| from Sherri Seligson |
Recently, I stumbled across an old photo of our family. It was a whitewater rafting trip we took during one of our last vacations before our oldest son graduated high school. You can see my husband and I, along with our four children in those yellow helmets, and we are all intensively paddling, trying to move our oars in unison. We were calling out to each other, “Forward! Back! Forward! Back!” in order to stay in sync, and there was lots of nervous excitement as we navigated our boat down small waterfalls and around large boulders. At the end, we felt so accomplished that we conquered that river!
Reflecting on the photo, I realize that this is a good analogy for parenting. You see, parenting is a thrilling ride with lots of unexpected twists and turns. It is hard – filled with sweat and exertion – yet it is always rewarding. Looking back, I realize that lots of what we experienced with our children was unexpected like that rafting ride. There were personality clashes as we tried to identify how each child was beautifully unique and had different smarts (Can you relate?). They began to disagree with one another as they tried to live with and understand their siblings.
It was those times that were similar to us paddling out of unison down that river. When we were not rowing together, our oars were all over the place, bumping into one another and making the boat move erratically, which was scary.
Interestingly, I realize when times were challenging, they were also the times that we had lost touch with our children. We had passively let the days go by as the busyness of life took over. We had lost the intentionality of knowing them. What I mean is, that if you just let time pass without pursuing your children and regularly building relationships with them, you will not easily be able to walk through life with them as they grow and mature. They will not know how to communicate with you well. Nor will they understand what their amazing role is in your household. You see, they are not placed in your family by accident, rather, they play a critical part of God’s mission for your family. But they need guidance – someone to call “Forward, Back, Forward, Back!” so they know what’s going on.
This metaphor for paddling means that as parents, you need to make sure your children understand their job on the journey: who they are and what God has for them. You set the pace by regularly communicating with them, coming alongside them as they pursue their interests, asking them the hard questions, and wrestling with the answers together. Additionally (and if you’ve been a parent for more than a couple minutes you already know this), this parenting journey is not something you can completely control (although I often unsuccessfully tried). Our expectations for what life should look like will not always play out. There are financial trials, personality challenges, illnesses, and other things to navigate around and through.
I had to learn that my children were uniquely made; God gave them an amazing brain and gifted them with abilities and passions that I did not necessarily have. Our goal as Mom and Dad, then, wasn’t to make them all little duplicates of ourselves, but to find what God had for them, and then we all worked together to combine their unique abilities with everyone else’s in the home. We were a team, and the strengths one person had were balanced by the strengths another person had.
So as we paddled along, we encouraged one another, appreciated the distinctive part each played, and enjoyed the thrill of the journey. (And we’re still paddling today, because this parenting gig doesn’t stop when they graduate high school!)
Oh, and that guy in the back? I guess you could say he is a metaphor for Jesus, holding us on track so we don’t crash. He is truly the one behind it all, steering us down the proper path. We need to call out to Him daily as we try to point the boat in the right direction. And we need to ask Him which direction that is!
Psalm 37:5-6 “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
So grab your oars, jump in, and embrace this thrilling ride we call parenting. Prayerfully, call out to the “Master Captain,” and know that He will lead you. Be intentional as you communicate with your children and help them develop their unique gifts and talents as you all travel down the turbulent, but rewarding waters of this parenting journey!
Sherri Seligson is a 21-year veteran homeschool mom and marine biologist. She has authored Apologia’s Exploring Creation Science Curriculum, Instructional Science Video Series, and many other publications. An international conference speaker, Sherri encourages moms and teaches families the value of studying God’s creation. You can connect with Sherri at www.sherriseligson.com.