The Day I Quit Parenting

I have been solo-parenting for four years now. I know many people who have wonderful co-parenting relationships with their former spouses, but that has simply not been my experience. While I am blessed with tremendous support from my parents and extended family, the day-to-day burden of raising my children has fallen solely on me.

My kids and I have gotten along well in the wake of my divorce. They are well-behaved, respectful, and responsible. They are all honor students and well-respected by teachers and peers. I am so blessed to be the mother of these children.

Over recent months, however, I have struggled with knowing exactly how to get my children to a place in their lives where they hunger and thirst for God, where their relationship with God is central to every area of their lives. I try to bring God into everyday life. We go to church as a family. I pray faithfully for my children. Despite all my best efforts, I have felt as if I was spinning my wheels, making no progress.

Until this summer…

One day as I lamented to God about my predicament, I was overcome with the realization that I was doing everything right. I brought God into their lives. I ensured their behavior was appropriate. However, I couldn’t get them into the word and prayer. I couldn’t get them to surrender to God, to seek Him, to love Him the way I think they should.

The reality was obvious: I was solo-parenting, and that is never what God intended for me. I may not have an ideal co-parenting relationship with their earthly father, but my children have a Heavenly Father who longs to co-parent with me. In reality, my children have a Heavenly Father who wants to solo-parent through me, their earthly mother.

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. Psalm 68:5-6a

In that moment, I made a conscious decision to quit parenting! I reminded God that I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live. This life that I have is His to live (Galatians 2:20). Every morning since then, I have prayed that God would parent through me, that it would not be me leading my children, but that it would be Him through me. Recently, I ran into a situation where His revelation has proven the power of His superior parenting.

My middle child is a precious young man who has a heart of gold—and a very emotional temperament. Everything he does, he does with gusto! This summer, his temper has been flaring in unusual ways. One evening as I attempted to referee yet another argument, I began to sense the anger that was boiling deep inside of him. As I lovingly questioned him about what was going on, I could tell that there was something deeper—but I couldn’t figure out what it was. We talked for a while about his anger, and we resolved together that we would pray until God revealed the answer.

A couple of days later as I prayed that God would give me wisdom in the situation, I suddenly had an understanding of the problem: he was struggling with his relationship with his father. His dad has been out of state all summer, and they have not seen him since before summer break began. This poor child was struggling with missing his dad—and a mix of other emotions evoked by the thoughts of his father.

I sat down later with my son and I began to ask him questions. I simply started with, “Tell me what you think about when you think about your dad.” Immediately, the tears began to well up in his eyes as he struggled to find the words. The word “dad” simply invokes a multitude of emotions in this child. He struggles with a less-than-perfect relationship with his earthly father. As he enters the early years of puberty, I have suddenly become aware of the hurt and pain that it is causing him. That revelation had never occurred to me; it was only through God’s revelation that I began to understand the problem.

In the days since our discussion, my sweet child has begun to open up to me about his feelings. We have committed to praying every day for God to make his relationship with his dad what God intended it to be. God is allowing him to understand his own emotions, and I find myself much more willing to take a few minutes to listen to him. I am seeking out resources that will help me help him with the father wound that he has. I want to make sure that he fills the void in his heart with the one thing that can make him content—Jesus Christ.

Learning to co-parent with Christ—or allowing Him to parent through me—is a journey that I am just beginning. I am learning to turn to Him in every circumstance, to seek His wisdom to handle even minor situations. I am begging Him to open my eyes to struggles that my children are facing, struggles previously unknown to me.

How do I let Him parent through me? That is a question that I am only beginning to answer. But, let me tell you what I see happening in my home.

Each morning, I pray Galatians 2:20 back to God:

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I remind God that this life is not mine and that I don’t want to live it on my own any longer. I want Him to take my life and live it through me. I want Him to parent through me, to spend my money through me, to write through me. I want Him to take every area of my life and be in complete control. It’s a reminder to me that my life is not my own and I am not capable of producing the results I desire on my own. It’s a statement of surrender, of complete dependence upon God.

And, my statement of dependence opens the door for Christ’s power to flow through me.

Although the changes might be small, I am beginning to see how God is directing my every step. Sometimes it’s through God opening my eyes to see the source of problem, a revelation like the one I mentioned before. Other times, it’s a gentle prompting that makes me see I am doing something right. Last night, I went for a walk. When I got home, I was sitting outside in the driveway with my kids and their friends. As I sat there, I felt a gentle nudge telling me that I was doing the most important thing at that moment—sitting with my children. As a single mom, there are so many tasks calling for my attention—dinners to be cooked, bills to be paid, groceries to be purchased, a job to be completed. However, God seemed to say in that moment that I need to take more time to simply be an active part of my children’s lives, to involve myself in what is important to them.

I’ve also found that I’m more firm in my discipline—and my children can tell. I am blessed with kids who are well-behaved, and I rarely have big problems with them. But, it’s the little things that can irritate me. Since I turned parenting responsibilities over to God, I’ve discovered that I’m far better at following through on my threats. There seems to be more authority to my words, and my kids are recognizing the difference. I’m not the push-over that I used to be.

God has also taken my ears and made me more attuned to my children’s words. Yesterday, one of my kids said something—and it stopped me in my tracks. A few months ago, I would have gone on without even sensing the emotion behind the words. But, for some reason, I heard pain behind the words. I immediately stopped what I was doing and took my child in my arms. We began to talk about the pain—a tender moment I would have missed if God hadn’t quickened my spirit to hear beyond the words.

