Two months ago our youngest turned 18. Next month she will finish high school. From many angles, we are done. By the standards of our culture and our legal system, all four of our children are now adults.
This is a huge milestone for most parents and it is for us as well.
Now I am somebody who is always full of regrets. Much more than I should be. It is easy for me to look back and regret so much and, at times, wish I could start over with the wisdom and experience I have now, but with the energy I had then. Sigh.
I was amazed then, when after sifting through all of the regrets I have from my 24+ years of parenthood (and there are, surprisingly, fewer than I would have expected) one regret stood high and tall above the rest.
I regret all the times I caved to peer pressure in what parenting my kids should look like.
I cannot recount to you how many times that I did or said things, not out of a sense of deep conviction or love, not out of prompting by the Holy Spirit, but because somebody out there told me that was what I was supposed to do.
I will never get those times back. And for that I weep.
I will never get back the times that I was harsh or rigid or suspicious, when I held the line (or tried to) in areas that didn't really matter.
I will never get back the times I let my frustration get the best of me, because my children were not living up to my expectations, because somebody out there had painted the picture of what my kids should look like.
Most of all, I will never, ever get back the times when I let the guilt of not living up to the standards of what a good parent should be suck everything out of me so that I had nothing to give to the children in my care.
In trying to live up to others' expectations of what a good mother is, I robbed my children of the only mother they had.
I can't go back. I can't have a do over. And even if I could, I am sure that, in my fearful, spineless, insecure way, I would cave again.
So, instead, I pray that God will redeem those times when I was harsh instead of compassionate, when I was rigid instead of flexible, when I was suspicious instead of trusting, when I was self-absorbed instead of engaged, when I was fearful instead of confident, when I was frustrated instead of patient, when I was indifferent instead of loving.
And I pray that somebody else can learn from me. If you are getting the pressure to raise your child in ways that go against your grain and your gut and in ways that are not prescribed by God himself, then trust the Holy Spirit in your life to guide how you love and raise your own children. Confidently trust that he gave these kids to you and not to those other people out there who seem to have it all figured out.
Don't cave. Be the parent God made you, not the one somebody else thinks you should be.
And to my children, please please know that I am ever so sorry. I am sorry that I tried to stuff you into somebody else's mold. I am sorry for failing to see just how wonderful you are in your own ways because I was too focused on the wrong goal. I am sorry if I gave you a very, very wrong sense of the character of God, because I failed to give you grace when you needed it most. If I could give you back those times, I would. I love you more than you will ever know.