I parent teenagers. And it’s probably one of the more challenging things I’ve done.
It’s not because the kids are awful, but because after years of working on my relationship with them–snuggling with them, holding their hands, and kissing their skinned knees–I have to let them begin to do their own thing. It’s time to begin that difficult process of letting go, and of giving them the opportunity to make more decisions on their own, or to fail and to face the consequences. It’s hard to watch them fail, and it’s painful to watch them struggle.
Besides the struggle of watching them is knowing that my kids do not often want my advice. Almost never, in fact. Any advice I can give may be met with an eye roll, and “I know, mom!” or “I’ve got this!” But there is a tender moment that comes from time to time, where I may have the opportunity to share with them my experience and wisdom.
From time to time, they will come to me with problems that worry them. A conflict with a friend at school, what to do when there aren’t any vegetarian options in the lunch line, how to talk to a teacher when communication is difficult, etc… Sometimes I can be dismissive, distracted and impatient. But sometimes we hit the sweet spot, when I understand what they need, I know the right thing to say or the right question to ask. Sometimes it’s as easy as sitting on the sofa with them while they cry, or giving a direct suggestion when I know they can handle it. And sometimes, it’s keeping my mouth shut, and waiting for all the things I’ve taught them to come to them.
When Samuel came to Eli in the night, asking his mentor, “Did you hear that?”, it took Eli a few tries before he understood what was happening. God was speaking to Samuel. Eli knew Samuel was special, and now, after years of training and preparing the child, it was time for Samuel to respond. He couldn’t answer God for Samuel. All Eli had to do was remind him of what to say, and then wait.
We often hear this story from Samuel’s point of view. But in the darkness of that night, after Eli told Samuel to respond to God, I wonder what was going through Eli’s mind. I’m sure his pulse was racing, his heart was full of joy, but I’d imagine that he was also a little worried. Would Samuel respond? Would he remember all the things Eli taught him?
As parents, it is our job to train up our children in the way of faith. We do our very best, though it never feels like enough. And then at a certain point, they begin to practice at life, without their hand in ours–they take public transportation for the first time, they take their first babysitting job, they get onto the team they’ve always wanted to join–without our help. And, they respond to God’s call on their lives, using their own words and following their convictions.
This part of parenting feels without a road map. The skies ahead seem grey and murky. But, I have to trust that all the teaching I’ve instilled in them will come back to them in the night. When they hear God’s call, they will answer, whether I’m holding their hand or not.