It is a wonderful season right now of graduations, vacations and the promise and hope of a lazy summer ahead before these babies begin the next season of life come fall.
I was commenting on one of my friend’s graduation posts the other day as to how surreal it was that her son was graduating and her response was of pride but also of trepidation and prayers that he would make the right choices at this crossroad in his life. The reality hit me that we ALL have those same concerns for our children.
How often we savor the sweet and tender moments and share the pride and joy of our children’s accomplishments with all the world yet when our children struggle it is generally a burden we often bear alone and yet it is a natural part of growing up and preparing to leave the nest. Sometimes that means less than ideal choices on our kid’s part. Maybe we made some of the same or similar choices at their age. The question is how do we RESPOND to the choices? They are young adults, they are often of legal age or close to it and so that transition of itself is not only on them but us as parents. In this season of life we have yet to cross over to that “friend” bridge with our kids but we are committed to the construction period, an arduous time for sure but when we exercise mercy and grace the tradeoff is priceless; this is, of course, far easier said (and written) than done.
My memory may be incredibly spotty and unreliable but this I CLEARLY recall: the age between 17-21 was a tough road of “finding myself” and learning by the loving and ever-patient example of my mom and more often, by life’s unforgiving natural consequence. It is a time that we no longer dictate every activity and problem solve every speed bump, nor should we, for if we do we stunt the ability for these babies to sprout their own wings and manage life on their own. The whole “failure to launch”—it’s a thing and we parents are fully to blame. I am eternally grateful for my own mother and her ability to calmly (on the outside anyway) let me navigate that time but knowing she was ALWAYS present for a soft landing, advice and guidance from her own life experiences.
The truth is good kids can make bad choices and it often has nothing to do with parenting. Now don’t stone me, I realize that parenting DOES affect how our children turn out, but you don’t have to look far to see kids from “good families” making crappy choices and kids from tough situations rising above and wildly succeeding. The point is they will all come to this transition and it is our responsibility and gift to help them along mercifully. gracefully. lovingly.
I was reminded recently that sometimes these kids make fatal choices when a young man and his friends were riding their motorcycles at ridiculously unsafe speeds, being reckless and lost his life the night before prom. The devastation reached far in this community as he was well-liked but one parent (a former police officer–who clearly saw much of this in his career), responded callously with a “what do you expect?” attitude. The comment and the attitude struck me as thinking perhaps his son would never do that, but in reality ALL of our children are one choice away from any number of consequences. And we must respond IN LOVE. IN MERCY. WITH GRACE.
Our kids will make bad choices. Just like we did. They are human. Just like we are.
Obviously a lifelong history of good communication and fairness goes a long way in lessening the frequency of “bad” choices, but we can start that relationship over every day by just making the choice as a parent to respond with grace, mercy and love. For it is in these times of transition it is most needed.
The fact that we do not have to forge this period on our own is a tremendous gift. St. Monica, St. Augustine, Mary, and a host of saints have all shared in this suffering beauty of parenthood in every season and they are there to cheer us on. Chances are you have real-life friends and family there to do the same.
So, may the force be with you (and me) during this transitional period. May we all remember that: 1) free will and bad choices often go hand in hand 2) it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent 3) your mom was right–you’ll catch more flies with honey and if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all 4) pray without ceasing