I've had to admit to some fears lately. I've had to confess to less-than-godly parenting tactics that were motivated by a fear of the unknown, of the unpredictable, and of all the things we've never parented a daughter through. She always thinks she's the guinea pig - the one we test out our parenting theories on.
We raised a son to 16 and then he left. We made mistakes and we also stood our ground in the midst of uncertainty and God is working all things together.
That boy is back now, as a man, and sometimes you have to listen to parenting advice from your own children. Sometimes you learn best from a reflection on your own mistakes or from the wisdom of hindsight.
An adult child at your dinner table can be an affirmation of God's grace in the mess of your parenting.
As for my daughter being a guinea pig, she's partly right. We aren't testing our theories so much as we're checking our resolve and examining our motives.
Every single child is different.
Every new season is different.
The decisions we work through with her have to endure our own scrutiny as well as hers, and most importantly, they need to be pure before Jesus.
We have to be transparent and real and honest, and yet maintain some level of respect and authority in our children's lives.
We have heard from young people who have expressed the hurt and disappointment they felt when they realized the faults of their parents. We can know in our minds that all have sinned and fall short, but seeing it actually work itself out in the lives of those we respect can be discouraging.
We step into maturity when we learn to respect others, despite their imperfections.
As parents, we cannot carry on the facade of perfection with the illusion of having absolute authority. Somehow, we have to be credible without having it all figured out.
Recently, a child who is too old to do such a thing took a pair of scissors to a wrinkled up two-dollar bill. This child wanted to trim off the crumpled and imperfect edges and preserve the best parts of the bill, thinking that a wrinkled, old currency was worth less than a crisp, new one.
We do the same thing. We want the best-foot-forward kind of life and the crisp perfection of never having been wrinkled. We want to accept our own imperfections quietly, push others to be perfect as we seem to be, and are astonished when our crumpled edges are seen.
It's too much for parents to be perfect. It's too little for them to be sorry 20 years later.
We desperately need a revelation right in the middle of our bread-winning, child-steering, crazy-making years. We need a witness to our mistakes and a goad for our timid beliefs, because something greater than us has to compel our actions.
Otherwise, we are raising bitterness in a world that needs the sweetness of grace.
The revelation for me, for now, is that our children need to have conversations with us about hard things, things we're all uncertain about, and that the unknown should not be responded to with fear. God has given everything we need for life and godliness, and those are the things we need to present to our kids.
We give them swords of gospel truth. All have sinned.
We give them love that covers a multitude of sins.
We give them grace because we have received it so freely.