{a new rhythm in parenting}


last sunday morning, we dropped the little girls off at a birthday party..
after the whole gong show of having to turn around halfway there to go back to
get the birthday present we’d forgotten.
pick kate up from a friend’s house where she’d spent the night.
get the little girls situated at the party.
and realize we were now 20 minutes late for church.
we decided to take the older kids advice and go out for breakfast with them instead.

there would have been a time i would have been more,
“no. we’re going to church. you kids need Jesus!”
and though i love church. and it is, and will always be a huge part of my life.
it’s certainly not the only place to find Jesus on a Sunday morning!
sitting in the breakfast house restaurant talking about life and universities,
and future plans and sex, {yep. that came up in the conversation too}.
and laughing, and listening and interacting, felt even more God-ordained
than sitting in a straight row in the church pew.

can i just insert here that, parents, if you want to keep the hearts of your kids.
keep the communication lines open between you, it might mean at times bending
on some of those things you never thought you’d bend on.
you can force your kids to do what you ask.
yes, your house. your rules!
we’ve actually had that conversation with our kids about church.
“as long as you live here you go where we go.
church together as a family is not an option.”

but, letting them skip out every now and then to go somewhere else?
or not even go at all?
taking off to the city with friends?
or a breakfast date with mom and dad?
okay, then. there’s exceptions to the rule.

we have to learn to bend so that we don’t break the relationship all together.
in my opinion, yes, relationship is more important than church attendance.
i’ve seen far too many parents force outward conformity at the expense of losing
the heart of their child all together.
it can be a tricky thing –
this delicate dance of knowing when to bend and when to stand firm.
it’s a rhythm i’m still working to find.

i LOVE having older kids.
it really is my favorite phase so far.
but i’ll be honest.. it’s the phase i’ve felt most lost in!
i’m not always sure how to respond. what the next step should be.
and how to maneuver through it all with grace and calm.
i remind my kids often, “i’ve never done this before!
i’ve never parented a 19 and 17 year old..
i haven’t a clue what in the world i’m doing!!”

it really has just been alot of trial and error.
alot of, i messed up. i got it wrong. forgive me.
alot of talks and tears and figuring it out together.

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when kate first came back from south africa we went through
such a period of just clashing!
it seemed no matter what i said it was wrong.
how do you give a curfew and say, no, you can’t do that when they’re of legal age
and basically lived on their own for a year?
independence once tasted is hard to be retrieved.
and it took some tough times and humbling myself to listen to her.
i had to hear from her what she needed from me and how i could do better
at mothering her at this point in her life.

it was HARD!

i thought these things would naturally align themselves.
wouldn’t my kids just always adore me like they did when they were five?
one of the hardest things for me has been to not parent from my emotions.
guys, i don’t do that well!!

the thing with your grown kids is they can hurt your feelings.
man! it can sting.
and my flesh, my emotions, wants to retaliate.
“fine.. hitchhike to ball practice! make your own dinner!”
no more sacrificing on my end!!
i’m not going to put myself out there to be hurt.
please tell me i’m not the only immature parent out there.

shayne is so much better at it. that mature parenting thing.
he’s calm and cool and wise.
lays out the boundaries and sticks to his guns.
i’m a hot mess. so easily swayed.
one minute full of mercy. the next..
“i brought you into this world and i’ll take you out if you act that stupid again!!”
i’ve had to learn/ am learning that even though i might be freaking out inside
i can’t let it show on my face.
“what the what?”
that’s hard for me. i’m pretty much an open book.
but, i know from experience.. you freak out on your kid when they’ve made
a bad choice or had a bad attitude, or whatever it is, and you will shut their
spirit off to you in a heartbeat.

there’s a quote i like – “being kind is better than being right.”
i think that applies big time to our kids.
be kind to them when they make mistakes.
be kind as they’re trying to figure it all out.
who they are. what they’re doing with their life.
and most importantly, be kind, even if those choices don’t
look like what you think you should.

i never really cared much about what other parents thought of my parenting..
i mean, my kid was the pacy-sucking, disposable diaper wearing,
formula drinking one asleep on their belly!
i didn’t care what all my crunchy granola mama friends said about no peanut butter
until they’re two and no chewing gum until they’re six. whatever.
but put two college age kids on my hands? that everyone’s favorite question is,
“so.. what are kate and ben doing with their lives?”
and suddenly, i found myself caring a whole lot about what other parents think!

