The screen taunted me, not doing what I demanded of it. “How in the world did you guys get it to do that thing last week?” I exclaimed. Shrugging, the ten year old wrinkled his brow into a question mark, matching mine. Davita shouted off all sorts of inapplicable advice. Arienh wriggled deeper onto my lap, and the toddler, I’m sure, was dancing somewhere behind (we’d just finished singing our folk songs).
“You just do this, Mama,” came a quiet yet confident voice. My hand fell to my lap. Judah grasped the mouse, softly saying, “You click here, and here, and–and, look!”
I did look, but it wasn’t the screen that caught my eye. It was the way he watched his mama. When my head swung to grin at him for his accomplishment I found his eyes waiting for mine. A blush crept up his freckled cheeks and he ducked his head with a twinge of embarrassed pride. He laughed softly in an unassuming manner, as common a laugh as though he were swatting at a butterfly.
All I could think was that I almost missed this moment. If I hadn’t turned my head. If I hadn’t met his eyes. If I’d been more stressed about the situation, if I’d been frustrated, if I’d given in to my tyrannical desire for control. If I hadn’t pulled back my hand and let him grasp the mouse. If I hadn’t trusted him and let him try.
I have two sons who have moved into that in-between age, they aren’t yet teenagers, but they are no longer little boys. Having grown up myself right alongside them, I sense that my own struggle for personhood as a mid-thirties mama matches the assertion they put forth as young men no longer tethered to their mama’s side. I am distinctly aware these days of their individual persons; these children, they are beings all their own in body, heart, mind and spirit.
I’ve always seen them as persons, as individuals. But the sacredness of this, and the import of my relationship with them as such, is driven home to me now on a daily basis. Do I have the kind of relationship with them, I ask myself, that loves deeply at the root system and delights then in all the ways they grow? As they test out their likes and dislikes, their talents, their strengths and weaknesses; as they hone skills and face failures and try out thousands of riddles and jokes; as they flex their personal sense of authority, work out their entrusted responsibility, and play with sarcasm in an effort to get the humor of it just right, am I parenting well? Am I letting them be(come) men?
“It is as revealers of God to their children that parents touch their highest limitations; perhaps it is only as they succeed in this part of their work that they fulfill the Divine intention in giving them children to bring up–in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
–Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children, pg. 41
Keenly felt are our limitations as parents. Our children stretch upward and outward and we keep watering the ground, keep tending the soil. We did not design the plants they are growing into; we may have housed the seed and birthed the life, but their souls, they belong to God. As individual selves they exist on this planet. And we have to trust and respect them as such.
We have to give our children room to be themselves. We have to give ourselves room to be who we are, as well. We want our children to know us truly, and we want to know our children–not our ideas of them merely, but who they really are. In an atmosphere of mutual respect, relationships are nurtured that will grow and twine throughout all the years of life.
You are a person. I am a person. Your children are persons. So are mine.