re trusting in Father’s love and goodness even in the midst of pain!
Hi Ron! I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been through a painful week… but I trust with you that God will redeem and restore! We love you… and hope for an opportunity soon to visit together again!
It is difficult to watch one’s adult children make choices that are disappointing. I do three things: first I pray for them and for myself. I always pray that they encounter the God who is, who was and who will be in a very personal way. They know the facts around the gospel, they were taught well but they always need a personal encounter with God in life. Second, we talk with them about their decisions. This is not a pedantic time it is an inquisitive time. We offer a view point, hear their and exercise understanding of their perspective. This is not always easy, one of my sons once said he did not want to talk about a decision he determined to make…I kept asking questions until the conversation spilled out. This also includes asking forgiveness when the conversation reveals specific actions I did that disappointed them or hurt them. Parenting is such a risky business. Third, I ask a lot of questions and listen. I don’t always know the complete circumstance of my adult children…I don’t know all they have been through or what they have experienced outside my awareness. I practice an attempt to understand their situation…like I do with strangers. It is odd at times feeling like I know my children intimately and not-at-all simultaneously. The fact is that I know them in a microcosm of their development and that doesn’t totally apply to where they are at today.
I get what you are saying…the parents I know get it too.
Thanks, Ray, for your wisdom, empathy, and encouragement. No, it is not easy. We know that God has allowed us to be parents because of what He can teach US through the experience! We are grateful for the wonderful children we have… and hope to guide them to HIM.