“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always.
As long as I’m living,
My baby you’ll be.” *
He didn’t want me to take a picture of him while we were waiting at the train station for him to go back to Arkansas. He had been here for two weeks and I really hated to see him go again. I thought he looked so cute with his black joggers and cool new camera backpack, his Christmas hat and vintage, key necklace.
“You can take one. Just don’t post it on social media.”
I guess it was too early and he had a certain image to uphold. So I shot a picture with my mind and engraved it on my heart. Even though he was leaving me for a month or two, in a way, he is still here.
As usual, I began to over think things after he left. We had had some pretty deep conversations while he was here about things he and his siblings had been through growing up. I listened and commiserated with all the challenges we have faced as a family. I tried to put a positive spin on the negatives but not really having any solid answers, I ended up with Old Faithful, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
I know we didn’t always make things easy for our kids. They were preacher’s kids from day one and pastor’s kids for most of their lives. Sometimes that’s hard soil to grow in. We moved around a lot. They had to leave friends and change schools quite a few times. We didn’t live around our extended families and we worked too hard.
And now, he’s grown. He is a man. A fine, young man if I say so myself. He is off in another state, pursuing his education and his dreams.
But he is not beyond our reach. I used to think that we had 18-20 years with our kids to teach and to train them, to influence and impact them. That we better “get it while the gettin’s good” because after that, well...it was too late.
However today, I read something on Facebook that changed my mind. An elder of ours from years ago is in the hospital getting real close to seeing Jesus face to face. This couple influenced our family for years and helped us in one of the biggest decisions of our lives. And it’s sad to see them become older and weak.
But even more than that, the posts of his children about him and their mom have really impacted me. They speak of how their parents have led them (and so many others!) with integrity and strength for so many years. And I realized something.
Parenting is forever.
Sure, when your kids turn eighteen you can kick them in the pants and say, “Hasta la vista baby. You’re outta here.” I guess there are people who do things like that. But that is a foreign concept to millions of people around the world. Many people live in multi-generational homes with their parents and grandparents. Or they live in the village they were born in along with all their aunts, uncles and cousins. It seems like America is one of the few places that values independence so supremely that we have perpetuated the thought that parents are only valuable when they pay for braces and college and then after that, they are dispensable.
That’s not how we roll in my family! My people are close to their kids. We actually like each other! We spend holidays and birthdays and really every day with each other. I’ve raised my kids to know that they won’t ever get rid of me! Not to even try.
If they kill me, I’ll just come back to haunt them.
To me, this thing doesn’t end when they turn eighteen, twenty-one or even when they get married (a heads up to any potential future son or daughter in laws!) I will be a part of my children’s lives as long as I have breath in my body. I will encourage, teach, pray for and support. Straight up. I’m just saying. It doesn’t end. Ever.
“As long as I’m living.”
So I have a new hope today. Renewed grace for another day. I haven’t done everything right but I can start over again today and trust it will be better. I will never “clock out” or finish my shift. Parenting is forever. As long as I’m living, I will influence my children, one way or the other. I pray I have the strength to continue to do good in their lives.
No matter how old you are, God’s mercies are renewed every morning. No matter how much hurt has muddled the feelings you have for each other, today can be the day it all changes! Begin today to be that good influence you have always wanted to be. Get all up into your kids’ lives and show them what it means to be an involved and loving parent. It’s the most important job we have been given. We "can do all things through Christ who gives us the strength!"
He doesn’t want me to take a pic? No prob! I’ll get one another time. As long as I’m living, I’ll be around.
*“Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch