October 1999, I thought I had the parenting thing down pat. I could have easily written tips on what I knew then about effective parenting for every parent.
I would have been wrong.
Mary Margaret, aka Maggie, Magpie, and the Magster was easy… even if we thought she was hard. I did, in fact, take her to the emergency room once for a nasty temper tantrum. So outside the realm of her “normal” behaviors, I thought she had a tumor.
She was diagnosed with an over zealous need for a particular Barbie.
That will be $5000.00.
I also took John to the emergency room because I thought his penis fell off. How men live with such a fickle appendage is beyond me.
I should interject, I have a Masters Degree in Counseling and Human Development, but mommy emotions trump education and pummel common sense.
There is no rhyme to the reason.
And then the Lord said, “Let there be Luke.”
Once when we were moving into a new house, we were looking a little… rough, and I made a quick trip into Target. Luke, who was about 5 at the time asked for some candy. I said no. We were in a hurry and frankly, we were surviving on McDonald’s and donuts… we didn’t need any more junk. He was mad, but quiet, or so I thought.
As I pushed my weighted basket with babes, toiletries and all things “new house” Luke strolled solemnly behind me.
When we got to the check out an angry older woman approached me.
“You are quite the piece of work!” She barked.
“Excuse me?” I was shocked.
“Having your children beg for money for lunch so you can buy all this crap! I hope those fluffy towels bring you much comfort here on earth, cause you’ll burn in hell for depriving these poor babies of food!”
She bent over and handed Luke a $10 bill and said, “I can only hope she lets you buy a sandwich with this.”
Best I could figure, while I had run in the ladies room Luke had been panhandling and destroying my good name with passersby the public toilet.
And this is our youngest biological manbaby; creative to a fault, kind, funny, a free spirit in search of truth, shockingly handsome, hungry, brilliant, and mischievous.
Recently his wallet was stolen, so he started a go-fund me… it was trending on Facebook for over a week.
And in October after two years of hard core rebellion and frankly… epic nonsense, he had returned from Military School and enrolled at my Alma Mater – my husband and I were eager to surprise him with a new to him Nissan Sentra. Everything about the car made me smile… it was altogether a “Luke Mobile.”
We sent him a birthday text:
ME: Hey boo, we need your help tomorrow picking up this…
Luke: Is that a used car? Because honestly, unless it is new I have no need for a leftover, run down lemon you bought for a dollar on Craigslist.
We sat in stunned silence and just before my husband grabbed my phone and told Luke things no one should say to their son we got a second message….
Luke: JUST KIDDING! Are you guys serious???? Did you really buy that for me??? I can’t believe that is mine???? I couldn’t have picked anything more perfect!
This is my Luke Henry.
Prankster, genius, juvenile delinquent, Rico Suave’, delight… I love this boy-man.
And I love what he has taught me about myself and my God.
As I gathered the items from his car at the impound yesterday, I was altogether confused by what he considers his “possessions” and how they differ from… rubbish, and elated that the scene wasn’t much different.
A few weeks ago Luke’s car was stolen from a party by a “friend.”
It was totaled and abandoned.
In spite of every effort to bring charges so the collision would be covered by our insurance, in the end it was Luke’s word against the perpetrator.
With the afternoon sun pounding down on the battered Nissan and the lingering smell of stale ketchup stinging my nose, I loaded items from Luke’s car into mine. I listened to my husband talking to the officer, “Look, I know my son. He has done some stupid stuff that we have made sure he paid the price for, he’s not perfect and I am not making excuses for him, but he was not driving this car. We have witnesses.”
My mind drifted to the sea of destroyed vehicles strewn about the lot. I prayed for parents who came to collect possessions for man-babies they’d never see again and was ever the more grateful for Luke’s life.
My husband and I left the lot hot, bothered, and headed to Luke’s dorm.
You can comment below with all the things I have done right, I am certain many will think I am wrong, but I wanted nothing more than to hug and love on my baby. In spite of things he kept in his car that I cannot unsee, I wanted nothing more than to tell him I loved him.
Certainly, there are lectures about better classes of friends.
I am entirely positive we could have yelled, hollered and screamed.
I do not doubt we are disappointed.
I fully acknowledge Luke is too.
Undoubtedly the consequences of this event will be long lasting.
Still… my boy.
Safe, wiser, and a bit jaded… how I love Him.
I am undone by how much I enjoy my semi-adult children. I love their minds. I enjoy their company. I am grateful for their questions and all that they seek to know. And it is from this place, away from them I have seen the message of Grace most clearly.
Perhaps I am at an advantage. With seven children aged 19-months to 23-years-old, I am simultaneously cleaning bums and watching other bums climb on military buses headed to boot camp. And I wouldn’t have it any other way… but skinned knees are easier to deal with than hurt hearts and totaled Nissans.
Baby smells are often more pleasant than a Whataburger that’s been baking in the Texas sun inside a stolen Sentra for the better part of 16 days…
Still, I love.
Not because of what they do but simply because of who they are.
Here, these are the tips I would give to a new parent, like me…
- These children owe me nothing.
- My children’s mistakes do not define them.
- Parenting children don’t make their accomplishments spike and increase my adoration – nor are they mine to boast of.
- Their failure, while impossibly hard to watch, not only doesn’t decrease my love for them… they aren’t my fault… I am not using them to satisfy my wrath or cause them harm.
This is the very model God uses to describe His love for me.
For years I have been most aware of these holy Words…. But I counted them as half-truths.
Yes, nothing can separate me from His love… well, except for XYZ.
Surely His goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life…. Unless of course I A – B – C.
Out both sides of my mouth with a wounded heart and broken spirit I believed the God of all loved me, but…
I love you, BUT…
The worst of all I love you’s.
The insult to the injury.
The crime against the gift… today as we delivered “possessions” to our son, this was my heart’s desire, to show him perfect love.
No ifs –
No ands –
A grace filled love.
This is the love I desire to give and am most eager to receive.
A blind love, no lectures or I told you so-s.
Simple and undeserved favor which is perfected and grows through intimate conversations where Jesus is poured into me and I receive Him like never before. Not with a self-righteous and semi-contrite heart – not self-focused but Christ focused and fully aware that He is the only method of change.
My greatest hope is that by finally receiving this, accepting my inheritance and believing in the reality that is the righteousness that was purchased for me on Calvary – I can give as fully as I receive. Tips from the heart of my Father in Heaven include:
1. Perfect love, which casts out all fear and also… protects.
2. Undeserved favor…Grace.
No matter the state of my Nissan.
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami
Colossians 3:20-21 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.