Thoughts on my oldest child turning 17…

My oldest child will turn 17 shortly. This is the age that I gave birth to him . This is also the age my mother gave birth to me. This feels like a pivotal moment in our story for reasons I think they remain elusive. Shining bubbles, too high for my grasp.

However I do have some thoughts of mothering in general that I would like to share , as well as a few thoughts on the process.

1) My highest honor and my greatest privilege is being a mom. Yes, even now that he is 17 years old. And he’s nearly grown. In some ways now more than ever.

When I was a child all I ever wanted was to be a mom. And yet that was not an acceptable answer in the 90s. When people asked you what you wanted to be when you grow up , you were supposed to say that you wanted to be a career woman – red leather briefcase, mobile phone, and power suits. You weren’t supposed to say that you wanted to spend your time caring for your family and home.

However being a mom is more than living out a childhood dream for me. Being a mom has been dying to myself in a myriad of ways for these little, and now not so little , people.

Being a mom has been a journey toward health and healing that was spurred on by my children. By the desire to provide my children with a stable and loving home. My children have taught me as much as I have taught them.

I’m grateful to be their mama.

2) This point may come as a shock. But I don’t regret my teenage pregnancy. Ben was the best thing that ever happened to me. And I wouldn’t want do- over.

I do have regrets but Benjamen has never been one of them.

Now , do I wish that Zach and I had waited until marriage to have sex? Of course I do. I would be a wretched fool not to. I wish we had been able to come to our marriage completely pure.

I certainly desire better for my children, and we often have rather frank discussions around this topic.

They know their parents dis not do things in the right order. But I’ve also made sure over and over that my son knows he is not a mistake. The mistake was on his father and I. He was an undeserved blessing, a grace given from God. A gift to two stupid teenagers , that we certainly did not deserve.

And , a bit more personally and selfishly , Ben was the impetus for my personal healing .

Healing started with him. And I am so grateful for God who loved me and Zach enough to grace us with a blessing we did not deserve.

3) My children are not content. I became a mom right around the height of the mommy blogging years.

From the beginning I have only sparingly written intimate details or spoken about my children publicly. I have rarely posted their their photos on the Internet. This was all very much and intentional.

After all , early on I was concerned with their privacy , their autonomy , and ability for my children to Craft their own narrative.

This has more to do with personal preference, and I’m not saying you’re a bad mother if you plaster yourself kids face all over social media. This has more to do with what has worked for our family.

Frankly I’m glad that I did not grow up during this age of the Internet. The Internet is forever. We are just now beginning to realize the damage that social media can do. There are many things that have changed with my parenting journey , but my children’s privacy is still important to me and this is still something that matters deeply to me . Perhaps even more so as my children age.

4) My forty thought on mothering is that you will change your mind. Your parenting philosophies will shift. It’s inevitable. This is why it’s vital to build you build your parenting philosophy around God’s word and the principles that are found in God’s word.

I was often frustrated as young mom and my 20s that there aren’t more directions in scripture around parenting.

I know now that this is because while some truths are timeless and for everyone the rest of parenting is highly individualistic. As parents , it is our job to seek God daily , and get His directions and leading ,for how to raise our children. It’s deeply personal and it’s not formulaic.

We have to depend on God’s word instead of men’s parenting formulas.

5) having teenagers is awesome. Don’t let the world influence you on this one. The process of leading your young people into adulthood is an amazing and awesome responsibility.

I enjoy conversations with my teenagers on theology , books , music , and politics. I enjoy them far more than I ever have could have anticipated when we had three little boys under the age of five. At the time, I thought the little years were the best years. I now disagree.

There is a part of this area of raising teenagers that has surprised me , though . It’s the line of where they need us and where they don’t . It feels like it is always shifting.

In many ways even though Ben is almost grown, we still have to reevaluate often.

At 17 , for the most part, he is his own man. He sets his work schedule, his school schedule.

And I trust him implicitly to make a decisions. I trust him to act with integrity.

And yet with all his choices and autonomy he still needs parental guidance. My job is not completely over. He still needs my guidance ,influence and wisdom.

Now he owns the majority of his time and decisions however he’s not quite fully grown yet. It’s a process.

I think when my children were younger I was under the impression that adult hood came all at once.

For our family has been slowly unfurling through through greater and greater responsibility but really the process begin when Ben was about 12.

It hasn’t been instant, it’s been gradual.

6) You will fail your kids. It’s an evitable. I was so caught up on being the perfect mom in my 20s. I would lay in bed at night full of self recrimination. I would beat myself up over every minor flaw from that day. What a waste of precious time and energy. You need Jesus. Your kids need Jesus. When you feel and you will fail apologize appoint them to the one who will never fail them. This is an opportunity to infuse the gospel into your daily life.

7) Don’t overexplain or over complicate matters. I love to explain things. I have a show entitled verbal processing OK. But when my kids were little and occasionally even now I have the tendency to over explain why something was wrong and the correct behavior what they should do next time possible expectations to that rule. Add nausea him. Instead be direct. Be honest. And be brief and your explanations. Here’s a hint if your kids eyes are glazed over than you’ve talked too much on this subject.

8) Number eight it goes hand-in-hand with the fact that our children are not constant. Is that I do not own my kids story. And then I need to be really careful around crafting a narrative for them about who they are or I’m what their individual talents are. Or any of the issues related to this. It’s my job to love raising children. It’s not my job to craft a narrative for their life.

Telling their story explaining their journey that is their prerogative. Which means I don’t get to narrate how they view my job as a parent as well. If I’m honest this aspect is a little terrifying. I don’t get to dictate how they view their time spent at home with their father and I were homeschooling or any of those other related topics. For better or worse my children will evaluate the way that I parented. I hope they know that I do my best. And I hope it was good enough. I hope I prove provided a solid foundation. But I don’t get to dictate how they view my parenting when they are adults. They may wish that we had on sports. They may wish we had moved or homeschooled or done a number of things that we did. I can’t change how they view their time at home. Because I don’t own their story. They do.

9) there are far more non-moral issues than moral ones. When my boys were small I thought this was the opposite. I thought nearly every issue was a moral issue. Now I find myself with my flag planted firmly in the realm of nuance. Now of course I still believe in a right and a wrong. I just don’t believe that clothing, hairstyles, tattoos, piercings, music styles, or book genres necessarily fall into the morality category. They can but they don’t automatically have to. If something deliberately and directly on dishonors God then it is wrong. The end. Regarding his wisdom and creativity has created a world with all kinds of different preferences.

Regards to music art and journal aesthetics many of those issues or just preference. We cannot dictate our child’s preferred style. We actually can but we would do well to consider whether or not if we are taking charge in this area or making an idol of outward appearance. Rather than serving Christ as the main issue. I believe many parents prefer the clean cut look for their children. But it doesn’t make it a moral issue. Your daughter can be a modest in a long skirt with long hair and no make up. Because of modesty is about the heart. Your son can have tattoos and piercings and still be a deeply committed servant of Christ.

Remember what I told Samuel? Man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.

10. I don’t think you ever stop being a parent. I think that I’ve been waiting for the shift of my emotions that has yet to come. When I look at my 17-year-old I still see my baby. I still feel the urge to protect him at all costs. I’m still firmly on his side. Our relationship has changed. I give more advice than directions or commands. I try hard to listen more than I speak. He’s finding his own way. As he should. I applaud and respect that.

But even though my head knows he’s more man than child now, my heart hasn’t quite caught up to that yet. Happy 17th Benjamen. You are a treasure.

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