Thursday, 9 May 2019

Living your Children’s Lives

Teen boy enjoying a pizza
JJ at his happiest, with a big pizza in front of him!

Sometimes it can be really tricky not to try and impose your world view and to live your child’s life for them. And I don’t mean the extremes, we all know parents who are a failed musician or weren’t encouraged in their desire to be a model and now have a child who is excelling in that hobby or career.

I’ve always been keen for my children to be unique, just the way God created them to be. So whilst in my heart I had this desire that JJ would be an amazing musician and would lead worship in our church, I knew from an early age it probably wouldn’t happen as he didn’t show any interest in playing an instrument. I could have signed him up for lessons and bought a guitar or keyboard, putting all my energy into him mastering his craft, but that would have been about me, not him, and that’s not fair.

So despite my unfulfilled aspirations (singer, runner, artist) I let my kids be and waited to see where their personalities would take them. If you asked me I’d probably have told you that I had this part of parenting nailed, I wasn’t projecting my desires onto the kids and they were free to do what they fancied.

However, as I was chatting with JJ during the recent Easter break I realised this isn’t quite true. I do have expectations and norms that I was subconsciously expecting them to conform to. Not to attend clubs, master hobbies or attain beyond their means but just in regard to how their life might look, how they spend their time. I’ll explain.

We live in the middle of nowhere, and whilst it is an amazing and beautiful place, I am sure it is totally frustrating for a 15 year old boy, not to be able to easily get out. I was (yet again) making sure that JJ knew I’d drop him to meet his friends, or anywhere he wanted to go, so he could plan his social life. We’d been on holiday the week before and he’d stayed over at a mates earlier in the week, but not seen any of them for the rest of the week, so I asked what they were up to and didn’t he want to meet them? ‘Nah’ was the reply I got, so I pressed some more and said, don’t you want to go out more, and he said he liked being home.

It was then I found myself bowing to societal norms, and said something along the lines of teenagers normally want to be out with their mates, and I joked that he was old before his time. I said he’d need to go out more once he was at college/ uni and he explained he would then, as there would be more to do than hang around the streets once he was older.

As I thought about it, I realised I was just expecting him to act as I did as a teenager. He is a geek (by his own admission) and he loves playing online, during which he chats to people, learns new skills and enjoys himself. From my point of view, he also stays out of trouble, I never find him drunk, shoplifting or bad mouthing. He is a great kid, and if he’s happy to be home with the odd trip out for cinema, coffee, a meal or a walk, who am I to say this is wrong?


teens feeding ducks

I think we've all felt the weight of someone else's expectations in the past, and it doesn't feel good. So why would I put any of my children under undue stress to behave or achieve in a certain way? I'm trying very hard to be really open minded and to let them know that they can dress in their own way (as long as it is modest), choose how they spend their time, that they don't have to go to University and that happiness doesn't come from belongings, money or status.

I'm learning that there is no such thing as a normal teenager, just what is normal for that individual, so it really is time to fully embrace the idea that my kids like different things and that is OK.

What do you think? Do your kids have to fit with your expectations of what their life might look like?

Psalm 139:1-4
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you,
Lord, know it completely.
Verses 13-16
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

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