"You know, you can't stop being a parent. You always worry about your kids, always want to protect them. Especially when you can't."
Once, while we were living in Saudi Arabia, we received a letter from our son, Jared, who was serving as a missionary in the Slovak Republic at the time. In it, he described symptoms of tetanus including rictus and lock-jaw. Oh, I know it wasn't tetanus, because he's alive today, but it must have been pretty bad, whatever it was.
But here's the point: the letter was dated two weeks earlier. As I read it, I knew that my son was either alive or dead - and I had no way of knowing. There was nothing I could do except re-read his words and stare at the wall. Unless you're a parent, you can't understand how truly helpless you can sometimes feel about your kids. A major lesson in the Book of Life is how to deal with not being able to control your life.
I've learned that my Mom's observation was bang on. As my kids grow older, become their own people, marry, and have children of their own, it actually gets harder: the traps are so much deadlier now, and I can do so much less to protect them:
- The I deserve this toy trap
- The I'm young-and-immortal trap
- The I'll save for retirement later trap
- The I must work furiously to get ahead trap
- The I'm smart enough to figure this out myself trap
You may notice that these all start with an "I". Been guilty of all but one myself.
All I can do is place my kids in the hands of my God, and work on exercising faith.
My Mom also said some other things that have proven to be very wise - even prophetic:
1. "Oh, it's just a case of poor potty-training." This was said to me when I was exploding with anger over what someone had done to me. It gave me pause: if you can see where someone's behavior may have come from, it's easier to deal with. It's easier to forgive:
"My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.