Parenting Transitions

My eldest son started secondary school yesterday. It hardly seems any time since a tiny (1.1 kg/2 1/2 pound) baby came into the world... now said "baby" is taller and heavier than me.

When I tried to wake him yesterday morning, he was (in typical teenage fashion) very difficult to stir... so I indulged myself by holding him for a while as he slept. He's still young enough to look sweet in sleep, and I was reminded of the many hours I had held him in my arms when he was much younger. As I held him, I prayed for him and his first day of school... and sensed God's whisper in my heart "Hand him over to Me".

This whisper reminded of one of M Scott Peck's reflection's about Abraham's sacrfice of Isaac. Peck views this seemingly bizarre account as something of an archetype of what every parent of an adolescent boy is called to do. We are called to "give up our son" to God. God is the one who saves the son, as we surrender our child's life in obedience. Indeed, we damage our children if we refuse to do this, and instead seek to mould them according to our own agendas.

If God has created us all with a unique shape and unique calling (as I believe) the task of parenting becomes to relax a little, and to see what unique shape unfolds in our child's life to the glory of God.

What this will mean for me I can only discover day by day. (For the moment, God's whisper involves holding back from dropping hints about who my son's friends should be... but I assume it will involve holding back on many more issues!)

It is interesting to note how many societies and religions mark the passage toward adulthood in various ways... manhood initiation rites, bar mitzvah ceremonies, confimation, and so forth. The parents (and mothers in particular) entrust their sons to their community for their formation into adulthood. Whether we trust that adult community (especially in the overly peer-focused Western world)... and more fundamentally, whether we trust God in the life of our children... are a somewhat unsettling questions.

What issues to parenting transitions provoke for you? How does faith make a difference? How did your own parents manage "letting go" for good or ill? I'd be interested to hear your reflections.

Comments

AbiSomeone said…
Janet,

I can totally relate ... and have begun to use the word "relax" more and more when thinking of God's love for us. Just relax!

I am trying to get better at asking thoughtful questions rather than telling my sons things. It is a fine line we walk as parents, isn't it?

Just the other day I left this comment over at Jesus Creed
http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2010/01/souls-in-transition-8.html#preview:

I'm working through a book manuscript with my major ministry mentor and it has got me thinking about parenting (especially since I have a teenager now!) ... and I believe the challenge as our children grow toward being adults and followers of Christ is to acknowledge that our relationship is moving from parent/ guardian/ caretaker to brother or sister in Christ.

Once an adult believer, the "legal authority" that goes with responsibility for a minor is to be replaced with a growing sense of mutuality as older sibling. While we will never stop being their "parent", in terms of being the one who bore and nurtured them in their youth and all the shared experiences of that process, we will serve them better in their maturity if we show them that we are all followers of Jesus under the "parenting" of God the Father.

This raises the bar for adult Christ-followers to actually put down attempts to control or dominate and embrace the servant nature that Jesus showed us. Something that I would like to see more of....

This basic undermining of patriarchal entitlement is really core to the counter-cultural thrust of Jesus' message ... and it still hasn't sunk in. Too many want to hold on to the power/ honor/ control and don't want to let go and let God be Father ... of us all.
Janet Woodlock said…
Thanks so much for your input Peggy... it helps me begin to find language for something I'm only beginning to intuit...renegotiating how parenting might transition with a teenager compared to with a child. I understand the world of coaching (in fact, I see it as one of my most joyous contributions to God's mission), so this is a helpful metaphor (and practice) for me. I enjoyed the link too.

There have been tears in my eyes tonight missing my boy on camp... sigh, so much letting go...
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Amanda said…
I can't begin to imagine how I am going to cope with letting go. It is one of those things that is so much harder when you have twins - they both reach milestones at the same time!
Janet Woodlock said…
I guess it's a little easier for those of us who are Christians and have Someone powerful and loving to give them up to... Someone who has not only their best but their best eternal interests at heart. Still, it does test one's faith... I nurse that secret suspicion that I would do a better job than the Almighty! And it's one thing to accept some painful circumstances for oneself as part of life and growth... it's quite another to have our children face anything hard. So yes... it's a difficult process.

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