Joel Toombs is lamenting times of change in his own family but provides some valuable pointers for changes in yours
I’m looking at my daughter’s empty bedroom shelves and I have waves of (almost) nausea hovering in the wings. She hasn’t even left yet but I miss her already. Tomorrow I take my eldest to Uni for the first time. It’s an obvious watershed; a significant moment of change and I’m trying to get my head around it… How do I relate to her as an independent adult, who essentially has now moved out of home? Do I even need to change how I speak to her or how our relationship works? How much can I or should I call or text while she’s away…?
At the other end of the spectrum my youngest is struggling to adjust to new demands of being at Infants school. This change was again perhaps also predictable in parenting terms, but there’s nuances to the changes he’s demonstrating I need to sense, new challenges in his behaviour to absorb, new complexity in our conversations to rise to, new surprises in the things he says to navigate. Some changes are less predictable and can catch you off guard.
Out of ten; how aware are you of the changes occurring in your child as they move from stage to stage, season to season, levelling up, maturing and developing constantly…? What unique or characteristic signs or markers are there that another change is happening; another small step up in your child’s development?
And there’s this: are we sometimes so busy parenting what’s in front of us, and concerned about preparing them for what’s ahead for them; that we forget to prepare ourselves to change, adapt and move on?
We can’t pause time.
Have you ever had that feeling when you just start to feel comfortable about a certain season of parenting and suddenly it shifts again?! There is a grief process attached to this. Every time they grow older it might feel we’ve lost something precious that they once were. It hurts. So; are you aware of incrementally altering, your own psyche, so that the process of change in them is easier for you handle …and therefore support?
I know what it’s like; we see them as a cute toddler but then they suddenly reason with us and seem so grown up.
We get used to Lego parties and then suddenly all hell breaks loose with friendship issues and eurgh, boyfriends!
Worst case scenario we end up treating them or speaking to them in a way that worked last week but won’t work next week and are left wondering why suddenly everything has gone haywire! And here’s the thing: if you cling on to what they were yesterday it hinders them flourishing into what they are becoming tomorrow.
You are a gateway for your children.
As a parent… As their mentor… What kind of gateway will you be?
See past their behaviour. See their fight to comprehend new experiences, feelings and survive unfamiliarity and new territory. Look for their heart behind their negativity. Listen for their hurt behind their anger. Lavish them with encouragement every day. Especially when they navigate the changes well.
However, parenting CAN feel like floundering in the deep end at the best of times and thrashing your arms, gasping for air; ‘swimming’ to catch up is never a peaceful place. Can you manage to look up and see the horizon as you take your next breath?
Swimming is a good analogy. Good front crawl technique is relaxed not tense, with regular breaths every three strokes, sighting forward and ensuring a good glide as you reach forward and push the water behind you in long strokes.
Here’s some questions that can help you. Take the time to reflect and plan.
1. Are you relaxed or tense about this stage, and the stage that is imminent?
2. What IS the next imminent stage? Are you ready for it?
3. Are you taking time to breathe regularly?
4. What gives you perspective on your parenting? Maybe discussing it with a friend. Maybe discussing your parenting with your child! Or perhaps putting it out of your mind for a while and getting some ‘me time’ to come back fresher and more oxygenated?!
5. Can you regularly take stock of where you are going? Are you making the same mistakes in your parenting – where will that lead? Are some things going well that will lead to more positives – what can you repeat, recreate or repurpose?
6. What warning signs are you getting about where your child is headed …and where your parenting (your headspace, your composure, your creativity, your vision…) is taking you both?
7. God’s mercies are new every morning. Are you being merciful to yourself? Are you being merciful and forgiving to your child as they struggle to cope and master change that is occurring non-stop around and inside them? Are you believing the best in them and calling it out constantly with love, encouragement, affirmation, and a visionary eye? How does God see your child’s development, changes and stages?
See your child the way your heavenly father sees them and call them forward the way you can imagine Him calling them. Change for children is inevitable, unstoppable. How you handle it is in your own hands. Breathe. Pray. Smile. Remember what does stay the same. And go again… With God, go again… This is where mentoring thrives.