Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Letting Go

Like most people, before I had children I had some naive beliefs about what kind of parent I would be. I was even so bold in my ignorance as to voice some of my asinine opinions aloud. I was always spouting off random bits of stupidity like :

"My child will never walk around with a pacifier in it's mouth."
"My child will never run around all dirty and sticky like an orphan"
"My child will never shout at me"
"My child will eat what I put on their plate." God must have really had a chuckle at that one.

And, like most people, I had children of my own and my idealistic bubbles burst one by one.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

Until I was left with nothing but the knowledge that parenting requires grace. Lots of grace, both in the giving and receiving department.

And some humble pie.

However, one misconception that I unknowingly managed to hold on to over the years, was the belief that wild trouble-making teenagers were the result of poor parenting. Whenever I heard of these kids, or saw them when I was out, my mind immediately went to the obvious deficiencies of their parents. They must be too lenient or give too much freedom. They must be too pampering or uninvolved. Their child must not have been raised in a home with strong morals, in a house that loves God. Because deep down I still believed that good parents had good kids. Plain and simple.

You would think I would have learned my lesson with the pacifier thing.

Over the last year - as I have been unable
to pray
or love
or punish
or beg
or micromanage
or bribe
or homeschool
my teenage son back onto the right path - that belief has crumbled as well. Or maybe my belief in myself has, chiseled away by my own damned impotence. Because either it's all completely out of my hands, this raising children thing, or I wasn't the parent I thought I was.

And whichever truth is valid, I can not help but be heartsick. And angry.

And no I haven't given up hope for my boy. I know that a troubled youth doesn't disqualify him for an abundant, successful life someday. But I have given up believing that there is anything I can do that will make much of a difference at this point. And that powerlessness, it makes me want to scream. Because I want something to do. Some way to fix this.

Something besides just pray. Did I really just type "JUST PRAY"?

So obviously there is a lesson in this for me. A lesson about letting go, and giving this up to God. About believing He can do what I couldn't, what I have failed at so completely. But it's a lesson I am fighting tooth and nail. Because fixing it is what I do. And not being able to, it just plain hurts.

Because I'm his mom.

Because, Lord, I'm his mom.

I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.
Psalm 59:16


painted maypole said...

I will pray for you, too. And Joy, you may not be able to fix it, but don't stop being there for him, doing what you need to do as a loving parent. Because while it may not change what is happening NOW, it very likely will change how he looks back on this later in life... whether that is 6 months or 6 years from now. Don't give up on him or on you. Your willingness to fight for him will matter.

karen said...

I was that teen, at least if you ask my mother. One way or the other, I believe Brandon will also find his sustainable place in this world - he just has to follow his own path to it. Trust your faith...and your parenting. Regardless of how little it may seem so now, your lessons really are wedged inside him and they will hold him up along the way.

Laurel Wreath said...

Me too, me too.... I have a 13 year old. I know what you speak.....praying for you. Oh I relate to the post to well. I think God gives us teenagers JUST to make sure we don't have one ounce of pride left.


bubandpie said...

Oh, Joy. At first I was cheering wildly, because that theme of unlearning all the parenting "expertise" of our pre-child days is a favourite of mine.

But when I got to the part about your son, it stopped me cold. That's so hard. But I can't help thinking that your ability to recognize that this isn't your fault and it's not something you can fix has to be so incredibly brave and valuable.

It also seems to me like a glimpse into the heart of God.

Don and Lynn said...

Keep on keepin' on! Don't stop whatever you're doing, even if it doesn't seem to be helping. YOU know it's the right things to do and somehow, someway, someday, Brandon WILL look back and see how much you loved him. My parents rode my brother's butt all the way to the point where he walked out the door with his knocked up girlfriend and moved to TX. All at 17 years old. It must have worked even if it didn't look like it then. He now has a beautiful family, four wonderful girls and is a wonderful, responsible, Christian man. They didn't give up on him or on their parenting skills. I'm sure they were feeling the same way you are now. Brandon is covered in prayer and there's no escaping that!

slouching mom said...

Oh, Joy. I'm sorry. Hormones. They're a bear. The teenaged years are simply to be gotten through, or so they say...

Time will surely make a difference.


Chrissy said...

I have caught myself thinking the same thing about wayward teens, dreading the day when I may have to deal with that myself.

Stay faithful. Keep praying. Keep trying. Keep on doing what you know is right. He will get through this, one day. He will be a successful adult and one day will thank you for your perserverance. Probably not any day soon, but one day.

Until then, you are in my prayers.

AmandaD said...

Maybe you are "fixing" for the future. He's going to figure it out, do it himself, and know that he has both his mama and his self.

Chaotic Joy said...

