My child, do not let these escape from your sight: keep sound wisdom and prudence, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely and your foot will not stumble. – Proverbs 3:21-23 (NRSV)
This summer, Dave and I have been giving the boys a little more independence. This is surprisingly difficult considering we grew up in the days of riding our bikes everywhere and disappearing from our parents’ sight for entire days in the summer. (My recollection is that I left in the morning, ate lunch at home or somewhere else, and came home at suppertime. A parent now myself, I’m pretty sure my Mom knew where I was.)
I rode my bike to the pool three miles from home with no cell phone. I probably had a time I was supposed to be home, but if I left early to go home, my Mom wouldn’t know it until I walked in the door. Our church was next to the fire station and we could go and get the key whenever we wanted. I got around.
But this hasn’t been our boys’ experience.
A lot of things are different then when I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s. For one, we live in a bigger town and a large metropolitan area. There are few sidewalks in our town, even though many roads have 40-45 mph speed limits and no bike lanes. And overall, the world just seems more dangerous.
Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6 (CEB)
A couple of weeks ago, Youngest wanted to go to the community center for middle school hang out time. I am my parents’ child, so there is no way I’m going to drive him back and forth every afternoon to someplace less than four miles away.
Wanting to avoid the busy roads, I showed him on the map how he could go through subdivisions in order to reach a sidewalk. Then, he led me and his friend to the community center. I didn’t tell him where to go nor would I tell him if he was going the wrong way. He needed to do it by himself. And I needed to see that he could do it by himself. I left him at the community center and gave him 30 minutes to bike back home after they closed.
And I can’t tell you how weird this felt to me.
As I was biking back home, I was proud he was able to have this bit of freedom at 12. This would lead to him being able to bike other places on his own. However, part of me wanted to leave my phone so he could call or text or have GPS if he got lost. But, really, this was probably more for me than for him. Youngest did take one wrong turn on the way home, but he figured it out on his own.
This week, we had another independence opportunity for Eldest. His best friend moved away and was visiting for a day. They had a get-together at the park and then a smaller part of the friend group was staying overnight. The issue was that this friend group included boys and girls.
At 15, I wasn’t really sure this was a good idea (although it’s probably a better idea at 15 than 17). I called the parent hosting to find out the specifics. Yes, she would be home. Yes, she had clear, zero tolerance rules with respect to drinking, drugs and purpling (boys are blue, girls are red…you get the idea). BUT because it was five of them, they would be staying on the main floor. Together.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6 (NRSV)
I prayed, we discussed – and we let him go with the understanding of the rules and that this was a special situation because his friend was in town for the first time in a year. As expected, they were awake all night talking, eating and watching Frozen (clearly the girls picked the movie). In this situation, I felt we made a good decision.
Today, I dropped Eldest at church where he left for 9 days on a mission trip to Pine Ridge Reservation. He will not have access to his cell phone all week other than on the bus to and from South Dakota. We’ll trade a few texts (because this generation doesn’t actually like to talk on the phone) but he’s really in someone else’s care.
And once again, this feels weird to me.
God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled. – 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)
I want my boys to have a powerful, loving and self-controlled faith – and attitude towards life. I want them to be able to find the balance between trust and surrender to God and courage and boldness in faith.
As I left my kids at the community center, at the park, at the church, I was reminded that my “safe-keeping” of them is an illusion. I love and steward these treasures God has given me for a short time. My role is to love, teach, walk alongside, discipline as necessary but in all things prepare them to be in the world as the men God created them to be. May God give me wisdom and a trusting heart, knowing that even when they are out of my sight, they are never out of God’s.