Next month, my first born child will turn eighteen. As in eighteen years old. I have been a mother for eighteen years. I have parented an infant, toddler, preschooler, elementary school student, preteen, teenager, and currently, a young woman. Perhaps realizing this has caused me to reflect on the job my husband and I have done...and what we still have left to do for her and for all our children. I do not believe that eighteen is the magic number...The number that miraculously makes a child an adult...That our job parenting is done. No. We will parent our children, love them, guide them, and help them until the day we die.
I am, however, reflecting on the importance of this wonderful vocation called parenthood. I find myself thinking about the difficult task of instilling the things we desire into our children, while at the same time, allowing for each individual child to be just that...an individual. Steve and I make a conscious effort to expose our children to and instill into them the values we feel are important...faith, empathy, responsibility, honesty, integrity, work ethic, love. We hope to raise our children with the same core values we hold dear to our hearts.
At the same tame, however, I realize our children are not mere images of ourselves. They are not simply three girls and one boy. Each of our children is an individual person with his or her own traits, wishes, dreams, and thoughts. Each has dreams and goals that may be vastly different from ours, or even from ones we would choose for our child. And thus...the challenge. It is sometimes difficult to keep a balance between the two. It is challenging to think you know what you want for your child, but realize he or she may want something else.
I realize my goal is not to create young people who think and act exactly as I do. Or ones who make the exact same life choices as I did. I am grateful that each of my children possesses traits and qualities that I do not. I am enjoying watching each grow into the person God planned him or her to be. Yet, I must admit, sometimes it is difficult knowing that eventually, my children will leave the comfort of the home we have created, and begin a life independent of us. As hard as that is to imagine, that is their job. To grow and learn and change and leave. Just as I did. Just as Steve did. And I am thankful to our parents for allowing us to follow our dreams.
What if my parents had not supported my desire to go to a college three hours away, and fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher? What if Steve's parents had not supported his decision to not attend college and begin working in the family business instead? What if they had not supported our engagement and marriage at such a young age?
But they did. They trusted that we would take all the values they had instilled in us and combine them with our own dreams and desires. They trusted us. They trusted God. And Steve and I will do the same. We will continue to teach our children all the things we value and at the same time attempt to nurture their individual characteristics, dreams, and goals.
Parenting is the greatest gift I will ever know. It is also the greatest challenge with the most awesome responsibility. I embrace it with every beat of my heart and every fiber of my being. I know that in the end, nothing I will ever do matters as much as successfully parenting my children. I pray I am worthy of the gifts God has granted me...and that Steve and I are able one day to look back and say that we did it. We raised our children to be happy, healthy, caring, respectful, empathetic adults. And that they are happy living the lives they chose. Nearby, of course. ; )