I’ve come to the solemn conclusion that parenting is a life-long endeavor. Many moms and dads eagerly look forward to the last child turning 18. They dream with a quiet joy of an opportunity to have the freedom from responsibilities that totally consumed their lives for nearly two decades. But as reality teaches, numerically turning a certain age doesn’t guarantee that one instantaneously gains all the wisdom required for a lifetime. To all the young adults who at this moment are craving the opportunity to embark on the journey of parenthood; be forewarned. There are no etched-in-stone guidelines that guarantee “grown and gone” by age18 as a certainty. It is both selfish and naive to believe that one could throw a child out into the deep cesspool of life and holler from the sidelines, ‘Swim or sink, kid’ just because they’re considered legal age. I’m saddened by the increasing number of parents who are tossing in the towel on their adolescent children; leaving them alone on the steps of county property to muddle through the shark-infested waters of life without the nurture and support of parents who’ve ‘got their back’. Realistically I can somewhat empathize with the overwhelming feelings that sometimes come with parenting a difficult child. But, in retrospect, thankfully, the tenets of Parenthood 101 don’t allow you to quit because the going gets tough. Unfortunately children don’t enter this world with a fail-proof “how-to” guidebook attached to the umbilical cord. Instead they arrive “as-is” requiring most new parents to rely on gut-instinct and those who’ve journeyed before them to give advice on what to do, how to do it, and even when! But this article is more about children growing into adulthood; and their call by God to honor their parents. I believe to honor means to be respectful of; and is by no means to be confused with the abuse of guilt-laden manipulation some parents selfishly place on their adult children. Once one comes of legal age, he must be allowed to make decisions that align perfectly with his spirit. But with this new freedom comes the inseparable and potentially life-destroying consequences of any choices made. Inevitably some of these choices will conflict with the opinions of parents who have hard-knocks wisdom. As a person with two children of legal age, I can honestly say parents know a lot; but it is completely impossible that they always know what’s best. At some point that knowing has to come directly from within the individual. As a parent it may seem ludicrous to want to go to a mission-field in Peru. But if that’s the call on my child’s life, then in love I must let them go; forever mindful that they are a gift from God, Who is the real owner of this wonderful creation.
I recently had the difficult task of reminding my “growing” child of Ephesians 6: 1-3; where God gives the command to honor one’s parents. And how it was the first of the Ten Commandments given by God that came with His promise of a long and prosperous life as one obeys it.
I give thanks that the ground rules were laid early enough to cement; but sometimes independent living causes one to forget the importance of tossing more than a two-minute shout-out on a manmade day honoring parents, or a mom or dad’s birthday. Recently my son has had the displeasure of knowing firsthand what it is like to be without a job. It’s those times that one realizes, with a crystal-clear acceptance, that parenting is for life. This experience has forced him to do something I’d always hoped while raising him, he’d never have to do: Ask me for money. I always hoped he’d listened well enough to have the foresight to save like there’s no tomorrow; for the time the proverbial tomorrow arrived. I did what any loyal parent would do for a child who doesn’t smoke, drink or do drugs and has worked since his mid-teen years. I sent a financial “care package” with a letter of love from a place beyond myself. I made clear this was an interest-free loan; because I wanted to jog his memory of the old adage I taught him as a kid, without having to say it outright: Money does not grow on trees. Before putting the aid in the mail I pulled together a few lines for his benefit on the importance of honoring his parents (whether deceased or living); and the promise God gives for this obedience.
I didn’t really want to have to remind my growing child of what I know he already knows. But, just the same, I did. Somehow I know in my spirit that I did so more for his benefit than my own. The advice was given more from a spiritual place of ‘it were me falling short and thwarting my blessing,’ I’d want to be reproved. It’s been 48 hours since he received the package. I’ve yet to receive a gratitude of thanks on my answering machine. But in more ways than one, it’s okay. No one ever said humble pie tasted sweet. He’ll come around because right always has a way of wearing us down when we’re wrong. I’ve had enough life experiences to know that most twenty-somethings are busy building a life of their own; and, during this often self-centered endeavor, can easily lose regard for the priceless-ness of a Godly parent. It’s not until Life blindsides them with a hardball and they’ve exhausted all of their “go-to-pals” they assumed would be there for them in times of extreme need; that a twist on the proverbial saying becomes truth: “A friend who’s there in time of need; truly is a friend, indeed.” Oft-times the eye-opening revelation surfaces that a parent in it for the long haul ends up being that friend in-deed. Do I believe doling out money with abandon to an adult is the solution? Nope. I’ll never allow myself to be in a place where my children see me as a bank. For it is then that I risk becoming an idol, a false god of sorts in their life. This is simply a “Do-unto-others” reaction. If it were me on the other side of the coin, I know if he had it; so would I. America is in a “deprecession.” It’s a time for family members to purge their souls of the sinful, ‘I’ve got mine; you get yours’ mentality. I hope the care package tides him over until the tides turn back in his favor. If not, he knows, the door is always open. The light is always on. That, for certain, he doesn’t have to ask for.