Lynn-Nope, not giving up. I hope noone read this and thought I was going to stop parenting. I'll keep praying and doing what I feel lead to do, (Love and consequences mostly) just as I always have. It's just that for the last year or two I have believed if Shane and I just found the right parenting method, we could get him off this path he is on, and I no longer beleive that. This is apparently a road he has determined to travel. And how long he stays on it, is in his hands now, his and God's. I still have hope though. Hope for a future. It just can't get here fast enough.

Thank you so much for praying.

Veronica Mitchell said...

When Ruth Bell Graham (Billy Graham's wife) died, there were a lot of stories in the news about the troubles hse ahd with her children. One that really stuck with me was the time she locked her son Franklin in the trunk of her car to keep him from seeing his drugdealer - she was that desperate and out of options.

So parents of all kinds go through this, even famously faithful parents. Our children are people with their own ability to choose, and sometimes they choose the wrong thing, sometimes for a long time. I'll pray for you and your pain today.

Don and Lynn said...

Joy, for sure I didn't sense you're giving up. I just got the feeling you could use some encouragement. Any parent of a teen can use that from time to time. You're right, for some reason this is a path that he has to take. Some teens just have to for some reason. Maybe God does this to build our, as parents, faith in Him. Who knows, it's just as confusing to us as it is for the teenagers and all their raging hormones, etc. All teens give their parents a hard time in one way or another-a users manual would be nice! For sassing, see page 10; for staying out past curfew, see page 13; etc, etc. Unfortunately one doesn't exist. Probably because lots of times nothing you do will work and anyone who's ever had a teen knows this. No advice here, just lots of sympathy and prayers, oh and (((HUGS)))!

Kyla said...

Oh Joy. I am sorry. I wish I could give you a great big hug.

This is the part of parenting I fear. The growing apart, the pushing away, the deliberate choices to make mistakes. We all go through it to some extent...but to be on the parenting end. Ack.

This line from B&P's comment, "It also seems to me like a glimpse into the heart of God." really hit me. Even He sent His Son out into the world. Not that it makes it easier for you in these times, but it is good to know your prayers land on understanding ears.

Leslie said...

This is an excellent post: Well-written and thought-provoking.

I don't have teenagers yet, but I can speak from my own experience as a child. My mom was an okay parent. She made tons of mistakes. She did a lot of things right. And, might I add, I did not grow up in a "Christian" home. The deciding factor for my fate rested entirely upon our gracious, powerful God. So, even though I'm trying to raise my own kids in a biblical way, I am not putting all my stock in my parenting. The Bible tells us to put our hope in God! Nothing else. Without a doubt, I believe that God will use your son's conscience and all the early years of your training to speak to him. You're right...prayer is essential.

spaz said...

You guys are doing the right things. If God is our model for parenting, check out Genesis 2 and 3. When He created His first children (Adam and Eve), He created boundaries, gave them plenty of freedom within those boundaries (the only thing they couldn't do was eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil). Adam and Eve disobeyed (as all children do). The first thing God did was seek them out..."Where are you?" he called. He wanted them to think about what they had done (He already knew where they were). After they confessed, He gave them consequences (thanks, Eve, for now women have bad labor pains!). But He also gave them love (he made them clothes out of animal skins since they now knew they were naked). He also put angels and swords of fire at the east gate of the garden to keep people away from the tree of knowledge. He still wanted to protect them.

You guys ARE doing it right. Everyone (not just kids) makes unwise choices. It's just painful to watch your own kids do it. Think of how painful it is to God when we make unwise choices. Reflect on your own life to the times when God has had to "parent" you. How did He do it? Did you "learn your lesson"? Or did you continue to make the same unwise choices?

Just food for thought.

Lori said...

Joy- I know you will never give up! But I also hear your feelings of utter helplessness. I have had those moments of feeling as though I am spinning my wheels, but so far the consequences have not yet been as far reaching as you describe. Parenting older children is such a mixed bag. The rewards can be amazing, because we see the person they are becoming. But when things go wrong, it is that much more painful and scary because the consequences are so much more real, and potentially life altering.

I have no advice, which is the last thing you need anyway. Just know you have my prayers, and so does Brandon.

Lisa writes... said...

You've hit on the most difficult lesson of parenting: there are no guarantees. Ultimately, our kids will choose the kind of life they will lead. Sure, we can give them a solid foundation, but ultimately they answer for their choices. It is that very impotence that is so incredibly frustrating, especially for us women, us moms, who live and breathe to "fix" and "mother" everything.

Leslie's advice is spot on (as ALWAYS--one wise woman, that lux venit gal)--God alone will not disappoint. We must put our hope in Him and pray our hearts out over our kids. May He grant you the peace you seek, and may He turn Brandon's heart toward Himself (only He can, you know).

Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. As always, your reflections mirror much of my own...


Sarah said...

For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 God is faithful and powerful. He never gives up..."He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it..." Brandon will turn out okay.

Letting go is so hard. Know that you are in my prayers.