Thursday, August 26, 2010

Riding the Bus and Other Adventures in Letting the Kids Grow Up

In a lot of ways, our subdivision feels like a small town. Sendera Ranch has its own playgrounds and fishing ponds, fireworks and festivals, and even its own elementary school. The girls really enjoy going to school with kids they know from church and around the neighborhood. And though the school is only a few minutes away, bus routes wind through the streets to pick up the neighborhood kids.

For two years, the girls have been begging us to let them ride the bus. But each time they’ve asked, Brett and I have said no. (We want to make sure they are safe, and Brett is concerned about the possibility of antics by the older boys… maybe because he used to be a precocious fifth-grade boy himself?)

So for all this time, we have resisted. No, girls, you cannot ride the bus. We want to take you to school.

But this year has been a season of letting our older children start to do things on their own. Miss B’s first trip to the lake with friends (and without us). J.J.’s first sleepover. The girls riding their bikes on their own on the walking trail behind our house.

We still have boundaries, of course. We know the parents of the girls’ friends. And we’ve set parameters for their bike rides so they’re not too far away from the house. Still, bit by bit, the girls are starting to develop independence and are putting into practice important life skills we’ve been teaching them at home.

But still, it’s so hard to let them grow up! I admit I struggle with my primal, and at times overwhelming, desire to keep my kids with me 24/7. Whenever they have a conflict with a friend or issue in school, I have to fight the urge to jump in there and fix it. And when they’re ready to do things on their own, I instinctively resist, yearning to keep them as safe (and as close to me) as possible. Though, deep down, I know that’s not best for them.

As all parents know, there’s a fine line between protecting your children and smothering them. Yes, we are responsible to love our kids, teach them, protect them, and enjoy them. Our children are blessings from the Lord who captured our hearts from the very first moment we cradled them in our arms.

But here’s the rub: if you keep your arms wrapped around your kids too tightly, you’ll stunt their growth.

Let’s face it: we all know grown-ups who have not actually grown up. Their well-meaning parents made sure they never experienced frustration or failure. And as a result, they never learned the art of adulthood. After all, Mom and Dad always stepped in to save them, eliminated their consequences, fought their battles, and (let’s be honest here) are probably still paying their rent.

I really don’t want our kids to turn out like that.

Brett and I love our children—as I often tell them, “All the way, with all my heart, all the time.” And we are often on our knees before God, asking Him for wisdom and grace as we strive to be parents who give our kids both roots and wings.

And if you’re a parent, that’s probably your goal too. While your specific choices for your kids may be different than ours, our desire as parents is the same: to equip our children to be God-honoring, capable, independent, responsible adults.

And like it or not, that starts with giving them little freedoms.

For our family, one of those “little freedoms” is a big yellow bus. So that’s why at 7:15 a.m. on school days, you will find me walking the girls to the bus stop at the end of our street. I’ll hug them good-bye, wave as the bus closes its doors… and then pray like crazy every step of the way home.

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