‘Tis the season of growth! Everywhere new plants are pushing up through the soil and people are changing what they did before to accommodate a life that is different than what they had planned.
Children are growing and changing too and by the time I got my coffee at 11 this morning, I had already settled 500 squabbles, 25 meltdowns, and given out 40 extra jobs for dawdling and bad attitudes! At least it felt that way.
I was reminded forcibly that for children some years are years of extreme growth while others are more steady and that extreme growth requires extra nourishment, extra support, and even some extra training and pruning if the full plant is to be strong, confident, and grace filled.
When I put seeds or seedlings into the garden, I don’t just walk away and hope that they will bear or even expect that they will. I tend them with water and weeding, with trellises and gentle training of vines and limbs along the paths where they will be best able to take advantage of the things I have no control over but which they need in order to thrive. Sometimes I don’t see results for weeks and then suddenly I can almost watch the plants fill out and grow taller between morning and evening.
It’s true of humans too- there is much happening under the surface for all of us and so there is much tending that needs to be done if we are to see timely and fruitful growth. This morning as I was working with a child who had chosen to do a certain chore poorly and now needed to do it well and even do a bit extra in order to bring their responsibility zone up to par, I started thinking about how hard it is to do the work of growing and how hard it is to walk alongside someone who is in a period of intense growth. How if we love someone we desire what is best for them and often that means that we must provide all that we can to help them succeed and then discipline ourselves to stand back and let them do their own hard work!
We cannot grow for someone else and no matter how much we may be able to see that if they would just ____things would go more smoothly, we really cannot make those decisions for them. If we try we may well find that we are actually hindering them from the very things that would enable them to grow.
It is a delicate balance as a parent. To see what would bring the child to being all that they were created to be, and to be able to provide them with the tools to reach that fullness and yet to hold back and let them try, let them fail, let them learn to root themselves deeply and reach out for what they need.
There is a great deal of trust encapsulated in that simple phrase “Children are born persons.” We are invited to believe that our children have been given themselves and that we are called to love them, to disciple them and ultimately to stand aside as they take the tools we have given them and the grace they are offered and use it to be in fact persons living the calling that they have been given.
Understanding these concepts is foundational to parenting but how do we work this all out? How do we offer help to grasp the resources of growth and yet not smother the growth we are trying to encourage? We want the children to have the courage and strength to speak their minds and we want them to treat others with respect and courtesy- how to we set guidelines and give needed consequences. How guide the personalities and yet not encroach upon them in any way?
It is a matter for much prayer, much patience, and yes, much growth on our parts. When I consider how I parent the current preschooler versus the way in which I parented the older children at that age, I think that I am kinder and more patient. When I consider the next few years as the older children grow through their teens into adulthood, I know that I have much to grow into myself as I try to help them.
Indeed, at this point in the parenting journey, I have many more questions than I do inklings of direction. My mind grasps the truth of holding on and letting go together but my heart cannot see how this might be in life with each of the personalities at play. I must grow myself in an intentional way in this area seeking out friends, books, and discussions that will help me to see each child and to love and help them as they grow. I must pray daily for patience and grace and then use the patience and grace I am given in order to grow. and I must let go of the results and recognize that none of the growth is the result of my effort, but is instead a gift as each of the persons involved becomes what they were made to be.