One thing has become abundantly clear to me in the last few weeks: I am totally and completely unequipped to raise teenage boys.
I find myself questioning if God knew what He was doing when He allowed me to become a solo-parent to two boys. I don’t understand all these boy things, and I am definitely in over my head!
Let’s start with one thing: I am nice.
I’m not talking about your normal nice person. I’m talking about the too nice person—the one who is voted “brown-nose pledge” in her sorority. I’m talking about the person who smiles when someone berates her because her mind doesn’t know how to say mean words. I’m talking about the super naïve and trusting person that just can’t see that others are using her.
My teenage son recently informed me that I am too trusting, that I really need to stop looking at the best in people and sometimes I need to see reality. While those qualities are great in moderation, they can get me into trouble. I really need someone to balance me out—to exercise some discernment and help me remain grounded. Right now, however, I do not have that person to balance me out so our home tends toward the super nice, naively trusting side.
But, why my inability to raise boys has really come to the forefront lately is because I read a book by Craig Groeschel called Fight. The book points out that God created men with the heart of a warrior. Every man needs to know when to fight and how to fight. Every man needs to know how to take the inner passion that God placed within him and channel it into the right fights.
For example, a man needs to fight for his family. He needs to fight for his purity in an impure world. He needs to fight for righteous causes. He was created with a heart that is full of passion, passion that must be controlled and directed, passion that must be poured out as God would have him fight.
What? My boys need to fight? But, I want my boys to be kind and compassionate, respectful and considerate of others. I want them to be forgiving and to offer second chances. I want them to open doors for women and the elderly. I want them to be the epitome of gentlemen. Yes, that’s what I’ve taught my boys from a very young age. They are amazing young men, but God very clearly revealed to me that it’s time they learn to stand up and fight!
You see, when I offered my ex-husband forgiveness, I begged him to fight for me. He looked at me with a blank stare and asked, “What do you mean?” I want my boys to know what it means to fight for someone! I want them to know what it means to pour every ounce of energy and passion into winning their wife’s heart. I want them to know what it looks like to fight to keep a faltering family together. I want them to be men who fight for the love and respect of their children. I want them to stand out as warriors for Christ in a culture that has created wimps of men.
But, I don’t know how to teach my boys to fight. I was not created to be a warrior; I was created to be a friend, a helpmate, a nurturer. And here I stand, trying to be both mom and dad. And I am a miserable failure at being dad.
Oh, I am blessed. You see, I have a wonderful dad who takes his grandsons out to the farm to sit in the cold deer stand, holding the gun, waiting for the helpless Bambi to walk by—something you couldn’t pay me to do. I have an amazing brother who connects with them through basketball and weight lifting. My dad works with them on skills such as lawn care. I am blessed to have men in my family who give of themselves to be that example to my boys.
But, there are limits to what my boys want to share with these men. And, they certainly don’t want to talk to mom about things like sexual purity—an area where I desperately want them to fight!
What’s a single mom to do when she is completely incapable of meeting her boys’ needs?
Pray. Over a year ago, I began setting timers on my phone for random times throughout my day. Whenever a timer goes off, it is a reminder to pray for my children. I keep Stormie O’Martian’s book The Power of a Praying Parent in my car, and every time I get into my car, I pray one of the prayers for my children. I have been absolutely amazed to see the changes in my children—their spiritual appetites, their attitudes, their questions—since I began praying fervently.
My oldest has really been stirred in recent months. The boy who didn’t ever talk about spiritual matters has really been hearing God speak to him. He has come to me repeatedly, talking to me about what God is telling him. He seeks my wisdom and guidance on spiritual matters. He won’t leave the house or go to bed without me praying for him. He is especially intent on learning to be the husband and father that God created him to be.
While I will not even pretend to understand how prayer moves God’s hand, I know that it does.
Surrender. I have begun each day for the last year by praying Galatians 2:20: I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. Each day I admit to God that this task of child-rearing is too difficult for me. I beg Him to raise my children through me.
I have found that God will quicken my spirit to know when something is important. Maybe it is simply putting aside the housework to toss a basketball to my son. Maybe it is a willingness to stay up late to talk to the child who enters my room after everyone else is in bed. Maybe it is setting aside my plans to write for the child who just needs a few minutes alone with Mom. I have learned that when God quickens my spirit, I must pay attention because something big is about to happen.
Yesterday, I had made plans to spend the afternoon writing when my oldest came into my room. I immediately sensed that something was up, that this was one of those moments when he needed my undivided attention. Over an hour later, after listening to talk about basketball and school and friends, he finally got to the point. He had a confession to make to me, and he had been trying to work up the courage. In the moment, I knew that God had appointed this time for the two of us—and my response could forever determine his openness with me. Ultimately, I am so proud of my son for coming to me—but I might have missed this tender moment if I were not trying to surrender every single day.
Trust the Father. My boys long to have a real dad—one who will model when and how to fight, one who will flee sexual immorality, one who will model how to be a godly husband and father. Sometimes that is what makes this wait for “the one” so hard—not my own desire for a companion, but the pain my children experience in waiting for the dad they desire. I have to remember and remind them that they are not fatherless; God is the father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). God has them firmly in the palm of His hand, molding them through all of the difficult days.
My boys have expressed fear that they will repeat the same mistakes their earthly father has made. I am thankful they have that fear because I know it will cause them to think long and hard before they wander from the straight and narrow. But, they fear growing up without a proper example. I simply remind them to look to the Heavenly Father, to spend time getting to know Him. He is the only one who can truly show them how to walk this journey called life.
God recently spoke to me as I was reading Jeremiah 33. He simply said that the days are coming when He will fulfill the promises He has spoken to me. I know that the time of having that earthly example is near. Until then, we will press into our Heavenly Father—because He’s the REAL DEAL.
Lord Jesus, my children—especially my boys—are in your hands. I am so thankful that you love them even more than I do! It has been so much fun the last few days to see how your hand has moved in response to my prayers, to see the hedge of protection that you are lifting up around my children. It is exciting to see the spiritual hunger and growth that is blossoming right before my eyes. It is wonderful to see the struggle for purity because I know that you are working in their hearts. For every fear and hurt and pain, I can see your hand moving and molding and shaping. I give my children to you and pray that you would be their example, that they would turn to you before they turn to any man. Establish their relationship with you in such a way that the one you have for us will be a blessing, but only a secondary example. I release my boys to you and pray that you would raise them through me. Amen.