The Parent Trap
It’s Daylight Saving time- the first REAL spring we’ve had in TWO years. Thanks pandemic panic and worldwide quarantine for stealing spring. Don’t worry I am 100% ready to take the kids on allllll the adventures. Off to the zoo we went today!
I did it again. We all do it. I had some kind of unspoken expectation manifesting in my brain about how beautifully our trip would play out: The kids will be grateful, kind to each other, and awestruck at the beauty of God’s creation as they enjoy this zoo-cation morning. Right? It’s gonna be great. We will Instagram how great it is.
Except I let them bring their own money to spend at the concession stand.
Whyyyyyy? I was hoping they’d decide to just not spend their money and then we could not even go. I’m not a huge fan of spending 7x more money on something I could add to my next grocery order. They happily waited in line for what felt like 74 minutes in the Southwest Georgia sun with their hard-earned cash. We knew what we were ordering and it was finally our turn.
“I’m sorry we just sold out of those.”
Internally I cussed. Externally I used my fake-sounding happy voice to respond, “No big deal!” to the clerk and kids as we scrambled to figure out plan B. They were out of what 4 of 6 kids ordered so that’s fun. With a forced smile and sigh of relief I delivered the treats to the kids. The not-my-kids with us were genuinely grateful and said thank you. My daughter? She gobbled up her ice cream in less than a minute then cried because she said she wished she had ordered a burger. I can’t.
Then as I watch her make the ugly-cry face…I see me. I am she. She is me. Yikes. You get it. I am so agitated that she isn’t grateful and impressively joyful in these circumstances and how dare she have the audacity to announce her dissatisfaction! In public. I am actually more irritated that I do the same thing in a more serious way. Yikes.
“My kids HAVE to do better than me.”
It’s a nagging phrase I recite to myself because it lives deep within me. I have to help them do better. I am terrified they’ll make the same mistakes JUST LIKE I did, and one of my worst nightmares is that they’ll choose to be “even worse.” Am I the only one that feels this way? There’s some equation to solve or parenting formula to follow that guarantees the desired outcome. I can raise more grateful and kinder kids that work harder at the things they pursue, cuss less and trust God more deeply, obey instantly and won’t rebel…too badly. Right? I want to solve said equation.
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” -Ephesians 2:8-10
Isn’t salvation by the grace of God all my kids really need? Why am I so afraid of them being “like me” or “worse?” So what?
In his book Parenting, Paul Tripp exposed me. He explains there are two types of views we can have as parents: ownership view or ambassador view. Parents that have an ownership view function like their children belong to them and the way they parent is driven by what they want for their children and from them. Let me rephrase that. I am being an ownership parent when I am driven by what I want for my kids and from them.
Ambassador view parenting, which does what God intends it to do, begins with the humbling recognition that my children don’t actually belong to me. They belong to HIM. So it’s not about what I want for my kids or from them, but about what God in grace has planned to do through me in my children. It’s about what He wants. He has a plan for them.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;” -Jeremiah 1:5
The kids and I have been reading and studying through Genesis. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend it as one of the easiest places to start reading the actual bible with kids yet also confess it’s a bit like I’m awkwardly reading a soap opera. Messy stuff happens. The dudes God called to trust Him and represent Him and do his will made some pretty shady choices.
Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Cain murdered his brother because he was jealous. Abraham slept with his wife’s servant because she suggested it was a good idea. His son, Isaac, literally lied about the same thing for the same reason his dad did when he grew up. Jacob was deceived into marrying Leah first when he totally meant to marry her sister. If you thought Abraham panicked…Jacob took it to the next level. He actually slept with his TWO wives’ TWO servants – back and forth since his sister wives said so. Hot messes.
There is a common theme in each person’s story. Falling short. Taking matters into their own hands. Panicking. Rebelling. Faceplanting. Call it whatever but when I zoom out from the nitty gritty details of these epic “failures” in Genesis and look at the bigger picture, I see relentless and steadfast love from the LORD toward some messed up humans. It never ceases and I can’t explain it. I see His mercy.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD.”
This story we are reading in Genesis continues on today and my kids are characters written into His continuing story. He is the author here. We had no control over the century in which we were inserted into this story, didn’t pick the color of our skin, or choose the setting. We showed up in America. It is what it is. He is good to the soul that seeks Him. Great is his faithfulness. So why in the world would I keep trying to be an ownership parent when I can’t possibly write a word in this story?
So what is my part? As a not-in-control character in a not-about-me story, how do I be an ambassador type of parent practically? I can’t just say “Jesus take the wheel” and see how the story plays out.
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” -Matthew 6:33-34
This story character – me – HAS to seek the author above all else. I can’t focus on what I want for my kids or worry about what their character may or may not do in the future of this story more than I seek Him or I will be a nut job. Am I on the right path?
“You make known to me the path of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy...” – Psalm 16:11
I want the fullness of joy that comes with being in God’s presence to be a thing in my life. I’d also be a lying character if I said I stay in his presence. Paul Tripp did emphasize one central task that God has assigned my character: creating God-consciousness and God-submission in my children over time.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7
I’d fail within the hour if this aspect of the parenting gig was a do-this-in-your-own-strength kind of command. So I am turning it into a prayer and calling it a day:
Dear God, please help me love you, the Lord my God, with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I pray my kids will do the same. Help me have your word on my heart. I want to teach the word diligently to these children you have entrusted me with so please give me wisdom that I may talk about you in the mundane moments when we are at home or at football or getting ready for bed. Help us to seek the Kingdom of God above all else. Thank you that your steadfast love never ceases and that your mercy never ends. Great is your faithfulness. AMEN.