Welcome to my eclectic journey of my life and delights. This year my theme is surrendering my writing pen to the true author, Jesus Christ, while looking forward to the future, reflecting on the past and dancing through my journey.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Feeding the Alligators

Parenting adult children is a lot like feeding alligators. If you stay too far away, the alligator will starve.  If you get too close, you might lose your head. Allen Teal

Another challenge brought at the "middle-of-life" is the balancing act of releasing your children into the world, while knowing when to reach out and when to back off.  All women hear from day one of motherhood that "you will need to cut those apron strings".  What that means is never really explained.  You will hear a disgruntled young bride use the words to describe her mother-in-law, while she is sitting in her own mother's kitchen.  So while mothers are trying to figure out what this all means, so are the young adults who have ventured out into the world of adulthood.  For mothers, it is a hard balancing act of their hearts.  How do you care so much and also allow them to fall on their face when they choose wrong?  The rules aren't usually as easy to write out as people would make you believe. Isn't that life?

The other side of this coin is that even if the transition has been smooth in your home, it usually hasn't been a easy transition in a friend's home.

As I continue to walk through totally releasing my adult children, I also continue to see my friends' struggles with what is happening in their homes.  In the last month, the emails, text messages and calls I received included:
  • an adult child (because society labels them adults at age 18 even if maturity isn't in place yet) ran from home with the possibility of drug involvement, leaving parents not knowing their whereabouts
  • another young adult child went through a divorce (in their 20's)
  • another young adult child threatened to leave home while not willing to live under house rules
  • another had legal problems with the law
  • another fell into serious money abuse
  • another refused to have any spiritual involvement
  • another announced that they were not destined to go to heaven, but created for hell
  • others pushed the levels of Christian morality
  • others blamed parents for all the sins in their lives
  • others were totally clueless on what to do with their lives, while continuing to allow parents to support them, but not wanting parental involvement in their lives
As I recall, the prodigal son in the Bible wasn't from a severe or sub-standard home environment, just like all the situations mentioned above, and yet he became a prodigal. His father's heart must have broken when he handed his son his inheritance.  Behavior doesn't necessarily reflect the home environment and all people are responsible for their own actions. The prodigal  father stepped back and allowed the son to leave.

While this time of life can be full of tremendous joy...marriages, grandchildren, college graduations, career advancement, as well as watching your child spiritual lives increase, there are those times that hurt deeply.  As we rejoice over our children's good choices, may we also allow them to choose wrong.  May we understand that they need to be released to Him totally, while giving compassion to others who find themselves hurting from their children's bad choices.  God isn't finished with any of us and this moment is only a blink in time.  Let's hold each other up through all seasons of parenting... rejoicing and crying as the time demands, and not condemning each other.

Ex. 17:12-13 "When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it.  Aaron and Hur held his hands up - one on one side, one on the other side, so that his hands remained steady till sunset.  As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.

May we be each others' Aaron and Hur and see the battles won!
Excellent resource - When Good Kids Make Bad Choices - Elysee Fitzpatrick and Jim Newheiser

23 Joining in with more words:

Sandy said...

This is so true. Sometimes I never
know what to say to my son Seth.
I'm careful to not interfere too
much in his life, yet want him to
know for certain that I care and
am here for him. I am so grateful
that we've always had a very close
relationship and been able to
talk about anything and everything.
He has fallen on his face a few
times and it's hard to not step
in and fix everything for him.
I haven't lost my head yet so I
guess I'm doing something right!

Ma ~ said...

I am really scared of the adult children phase, I have a few years left.

It is going to be very hard when they make mistakes, but I guess they have to.

Great post;)

Mary said...

parenting never ceases...

we are having the opportunity at this moment to watch a son walk through heartache and life changes, but also seeing God drawing him closer and our son choosing to follow. hard but good and rich.

Vickie said...

Such a great post, Janette. We're in that "sandwich" generation, too. Even at 29, I find it hard to release my firstborn son. And he lives far away in Nashville and is not married yet. We've always been very close and I miss him so much. My middle son is about to get married. He made a wonderful choice. My daughter recently recommitted her heart to the Lord after a long period of being away and finding life too tough without Him.

We've got friends all around us that have problems with the kids. One of our dear church couples just found out their daugher who is 19 is pregnant. Just like you, I could make a long list of kids like that. As we mature, we must learn not to judge, too. It seems like sometimes it doesn't really matter if they've been raised in a Christian home or not. Each individual is different, and we parents all have to go forward, let our kids fail, support each other and entrust them over to the Lord.

Good post. Sometimes, I tell my husband, "Well, nobody's pregnant, nobody's in jail, nobody's on drugs, nobody's run away, so I guess we're doing something right."
Gotta laugh about it sometimes, don't we!!!

Theresa said...

I love Elyse Fitzpatrick's books.

Farm Girl said...

It is a fine are of balancing on a tightrope. Only giving advice when asked. It is something I am still trying to learn and each day is a adventure in turning them over to God. Not keeping them in my hands.
I think it is all a issue of trust. As when they were small and sick, trusting them to a loving Father, whose they were anyway. The same goes today, trusting the Heavenly Father to guide them through the storms of life. And sometimes, You do have to say your peace with the ones who still live at home. It does bring peace and tranquility.