after the first couple of times of staring blankly at people when they asked
i went to the kids and said, “give me something, guys!”
to which is was something like,
“travel the world and run a lama zoo!”
so i knew i better come up with a better answer myself.

once, at a ballgame this past summer..
i was sitting a few bleachers up from kate when i heard another mom ask,
“so, kate.. what are you doing?”
kate shrugged, “oh, nothing!”
because as frustrating as it is being the parent of a college student undecided
on what they want to do, it’s even more frustrating for the student.
kate had said that was going to be her new standard answer.
but, caring about others opinions of our parenting in this new phase i did the
totally creepy mom, i’m listening to your conversation from all the way up here,
thing as i called down with a laugh, “oh, she’s joking!!
she’s working two jobs and saving her money and looking at different universities..
right, kate??”

kate just gave a half-smile and nod. she knew what i was doing.
i embarrassed myself that day! and decided from then on, going forward,
the best answer to give that i had struggled to find was just the honest one.
“she doesn’t know what she wants to do yet.”
and you know what?
that’s okay.
she has a better idea now than she did last summer
and we’re working on mapping that out with her.
but man! there is so much pressure on these kids straight out of high school
to know what they want to do with their lives, for the rest of their lives.
when reality is, here we are as parents at 42 and 43, still figuring it out ourselves as well.

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one of the biggest things in parenting older kids is giving them SPACE.
space to just be!
yes, we are there to guide and give advice and instruct
and there are times to put our foot down and say, “absolutely not!”
but most of the time, at this time in their life –
the foot putting down days are over.
and they have to be given the freedom to think and decide things for themselves.
and guys, that is the freakiest part of all in parenting!

and here we thought it was bad when they pooped up their backs when they were babies!

there’s moments with your older kids you’d give anything to have *that*
be the toughest part of your day again.
from, “which book do you want?” at bedtime.
to, “what do you mean one o’clock in the morning is too early of a curfew?”

i’m sure parents of older kids reading this are probably groaning and laughing
all in the same breath. i know you get it.
and parents of littles, don’t be afraid. ha!
it’s wonderful. i promise!
the good far outweighs the bad.
it’s a blast and nothing has burst my heart wide open with so much joy than having
young adult kids that i just find so cool as individuals and love hanging out with.

but it stretches your faith like nothing else.
that’s really what the “hard” is all about.
we say we trust God..
it’s the expected answer.
but the answer we know in our heads is alot different to live out!

those times of lying awake in the middle of the night,
worrying over something they’re going through.
or waiting on them to get home, when you know they’re with friends
who aren’t your first choice for them to be with.
when there’s been struggles and attitudes and beliefs they’re not sure they share.
those times of fear and what if’s? and feeling completely at a loss.
and what if all we’ve trained and taught them and tried to pour into them..
what if they choose a path opposite than ours?

as followers of Christ, we believe ultimate fulfillment is found in Him alone.
but what if our kids don’t share that belief? or veer away from it for a time?
what about those times?
will you trust Him then?
that He is faithful.
that He is sovereign.
that He cares.
that He’s at work.
that no amount of rules or lectures or 10 p.m. curfews or church services
or forced bible time or controlling or circling the wagons can change what
is inside their heart.

only God can do that.

and that.
that can be the hardest point of all our lives to trust Him with.

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of course it doesn’t mean we do nothing.
like, i’m just going to sit here twiddling my thumbs, trusting Jesus.
yes, it’s about faith in God. but it’s active faith!
as my kids would tell you, i’m not silent with them when it comes to what
i think they should and could be doing, saying, acting, living.
we talk ALOT.
we get passionate about our opinions.
we disagree.
we argue.
there’s still plenty of just plain, “i’m the parent that’s why!”
but more and more. little by little.
there’s this whole releasing thing too.
learning to parent hands-free.

hands-free parenting just means you’re face planted on the floor more.


i’ve never been great at it.
but man! i’m learning.
i’ve been reading priscilla shirer’s book, fervent.
so, so good!

