The past few months have been interesting to me

The past few months have been full of interesting experiences for me. I did not know what to expect in the whole process of preparing a child for college. I knew it would be a bit different than what I went through 20 years ago. I just was not prepared for what I was about to experience.

First, I did not know that this would be as hard to watch my child make. I thought it would be easier. He had clearly thought through his desires and made his list carefully. He had not haphazardly come to his choices.

Second, I did not know that it would be as hard to watch my child prepare to follow through on the process of working through the decision process. The process was harder than I ever remember. As much as I tried to add my opinions to the process, it was hard. I knew he needed to work through this on his own. It was still hard to watch.

Third, I was not prepared to receive or listen to the negative feedback from others who felt they had the right to give feedback on the decision that was being made. That was probably what caught me off guard the most.

Here I was, with a child that was nearly 18 years old or even had turned 18 years old eventually and I had people telling me what I should be doing with this child. I had people outright telling me what I should be doing with my own child. I had people telling me what that child should do with their life.

Evidently, the fact that I was respecting this young individual’s agency and newly found free will and suddenly I was doing something wrong, I was no longer fit to be this child’s parent and steward. My opinions were disregarded and held lower weight than their own. Here I am giving my child their new found right to spread their wings and fly and these individuals felt the need to clip them so they never take flight and show the world what they can do.

I find this disheartening in today’s society. Today – right now, more than ever, we need to teach our children to reach outside of their comfort zones. We have sheltered them more than any other time in history I would say. There comes a time when we must let go and let them fly on their own. As parents, it is our job to make sure they can do that and succeed. It is not our job to clip their wings so they cannot fly too high or too far, it is our job to make sure that they can fly as high or as far as their wings can carry them and then a little bit further if their heart desires that. Our job is to give them the confidence to try something hard. Our job is to give them the freedom try something new. Our job is to allow them to screw up once in a while so they can learn.

Learning is done by repetition. We do not learn from perfect repetition, we perfect through imperfect repetition. It is through making each imperfect repetition a little more refined and a little more perfect that we become more of what we want to be and less of what we wish we were not – imperfect. Unfortunately, too often we are allowed to skip this imperfect portion of the learning process. We are allowing our children to just breeze through it without the refinement that comes from “imperfection.” They learn from their “perfect imperfections.” It is only through the process of perfecting them that they become great.

We cannot refine oil by setting it on the counter, it merely ages. If we want to purify it, we have to heat it and let its imperfections rise to the surface. The process of refining children is very similar. All too often, we forget that we are “refining” children. We are not raising them, we are refining them. We can mold and shape them somewhat, but ultimately, they get to do that on their own. We set the example and lay out the kind of molds we want them to choose, but we can merely be the refiner’s fire and heat their oil for them. We can only prepare them to go into the mold.

Fortunately, our initial molds can be temporary and we can reshape ourselves if we as parents make a few mistakes along the way setting the example. Or perhaps our child steps outside of our protective parental shell and they make mistakes of their own, they can be put into a new mold and reshaped and refined some more. Our influence is not final once they walk out the door. Their teachers’ influences are not final once they graduate or move one to the next phase of education. The beauty of influence is that teaching lingers. What we are taught continues in our minds and we can build upon it or draw back upon something that we have learned previously.

Previous experience then becomes important when children go out to face real life experiences. What happens when they have never faced hard things before? What happens when they have never had to overcome something that really has challenged them? Will they know how to crawl about that challenge? Will they falter? Will they know how to overcome their own weaknesses? Do they know what their own weaknesses are?

Childhood is a playground it can be said. Childhood is also a trial ground. This is what we are here for. It is not easy to watch our children encounter trials, but how glorious it is when we can watch them overcome them! We can cheer in their victories now. We can teach them that small victories now are to be celebrated. Small wins are a big deal. Small wins teach us to be grateful for the smallest things in life. They teach us where we were and where we have come from. They teach us where we have been and where we are now. Even the small victories are glorious in the sight of the Lord and thus shall they be in the eyes of a parent. Thus shall they be in the child that went through the struggle and overcame – won. There is no win without the struggle. There is no win without the challenge. There is no win without teaching our children to do hard things – without these things, it is an everyday thing. Something everyone can do. It is average. It is no big deal.

Teach your children to embrace those things that are more than average and go after them. We only fail if we never try. We only fail if we stop trying. In the process, they might just learn some things that they are good at that they never imagined possible.

The past few months have taught me that my children can make big decisions on their own. They can make hard choices. They understand that hard and big choices come with consequences – good or bad. They understand that sometimes we do not like the consequences because they are hard too. They understand that once the choice is made, we can make other choices to help us through our decisions and this influences the consequences. We do not get to choose our consequences but we can influence the outcome by the choices we continue to make after that. They also understand that sometimes bad choices may end with bad consequences but it can still have a positive outcome if they continue to work through things and make better choices.

Children make mistakes. It does not mean that they are going to be complete failures in life if we allow them to make mistakes. Sometimes making a mistake is how they learn the best lessons in life. We may not always agree with their choices, they are still their choices to make. Once you have refined them to a point – let go. They might just surprise you.

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