I don’t know what other changes God will make in our lives, but I trust God completely. He’s the best parent any of us could ever have! My greatest desire for my children is that they will live a life that matters in the kingdom of God, that they will love God with every ounce of their being. I have discovered that no matter how good of a parent I am, I am not capable of producing that result in my kids. That’s why I quit parenting.

Lord Jesus, I am not able to parent the way my kids deserve. I beg you to take my feeble attempts and produce the fruit that you desire in their lives. Quicken my heart and my mind to see behind the words. Impart your wisdom through me. Make me a supernatural parent—one who has your supernatural powers flowing through me.

12 thoughts on “The Day I Quit Parenting”

  1. Dena, this is a great post! Very encouraging. I pray the same way – that God would work through me and touch the lives of my children and transform their hearts and minds, because I cannot do that alone…or ever, for that matter. Our Father is the best parent that our children need. I just have to represent His hands to serve, His arms to hug, and His feet to walk beside them. God’s grace to you and your children, Danny

    1. Thank you so much, Danny. I was basically solo-parenting even before my divorce, so I entered single-parenting with the attitude that “I can do this!” I was strong, independent, capable. As I grow closer to my Savior, I find that I am not strong or capable–but instead completely dependent on Him. It is through my weakness that His strength is made perfect. I no longer want to live life in my power; I want His power flowing through me in every area of my life! Blessings!!

  2. am so bless with this article praying for the same although am not a single parent. we need to listen to God’s voice and do what he says is best for us.

    i love this verse Galatians 2:20, i always read it and put it into a very personal context

    Thanks Dena for sharing am so bless and praying for more of God’s way to your family

    stay blessed

    Regards Beryl Ondiek (Mrs.) (As for God, His Ways are Perfect)

    Date: Wed, 11 Sep 2013 23:45:53 +0000 To:

    1. I am so glad you were blessed! Married or not, many of us try to parent in our own power. We will never receive the results we desire–children who are fully devoted to Him. I believe God wants to take us to a place where He can pour out His power in our lives, where He can do amazing things that only He can do. When my children see God’s power, they will be unable to deny that it is Him. Oh, how I long for my children to see God’s power moving so mightily they will never be able to deny His presence in our home! I pray God would pour out His power in your life, too! God bless!

  3. The toughest parenting dilemma I have ever run into- wanting to “Holy Spirit” my kids. I had to make peace with the fact that I cannot remove their struggles from them or inject them with the 25 years of faith experience I have. I can model Christ and speak His words into their lives. I can set good healthy boundaries for them. I am a person who did spiritual battle with anger issues before I had kids. Now, ironically my son has the same battle. Despite all my best efforts to model a calm peaceful new heart God gave me, genetically the kid got the same stumbling block I had. I was crushed, until I realized the same God who nurtured me to health was the same God who loved and cared for my son. It’s hard too, to help my heart to realize that every child has struggles and just because my son’s can become obvious and public at times, I am not a bad parent.

    1. I am beginning to think that we desperately want to weed out those weaknesses that we see exhibited in our children–especially when we know those struggles personally. Last summer, I was so determined to see to it that my children were never irresponsible (a trait that is painfully obvious in certain of their family members). It was an absolutely MISERABLE summer as they failed me over and over. This summer was a completely different story. We had the most enjoyable summer, and they met my expectations repeatedly. What was the difference? I think I relaxed and let God have control. I trust Him to do in my kids what I cannot. I recognize that I am not capable of creating change in my kids. But, I am able to PRAY changes into my kids. It allowed me to relax some, and it allowed them to rise to the challenge.

      I love your statement that “the same God who nurtured [you] to health was the same God who loved and cared for [your] son.” And, by having a mom who has been there and seen God’s redeeming power in her life, your son will recognize that it can be overcome! Praying for you!

  4. I went through a similar experience after going through a divorce to an unfaithful, non-parental ex-husband. As I was lamenting one day, I heard God’s still, small voice say, “Just love them.” I was not sure it was God, so I asked, and heard it again. I said, “But who will teach them to obey authority figures, and to be respectful, etc. if not me?” And again, “Just love them,” came into my mind. It took a lot of pressure off, knowing God would handle the discipline of my teens who were going through rebellion. I made a plan to have dinner together, and just talk about our lives and eat their favorite foods, and not talk about marijuana or anything that would lead to arguing. It was a life-changing thing. Though they did not stop smoking at that point, our relationships remained intact, and they know that I love them no matter what – just as God loves us.

    I enjoyed your post, and visited via your post “How to Have an Affair” on Crosswalk.


    1. Thank you. I am glad to have you on this journey with me.

      God is so faithful! I have always been strong, independent, and confident. The longer I seek my Savior, the more I discover just how incapable I am. Only He can accomplish His plans for me or my kids. It’s nice to know that the results are not up to us!

      God bless!

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  6. Thank you for sharing your story. I am in the middle of a divorce with a husband who left for another woman. And we have 2 young boys I am raising on my own. Co-parenting is not a reality for us. There will be seasons he will have them more and there will be seasons he does not have them for months. There aren’t many resources that talk about this because they wish to respect their ex-husbands…but it leaves me feeling alone. Your voice (respectful voice despite the truth) brings me insight and some wisdom in such a scary place. Thank you.

    1. Carissa, I am so sorry you are walking through this storm. I am thankful that God can use me to be a voice of hope and encouragement. That has been my prayer–that my pain would be used for His glory. Angela Thomas has a book (My Single Mom Life) that has a chapter on solo-parenting.

      My intent is never to disrespect or disparage my ex-husband–only to offer others a word of hope and encouragement. Single parenting is a tough job, but God will give you the strength to get through each and every day. And, your parents will appreciate your sacrifices–and forgive your short-comings!

      God bless you!

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