coming home the other night i had kate on my mind so strongly.
she was gone for the night with friends and suddenly, i was worrying about her.
usually, i’m halfway down the toilet drain of lies..
she’s kidnapped, dead, and gone before i even think to stop and pray!
anybody know what i mean?
but in trying to spot those early signs of beginning to circle the bowl,
i stopped right then and just went to God with my concerns.
kate told me the next day there was a weird guy hitting on her that night.
and when i asked about what time..
right around when i was feeling that way!

guys, we can never underestimate the power of prayer and the promptings of the Spirit in us.

i’m so far from having all the answers.
i don’t write these blogs because i think i have it all together..
but, because i don’t!
and for any of the rest of you out there maybe feeling the same way.

mothering of all our jobs is so closely knit to our identity.
such a reflection of who we are, and for years i struggled to feel that
i had to get it all right in order to feel i’d succeeded in my role.
now, it’s kind of this strange realization that it’s actually been, mostly,
in the times i’ve gotten it wrong.
the times of brokenness and not having a clue that have propelled
me to be the best mom i can possibly be..
because it’s been those times that have pushed me more into Christ
and seeing my great need for Him.
i’m convinced this parenting journey is far more about what God is doing
in me than what it is i think i’m teaching my kids.
the “success” of any of it is having a heart that is rooted deeper and deeper in Him.
and if my kids see that in my life? despite all my flaws and failures..
then i think i’ve done my job well.

this past summer we were at a waterfall with some friends.
after splashing around at the bottom for awhile, ben, in typical ben fashion
decides to climb up the side of the falls.
soon after, and again in typical fashion, he calls to kate who goes and
begins following him up.

i’m sitting on a rock close by watching them.
i feel a little nervous, but not too bad.
i’ve watched them do this sort of thing their whole lives.
but then, they get higher. and ben’s hand slips and he falls down a bit,
knocking kate off balance.
i stand up and call ben’s name, then kate’s.
they go a little further and i see ben struggling again.
the ledge is narrow and the rocks are slippery.
now my heart is beating fast and i try to get closer..
yelling out their names, but the water is too loud, too overpowering.
they can’t hear me.
i’m almost directly beneath them but they’re both oblivious.

and so i just stand there.
and hold my breath.

i know one of them will fall at any moment.
i’m almost sure of it.
expecting it.
i grimace as i see them go higher.
it’s the last ledge before the top and here i’m positive they won’t make it.
i shut my eyes, waiting on the scream.
when i hear none i open them up slowly, one at a time.
and as i squint against the sun trying to see, there they are.
at the top laughing and waving and, “hi, mom!”
and i just smile and shake my head and wave back.

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i’ve thought of that story so many times since then.
how parenting and struggling to find my rhythm in this new section
feels much that way. a bit helpless at times.
the roar of other influences so loud.
any attempt to control or change the course, futile.
there’s no going back.
all i can do is look up.
watching. grimacing at times. yelling against the drowning flow at other times.
but mostly, just trusting.

trusting God.
trusting them.
trusting this whole process.
that they’re learning to climb on their own.
and come to discover the Rock that is higher than any of this.


6 thoughts on “{a new rhythm in parenting}

  1. Luci

    Amber, there is so much good and beautiful here. So much of it exactly what we’re facing. Even down to the being 42 and 43! :)

    The pressures on these kids to know what they’re doing with their future…. Please let me never ask another kid out of high school that again! The new way to practice trust, the immensity of PRAYER that goes into this phase.

    Just yes and yes and yes. I love your heart. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Anonymous

    “in my opinion, yes, relationship is more important than church attendance”—–that too my sweet friend is Jesus’ opinion with Himself. Love this post! This year I’ll have a 25 and 19 year old…all of your words are spot on! ❤u friend.

  3. Wanda

    This is amazing. The best thing I’ve read all week. Wow! My oldest turned 15 this week. I’m still processing this stage of life…you have so much truth packed in this! I’m saving it to read again, and again, later.

  4. Anonymous

    Number 11:23 and Isaiah 59:1 – God arm is not shortened – He can/will reach our kids hearts in His timing – and in the meantime, I lay prostrate (hope that is the right spelling or I am saying something completely different than intended!) in complete submission and appeal for their hearts to be beating with His. My trust is in Him alone…and in His long arms of grace, irresistible grace and mercy as He calls His own to His heart. They will wrestle and try to paint their own canvas for a season until his hand closes over theirs in order to paint the canvas of their life with His beauty and grace.


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