“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” Psalm 127:3-5
Today, I put my two oldest kids on a plane to fly away to Ireland. They will be joining with the people of Celebration Church in Craigavon, Ireland in helping to spread the good news of the gospel there. It’s an unbelievable opportunity for the two of them and I am just a tiny bit jealous!
But all parents want great things for their children, don’t they? We want them to have things we did not have, experience things we did not experience. Landon is eighteen and Ryan will very soon be seventeen, as he almost daily reminds me now. My time to parent them is quickly coming to a close, right? My job with them is pretty much done at this point, isn’t it? I know there are days when they certainly hope so.
I do get frustrated when I hear of parents who feel that way. There are many parents who feel that once their child has made to sixteen and holds a driver’s license in their hands, they can breathe a sigh of relief and focus their lives elsewhere. Their job is done, they’ve done all they can. They hope the kid was paying attention, because they’re on their own.
I’d like to throw some cold water on that theory. I want to submit that as our kids grow into their late teens and even early twenties, they need parents as much or more than they have ever needed us. These are the years where kids make some of the most important decisions of their lives. They are deciding where to go to college, where to get their first job, what career choice to make, where to live and with whom, and whom they will marry.
We stuck with them at the little league baseball field, dragged them to piano lessons, helped them eat right, make good friends, and good grades in school. We were there every step of the way, but the minute their voices drop an octave and they begin to look like grownups on the outside, we dust ourselves off, give them a good luck handshake and move on with our lives? Who said we stopped being parents because our kids turned sixteen? Or eighteen, even? Because Uncle Sam says they are legal? What else do you trust to Uncle Sam to decide for you?
Not to insult our kids, but think back to yourself at their age. Think about just how stupid you were. Think of the decisions you made that you wished someone had taken enough interest in your life to have advised you against. Of course, our jobs as parents, if we do it successfully, is to work ourselves out of a job. Our kids are supposed to be able to handle life on their own one day. One day. But what’s our hurry? We’re tired? Of course we’re tired, but we signed on for this for the long haul.
Eighteen is no magic number. There isn’t something magical that happens to our kids on their eighteenth birthday. Now if they are thirty-five and still living in your basement, it might be time to push them out of the nest. But sixteen? Nineteen? Twenty-one? You’re not done yet. Of course things are changing, and bit by bit you have to cut those apron strings, but just don’t cut them all at once, or too quickly. You’ve made quite an investment in that life to pull out too soon.