My family likes rocks. Rock collecting and rock skipping are regular parts of our family vacations. I find rocks in my pockets, have them scattered on windowsills and bookshelves.
Have you ever pulled a rock out of the ground and when it came up it was covered with a big clod of dirt? Then you used your fingers to push the dirt away so you could see the whole rock?
This is how I feel parenting preschoolers is. It’s super messy. There’s the literal mess of snot and diapers and tears and spit-up all the time. And there’s the messiness of figuring out bedtimes and how to get them strapped in the carseat without smashing goldfish into the rug and teaching them to eat and obey and say please and thank you. There’s a constant physical-ness to raising an infant to a toddler to a preschooler. It’s exhausting and exhilarating.
I remember crying in my bed, falling asleep on the couch, barely brushing my teeth and not eating on a regular basis when my kids were tiny.
Now my daughter is 13. My son is 10. And my little rocks that were covered in dirt are pretty clean. They can get dressed by themselves, know when to blow their noses, can do homework without help and even have special talents I don’t have.
But there is still work to be done.
Even though my children can do many things, they still don’t know very much.
Last year, my oldest got an email address for her school. At first, she used it as a text-messaging system and chatted with friends all day while we were on our homeschool day. When I explained that the email address was for school, not chatting and that our homeschool day was for school and not hanging out with friends, she was upset. Not because she got in trouble but because she honestly didn’t know she was using it incorrectly.
I’ve had other experiences with her that are more serious and when I approach her about the sin or the if-you-don’t-deal-with-this-now-it-will-be-sin, I can see total blankness and misunderstanding on her face. Not because she isn’t smart or doesn’t have her own relationship with the Lord, but because she’s still young. She doesn’t have life experience, she doesn’t know the bad, the evil and the small tiny steps that can lead to that darkness.
So, the other day something happened and I corrected my daughter with a word. It was no big deal–the thing I corrected her on or the way I did it. But she wasn’t happy about it. I walked down the stairs breathing heavy and had a choice to make. I could either keep walking and let it go because, honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal right then. Or, I could turn around, confront the issue and stop the Thing before it started growing.
I took a deep breath, turned around and stopped it. She was even less happy about that. And I ended up not being too happy about that.
So, I separated the two of us. (Yes, that’s not just for siblings.) I sat down with my Bible, to calm my heart and mind and wouldn’t you know? God spoke to me. (I shouldn’t be surprised, right? God’s Word and all that?)
In Psalm 144, there’s a description of people “whose God is the Lord” and one of the beautiful promises is in verse 12, “our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.”
It was that carved word that got me.
Have you ever looked at a beautiful sculpture and wondered just how someone did that? Beautiful curlicues and intricate details–all in a rock. It’s amazing.
Have you ever thought about the tools that create those sculptures? Chisels, hammers, grinding wheels and more. Those tools look awful! I can only imagine the mess they make, the force they take to actually make a dent in a rock.
I think that’s my job as a mom. I’m carving my kids to be beautiful enough to adorn a palace. Not control them or cookie-cutter them out to be what I want.
No, instead, I’m doing a hard work that can only be seen from the outside. I’m helping them with the rough edges and deep cuts to reveal the beauty within.
Looking back at my own teenage years and looking at the parents around me now (including myself!), I see the tendency to just let tweens and teens figure out it out for themselves.
After all, they can do so many things! They have jobs! They drive cars! They make legit funny jokes! They are good kids!
And while we let them go and do, they are inundated by All The Things. Everything is new: technology, phones, freedom, jobs, dating, more serious school, big decisions about the future and more.
We can let them flounder, let them figure it out on their own or we can help with the carving.
Carving a masterpiece out of marble can’t be easy. I assume sculptors take a lifetime to hone their craft.
And as a parent, I feel the same. I don’t know how to carve and parent and create a masterpiece of a person. It’s constant checking and double-checking, trying and re-trying, failing and trying again.
I’m not suggesting helicopter parenting or not letting kids have the time and space to make mistakes. No. I’m talking about coaching, encouraging and laying out Truth and wisdom like a platter.
I have to purpose to go to the hard places with my kids. To finish and not abandon the carving on their hearts and lives.
A masterpiece needs a master. And for some unknown reason, God gave my kids ME.
Not to master them. But to lead them to the true Master. To help them master their own lives and be ready to adorn the palace of the Lord.