In the last few years, I have discovered one thing about parenting that no one ever told me:
The hardest season of parenting is the young adult years.
Let me tell you something. Those single parenting years were excruciating. They were busy. They were chaotic. They were exhausting. I was weary. I was lonely. I was tired of fighting. I was mom and dad. I was friend and disciplinarian. I was the designated chauffeur. I was the cheerleader at every activity. I was the cook and house-keeper. I was the teacher and the coach and the counselor.
I was attempting to be all things to my children.
And it was rough. Most nights I collapsed in bed, crying myself to sleep, wishing for the someone to pull myself close in an act of comfort and understanding. I longed for someone to help me make the decisions, to remind me that everything would work out. They were extremely hard days.
But I would give anything to go back to those days.
You might think I’m exaggerating a little, but I’m not. I’ve talked to multiple other former single moms who are in this season of life, and they agree with me! Looking back, those days seem so easy, so carefree, so easy in comparison to where we are today.
I know I’ve been writing this blog since my kids were young. Believe it or not, my “kids” are now 16, 19, and 21.
And I think I have shed more tears in the last two or three years than I did in all my years of parenting.
I consider myself very lucky. Over the years, my kids have been so easy to parent. They all excelled in school. They were well-liked and well-respected, by peers and teachers alike. They’ve also excelled out of the classroom. From national all-state honors to national championships, these kids are absolutely AMAZING! They never cease to amaze me.
But can I tell you that the worries of young adulthood are so much greater, so much heavier. The burdens they carry are so much greater. The decisions they must make have consequences that impact the rest of their lives.
Toxic relationships. Complicated grief. Doubts about faith. Career decisions. Dangerous behaviors. It is so hard to watch as my children grow into themselves, into who God created them to be. I want to rescue them, to keep them from the hard things in this life. But the truth is I can’t. I haven’t. They have experienced extreme pain and loss in their short lifetimes, and there’s nothing I can do to keep them from the pain.
But there are a few things I can do.
Be thankful for the rebellion. Or doubts. Or struggles. Or whatever you want to call it.
My ex-husband never went through a time where he questioned his faith or who he was and wanted to be—until he was nearly 40 years old and the stakes were so much higher. I have often wondered what would have happened if he had grappled with who he was earlier in his life, come to peace with his strengths and weaknesses, what he wanted for his future.
And faith. I am a firm believer that our faith must be tested to be real. John Maxwell is quoted as saying, “A faith that has not been tested cannot be trusted.” Scripture teaches us that when our faith is tested, it is purified like burning the dross out of the silver (Psalm 66:10).
I truly am thankful that my children are facing doubts and struggles now—while they are young adults and the stake are not as high as when they are 40 with a family of their own. I am thankful that when they come through the struggles, they will be confident in who they are and whose they are. I am thankful that I can still be here to walk with them through the struggles of this time in their lives.
Remember God loves them more than we ever could. I have spent many hours worrying and fretting about my children, about some of their choices, about their safety as they get on that motorcycle that I despise.
Yet, I remember that the God who created these precious young adults holds them in the palm of His hand—just as He holds me. They are more precious to Him than anything in this world. He loves them more than I ever could.
My God—the One who sovereignly controls this universe—is watching over them as only an Omnipotent God can do. Nothing can touch them that He does not allow.
Choose relationship over rules. I spent many years doing the hard work of trying to help mold my children into responsible people of integrity. I corrected many wrong behaviors. I pointed them to the Father. I reminded them of my love. I disciplined them so they understood right from wrong.
Today, my parenting role is changing. While I still want to believe I know what’s best for my kids, I have to step back and remember they are not me. I have to let go and let them make choices for their lives. I have to allow them to experience the consequences
I have reached a place where I choose to emphasize relationships over rules. Yes, they still live at home. Yes, they are either in school or working. But I am choosing not to enforce my rules knowing they are trying to figure out who they are and how they will live. For me, it is far more important to maintain open lines of communication, to keep a relationship with them where they know I am here for them and on their side than to force them to conform to my way of life.
Remember God’s principles. God tells us that when we train up a child in the way they should go, they will not depart from that way of life when they are old (Proverbs 22:6). I truly believe that I did my best to faithfully train my children, and I have to trust that God will be faithful to His word.
I can’t even start to tell you how many times He has reminded me that it is His battle, and He will never to stop fighting for them. I know how hard He fought for my affections, and I know I was unable to deny whose I was. My kids are His. He is fighting for them every moment of every day. He will stop at nothing. That’s a promise I can cling to.
Pray without ceasing. There’s nothing more powerful than my prayers for my children. God’s heart is moved over the tears of mama pouring out her heart to God on behalf of her children. Prayers is a true language of love.
Some days I pray way more than others, but I know He is only a breath away. I know He is holding all my prayers, hearing my heart. And I know He frequently reminds me that He has heard and answered, even if I have yet to see the answer.
God is always at work, even when we can’t see or understand His ways. If you are struggling with kids who are reeling from life, who are struggling to get their feet underneath them, remember He is always faithful. He is holding them close even as they struggle for independence.