Raising children is an enormously important part of life. I think one of the most important, or the most important, period. - Eric Braeden
This is the season that we celebrate the new beginnings in our lives, or more appropriately in our children’s life. The very word commencement means start, even though we are also celebrating an ending. Parenting starts when that sweet little face first appears and then the race is on to mold that little one into a responsible adult. This doesn’t just happen when they hit a magical number. This is a building project where you have to lay a solid foundation scholastically, ethically, and spirtually. The best way to do this is with experience. The success of raising and releasing depends on how you parent. If they will always be your baby, that is what you will end up with…an adult child who is not equipped for life. When you are growing a plant from the seed, once that seed is covered with dirt (given the proper environment to grow and thrive) you don’t refer to it as a seed any longer. The seed turns to a seedling and then a tree. Imagine walking up to an oak tree and thinking, this is a cute seed. We just don’t do it. This is a different mindset because we are so enamored with the baby our child once was. The other ugly part to parenting is having children involved in adult affairs before they can maturely handle it - definitely a recipe for disaster.
I recently witnessed a robin family who built a beautiful nest on my patio light. It was a great location because they were protected from the deluge of rain we received this spring and it was high enough to stay out of the way of predators. This particular family had a very attentive mother and father and they took turns caring for the eggs. We (humans) tried to be as quiet as possible when using the back door. I totally understood the need to have your family in a safe place. The day that eggs hatched, there was a lot of activity in the nest - three little baby birds. When we had to pass the nest, the parents would fly to safety, which was a tree close by. They would turn toward the nest and take turns dive bombing you to protect their young. We tried our best to stay out of their way.
One day I didn’t see mom or dad and we wondered what was going on. The parents had fulfilled their responsibility and now it was up to the babies to figure out their way in life. Do you know that birds don’t fly out of the nest? They jump out and are on the ground until they learn how to fly. (There is a sermon in there somewhere, but I will leave that for another day.) When we saw that baby on the concrete, we thought he fell out and needed to be put back. We didn’t want the momma bird to return and dive bomb us…messing with her babies. My dear neighbor informed us that this is the circle of life. He will either find somewhere safe to hide, or be someone’s dinner - the harsh realities of life. I thought how ridiculous it would be to see this whole family trying to occupy this nest that was only designed for 3 eggs. This inspired me to write this post.
Think of your children as adults in training. – Master each grade and seize each opportunity to learn. When my guys were young and would have a moment when they were grumpy, I would ask them 3 questions – Are you being disagreeable, disgruntled, cantankerous? After each question, they would respond yes, with a little pouty face especially when they were still toddlers. I got a big kick out of it because I knew at their age, they didn’t know what cantankerous meant, but I was sneaking a SAT word into their vocabulary. We got the biggest laugh when my youngest told me as a teenager how surprised he was to learn that cantankerous was a real word, but as soon as he heard someone use the word, he knew what it meant.
Leaving is the beginning of living –When my guys were preparing to leave for college, I made a mental list of the things I may have forgotten to teach them. They knew how to wash clothes, we started that in elementary school (sorting colors, folding and putting away clothes are easy and fun lessons). They had been waking themselves up for school since middle school so we were good there. Each had their own bank accounts so they knew how to manage their money. They knew how to iron, but had I showed them how to sew a button on their shirt or how shine their shoes. Their father taught them how to tie a tie. Our dear neighbor taught them how to change the tires on their car. As they came home during breaks, we worked on the other things young men need to know.
Equip them with good decision making – You know you are a successful parent when your child can make good, logic and sound decisions on their own. One day, your son/daughter may have to make a decision on your behalf. This may be scary to think of now, but it is very possible. It could be something as serious as a health issue or something fun like where to vacation or something serious like whose house you are going to for the holidays. Along with making good decisions comes the sense to know how to agree to disagree. We seem to need more of this in our current society. The mother robin spent most of her day sitting on the eggs. Dad was close by, but there wasn’t room for him to sit in the nest too. He was busy holding up his end of the bargain.
So as you send your baby birds off to school, take these few weeks to reassure yourself that you put everything into them that you could. They are ready to take on the world and they are fortified with your prayers and confidence.