31 May 2011

Always a Parent

For three years, my Mom and sister were estranged: my sister wouldn't speak to our Mom. My Mom more or less reconciled herself to this fact after awhile, but confessed to me once 
"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.

Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin."
2. "Someday, somewhere, I hope you have thirteen 13-year-olds, all at the same time!"  I don't recall what I had done that made her so angry with me at the time, but it certainly must have been when I was thirteen years old. Years later I was in Sterling, Virginia, teaching a Sunday School class of 13-year-olds. One of the young women dared a young man with whom she was always skirmishing to "Oh, go jump out the window."  Scott looked at her, then took a running leap and jumped through the sharp-edged aluminum frame of one of those pull-out-at-an-angle building windows. He slithered through the 20-cm opening, ran off across the lawn, jumped the fence, and ran into the back door of his house. I looked at the window frame and saw a piece of fabric and some blood there. I turned back and for some reason counted: 
...there were thirteen 13-year-olds left.

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