Sonja said...

These are such true words! There are so many hurting parents all around us. It's also true that our kids WILL make mistakes, and so do we. I know of so many with hurting hearts over their kids, good strong christians, and yet the heartaches. No wonder we need a Savior! Every one of us...

Anonymous said...

Oh you have me laughing out loud with the alligator! Then you have me crying with the blog, dear friend. Thanks for sharing your heart. Your words touch me deeply. Still mourning I guess but am blessed to have four grown children walking out their lives in hope and peace. We will continue to pray for good decisions, good life! and the Lord's grace and mercy. Morgan is now my FB friend! Miracle of all miracles, ha! Sonii

Stacy@hiswaynotmine said...

Such words of truth! My oldest is just 14, but see him beginning to make his own decisions. I am constantly praying that he will always follow the light and not the darkness and that he will own his own faith, making decisions after God's heart. So much to cover in prayer regarding our children, knowing these precious gifts are God's. So hard to let go....little by little.

Thanks for such wisdom.

Much love,

Debbie said...

Oh Janette I could write an entire book on this subject. I guess because everyone of mine are now adults. Including one who is 38 and seems to STILL need "mothering" every once in a while....Bottom line I have come to the conclusion to is....you never really stop mothering your kids...it is a very fine balance of advice and recommendations, and interference. Very difficult!! Especially those late teens (18 and adult? give me a break!) and early 20's years. I think most of the time my kids already know exactly what I think and feel about most situations. They know I will freely tell them just that anytime they want, so I wait anymore until I am asked, and then when I am, watch out because it will come. It is hard to watch them make obvious mistakes and then have to pay the consequences, but in the long run just like us it is the only way to learn. How my heart has broken at times over the years, and yet I chose to focus on the times it's soared. This was a great post. HUGS, Debbie

Cherie Hill said...

What a fantastic post sister! Thank you for stopping by Journal of Faith . . .don't you just LOVE the way God works . . . we pray and HE ANSWERS! I'm always blown away when He answers SO directly!!! What an awesome God!

Lisa said...

There are so many of us in this very position. Adult kids. I have 3 in college and 1 high schooler so I know 1st hand exactly what you mean. I do know that it has given me an active prayer life.:)

Debbie said...

HUGE AMEN!!! BTW, the passage you referenced at the end is from my favorite OT story. I use it often. I truly feel called to be a Moses, Aaron, or Hur and left my hands to God while others are on the battlefield.

For one thing, it has been and will be me on the battlefield at some point. For another, I love them. Pure and simple.

I think this post is timely and excellent. Nothing breaks our hearts quite like our children can break them. Cover one another in love. Lift one another in prayer. And fight with them, if that's what we're called to do.

Let'sMakeADifference said...

This post is FABULOUS!!!! So true!! I wish that we could meet for tea today! I have 2 adult children that are in a situation that makes me uncomfortable!! Now what do I do!? Great, great post...as always! Bonni

e-Mom said...

Love your analogy... feeding aligators! So true. This week I chauffered, nursed, and encouraged our grown son through oral surgery. (Wisdom teeth.) When it was time to leave him alone in his apartment, it felt so odd. I wanted to stay (and nurture), yet I knew we had agreed on a set departure time. I really felt a tug. Fortunately, he's had an easy recovery. Thank goodness for cell phones!

I'm grateful our adult children are doing so well. I can't imagine dealing some of the things you've listed.

You rightly point out that our kids must be allowed the freedom to make their own choices. (Like the Prodigal son). We do have free will... I think of Cain and Abel... raised by the same parents, with totally different outcomes!

This is a topic I've been thinking about too... very relevant. I'm planning to repost an older article geared at younger Moms soon.

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

so true - such a great post today Janette. You always give us food for thought.

Carol said...

Wise, wise words. Thank you, Janette!

Sue said...

Thanks for this today Janette, I have been going through this letting go for sometime, I let go, and then I run back and grab on. God is patient with me, as I am getting so much better at it. whew!! thank the Lord.
Just what I needed today.

Lea said...

Jeanette, this entry should be published, no joke! It is so full of truth and I too, know so many sad situations that parents are experiencing. Parents are so different today than when we were kids. My parents, as did most at that time, cut those apron strings and we either had to "sink or swim." I think that is what the Lord intended but we often have a hard time cutting those apron strings completely. A very timely post! Thanks!

Karen said...

OH Janette..what a wonderful post..
And I can relate with some of it..
I have 2 grown children out on thier own,and a 14 yr old still at home..I battle with the line sometimes..not even knowing it..but i am also learning, so that I will be prepaired (as best as anyone can be anyway) for when my last child moves on in life..
we are not meant to hold our children back from going through life.. but not body says we cant PRAY LIKE CRAZY..while they do it..
love ya.. great post..

Carrie @ Cottage Cozy said...

...true true ♥

lioneagle said...

Hi Janette -

Thank you for this wise piece.

I offer encouragement. Sometimes the worst behaving offspring become the ones most on fire for GOD. My life was one of rebellion UNTIL our Lord broke me and built me into one who is deeply in love with Him.

myletterstoemily said...

amen, sister! this is so true!!!!!

my friend says that she never took
credit for her childrens' good
behavior, and she's not taking
credit for the bad, either!

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