Parenting Rule #1: Stop looking the “gift horse” in the mouth

If children are a gift from the Lord, so is parenting

I got into my car, aware of the silent radio, the opportunity to pray — again — for this errant child of mine. But when I opened my mouth to pray — rather than petitions, out came a confession.

“I’m sorry, Lord,” I said. “I have been so wrong. You say in your Word — so many times — that children are a blessing from you. Barren women thought they were cursed by God. Families with a ‘quiver full’ counted themselves extremely blessed.

“Yet I have discounted the blessing because parenting is so hard. Please forgive me. Help me see children as the heritage your word declares them to be.”

I was on my way to church, where I would serve in children’s church as a helper, assisting the teacher with the 15 students ages 3 to 3rd grade who would attend that day.

They weren’t the children my heart had been lamenting. No. I was fully cognizant of the fact that children — my adult children ages 23 to 34 — were burdensome in a different way.

But I had always wanted children. I simply had no idea that raising them — or parenting them once their decisions were all theirs — could feel so hard.

From dreams to difficulties

I had been widowed — suddenly — when I was 26. My husband and I had signed a rental agreement for a little house, and the day before he died, we’d been at the house, cleaning and dreaming. Bill, recovering from ulcer surgery, sat in a lawn chair while I cleaned, and together we dreamed of our future family.

This house — with its extra bedroom and a fenced back yard — was where we’d hoped to bring our first child.

Instead, Bill died of complications from his surgery, and a week later, a gracious almost-landlord returned my deposit and the vacuum and cleaning supplies we’d left behind.

Then I folded Bill’s lawn chair into my car and vacated this house of dreams.

Three years later, God added a new husband and his four children to my life. Steve was a widower. Our rapid romance — barely four months from meeting to marriage — was what I called “false advertising,” For what seemed so romantic and right while we were dating became rough and ridiculous.

Even so, I counted those early days with his four children (ages 9, 8, 5, and 3) and the baby we later added pure joy — at least as I look back through the filter of aging (them, not me).

Babies and young children are a different kind of difficult than adult children. When they’re young, they listen and learn. When they choose not to listen, you can help them learn with some form of consequence.

But it is different when your child is an adult and has life’s consequences as a teacher — especially when that child doesn’t understand the lesson and persists in costly behaviors. Or maybe does understand the lesson but insists on continuing costly behaviors anyway.

It breaks your heart.

From victim to victor

I’m fairly certain my view of this “gift horse” broke God’s heart as well. Instead of embracing this new stage of parenting and doing battle for my children on my knees, I played the victim. Woe is me. Parenting is so hard. Babies are false advertising. Children are overrated. If I had known that parenting was so hard, I …

God, forgive me.

That day as I prayed for God’s forgiveness for me for looking this gift horse of children and parenting in the mouth, I also interceded for my wayward child and my other children (who will probably err or suffer in some way tomorrow, after all). I prayed with power, fully embracing my responsibility in prayer.

Doing so made me miss my father-in-love, my father, my mother and grandparents. Their prayers had covered me and my siblings and our growing families faithfully and continually.

Who had taken up that mantel of prayer for my family?

I’ve heard that prayers for our adult children are our way of covering them, much like we covered them with a blanket when they were little.

Parenting may be hard, but I can pray. I can pray, not as a victim of parenting but as a warrior parent, fighting on behalf of my children for their victory and my own. Sometimes I offer silent prayers, cries from my heart, to a knowing God. He recognizes my tendency to look a gift horse in the mouth instead of expressing thanks and doing my best with the gifts he’s given.

Sure, I might have to bite my tongue or change my expectations or let a text go unanswered without panicking. I might even have to set boundaries and feel a tad uncomfortable by the lack of peace that creates in order to parent well. I have to trust God, interceding in prayer rather than intervening in real time to save my child from the pain of failure.

From do-it-yourself to do-it-with-him

On Saturdays, I sometimes listen to The Money Pit, a home improvement show for do-it-yourself types. The jingle for the show ends with this thought: “Remember, you can do it yourself — but you don’t have to do it alone!”

Praying for my children (and everything else!) reminds me that I don’t have to parent alone. Not only do I have my husband, but I also have a Savior and Lord who loves my children even more than I do.

I suspect that my mothering might be counterproductive at times. I want to protect my children and soften any blows that might come their way

Should my human attempts fail to parent my adult child well (and I realize that may mean I simply do nothing but treat them as the adults they are), I can trust God to do what’s needed.

In the Bible in One Year study in the YouVersion app I’ve been using this calendar year, the devotional author, Nicky Gumbel, told a story about a man who used his Army boots as a visual aid.

“He called one of the boots ‘trust’ and the other one ‘obey’. He described them as the left and right boot of the Christian life,” Gumbel wrote. “‘Trust’ and ‘obey’, are, as he said, a very good summary of the Christian life.  We see that they are the answer to trials, struggles, temptation, worry, anxiety, fear and failure.”

It’s a simple visual but such a reminder to me to trust God with my adult children and obey Him by praying a covering over them rather than inserting myself, my will, my desires over them.

(And not just because they won’t let me!)

They are a gift, as is parenting.

Not a gift horse, really, even though they do say nay (which sounds like neigh). 🙂

8 thoughts on “Parenting Rule #1: Stop looking the “gift horse” in the mouth

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you find them inspiring. It is hard to watch your children wander and make mistakes. I wish I’d adopted the mentality of intercession instead of interference much earlier in my children’s lives; the consequences of their mistakes then were much lighter and might have taught them sooner. I have to trust God even in my past mistakes, that is certain. I try to remember that He chose me for the job, knowing how I would fail and somehow using all of this for my children’s good as well as my own. And, yes, I’m sure my parents agonized over my choices way back when, too. Good point! Take care!

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    1. Thanks. I wish writing it meant I’d mastered it. I fight myself to look to God rather than at what’s right in front of me (or avoiding me, whatever!). Look at the giver, not the gift, they say, meaning something entirely different than I mean, however! Take care, Teresa. Thanks for your comment.

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